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How to Test Your Food Plot Soil

Posted by 
June 17, 2014
2415   Comment

HowtoConductSoilTest 1A soil test is easy to do and costs about as much as a happy meal at McDonalds. Here's how you do it.

What You Need to Test

  • Clean plastic pail, plastic bag or anything that holds dirt

  • Garden spade, putty knife or a soil auger (pictured at right)
  • Soil sample bag

Gather the Sample

  • Dig a few inches into the dirt (below the sod line);
  • Deposit 1/4 cup or so of dirt into pail or bag;
  • Walk around (and through) your plot gathering up samples of the dirt — at least a half dozen or more 1/4 cup samples;
  • Mix it together in the pail or bag; and
  • Scoop about 1 cup of the mixed soil into a soil sample bag. (If you have more than one plot, do this process for each one and remember to label them.)

Send it Off

You will now send or drop off the bag at a soil analysis service (county ag agent, USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service, or feed and seed store) and a few days later you have the results and recommendations for soil improvement. Most soil testing centers will ask you what you are planting and then make lime and fertilizer recommendations based on that. Still others, like the Whitetail Institute, will match the recommendations exactly to the product you are planting. This makes all the sense in the world as most commercial food plot blends are comprised of multiple plants and who knows better how to grow them than the guys who researched what seeds to include in the mix. Contact the Whitetail Institute for instructions on how to submit soils for testing.

After the Results

A good analysis will make specific recommendations as to what mixture and how much fertilizer you should apply. Take your analysis to a fertilizer supplier (who can custom mix fertilizers) and ask him to fix you up with a mix that will work for you. If they can't exactly produce your recommended blend, they can come pretty close if they are any good or suggest a standard N-P-K mixture, which will be pretty close to what you are looking for.

Planting without testing is a formula for failure. Testing your soil and adding the right amounts and kinds of fertilizer and lime is often the difference between a one acre plot which produces 2-3 tons of highly nutritious whitetail forage and an unsuccessful plot which produces a handful of scraggly weeds and some tough grass that nothing will eat.

Tagged under Read 2415 times Last modified on September 22, 2017
Craig Dougherty

Craig Dougherty has been active in the hunting industry for over 30 years. He currently is president of NorthCountry Whitetails, a wildlife consulting company which specializes in developing deer hunting properties. He and his son Neil currently manage over 300,000 acres of whitetail habitat and are continuously developing new and improved techniques for growing and hunting mature bucks. They have published two books on whitetails and their NorthCountry Rut Tracking Report is read by hundreds of thousands of deer enthusiasts each fall. They are frequent presenters at deer gatherings, appear on TV and in videos, and are regularly cited in articles. His most recent book, "Whitetails: From Ground to Gun", can be found at Bass Pro Shops and online at Craig has been a senior executive in the archery industry, served on many hunting industry boards, and is past Chairman and a current Director of QDMA.

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