Food plot seed selection is frequently divided into spring and fall, but a better division is spring, summer and fall.
Summer plantings should go in from May through June. You can eliminate many seeds for consideration for this planting, including clovers, brassicas and cereal grains such as wheat, oats and rye. The clovers are best for early spring and fall; all of the others are better for late summer and early fall.
So what do you plant in May and June? The answer is simple: annuals. You want crops that come up quickly, grow fast, offer protein-rich forage in their leaves and are drought-tolerant, thriving during hot dry summer months.
This boils down to three main choices: cowpeas, forage soybeans and lablab. These plants all provide an incredible amount of forage, up to 5 tons or more per acre, and often grow so thick and tall that they offer cover as well as food, with bucks bedding right in the plots.
Beans and peas should be planted 1/2 to 1 inch deep, after making sure your pH level is adequate. Add a fertilizer such as 5-10-10 or better yet, do a soil test and follow the specific recommendations.
I've had good results with both cowpeas and lablab, but one of my favorite summer plantings of all are forage soybeans made by Eagle Seed. These beans are designed to hold their green leaves 6-8 weeks longer into the fall instead of going to seed, providing nutrition for deer until heavy frosts kill the plants. They also grow larger leaves than most beans, yielding up to 8 tons per acre with protein levels up to 40 percent.
Wildlife seed companies such as the Whitetail Institute, Mossy Oak BioLogic, Tecomate and Evolved Harvest also make a variety of useful pea, bean and lablab mixtures for summer plantings that provide high quality protein and hold up well through drought conditions. I've used most of these with good results. Check out the Bass Pro website or catalog for these companies' specific summer mixtures that will work best in your area. You can't go wrong with any of these selections.
One of the biggest problems with any of these summer crops is over-browsing if deer are plentiful. The plants are often killed before they grow tall enough to survive. They need at least four weeks before facing heavy grazing pressure, and six to eights weeks is better still.
This can be a problem with all of these summer annuals. Ways to deal with this include: Using deer repellent products such as Plot Saver or electric fencing; planting a large enough amount that deer can't destroy it all; or mixing the seeds with other cover crops that can take the early pressure off and allow the beans, peas and lablab to grow tall enough to survive grazing.
These cover-crop seeds also offer valuable forage. They include sorghum, millet, buckwheat, sunflower and corn. They come up quickly and help take the pressure off the lower-growing peas and beans until they are tall enough to survive. They also provide a taller stem base that the vine-growing peas and beans can "climb" to grow more robustly and taller. These are included in many of the summer food plot mixtures offered by Bass Pro Shops.