Fertilizing Food Plots


A food plot is a stand of vegetation that a land owner grows for the purpose of feeding deer and other wildlife on a property. A food plot can increase the overall health of wildlife, and can make them more resistant to illness and disease. Food plots can also attract specific species of wildlife and give land owners greater viewing opportunities for wild animals. Before you plant a food plot, prepare the soil in advance and apply fertilizer.

Step 1

Test your soil prior to preparing the soil bed. Collect soil samples by digging up soil in up to 10 locations across the property using a soil auger. Each soil sample should be about 2 inches across and 7 inches deep. Place the soil in a bucket and pick out debris such as vegetation and rocks. Mix the soil and allow it to dry. Then scoop the soil into a clean plastic bag for sampling. Contact your nearest county extension service for a list of approved soil testing laboratories. Most county extension services will send soil samples for you to an agricultural university-run soil laboratory. The laboratory will analyze your sample for pH and soil structure and will make recommendations for fertilizers that will improve the soil of your food plot.

Step 2

Calculate the fertilizer spread rate based on the soil test in step 1 by dividing the recommended amount of nutrient per acre by the percentage of nutrient in the fertilizer. For example, if the soil test recommends 50 lbs. of nitrogen per acre and your selected fertilizer is a balanced (13-13-13) fertilizer, divide 50 by 13 percent to get 385 lbs. per acre.

Step 3

Convert pounds per acre to pounds per 1,000 square feet by dividing the rate of pounds per acre by 43.56. For example, 385 lbs. per acre divided by 43.56 would equal 8.8 lbs. per 1,000 square feet.

Step 4

Determine the correct size of a square food plot by measuring the length and width of the plot. Multiply the length and width to get the total square feet of your food plot. For a triangular plot, multiply the length by the width. Then multiply the figure by .05. For a circular plot, measure the diameter and divide it in half to find out the radius. Multiply the radius squared by Pi, which is 3.1416. For example, a rectangular plot that is 80-by-100 feet is 8,000 square feet. A triangular plot that is 80-by-100 feet is 400 feet. A round plot with a diameter of 200 feet contains just over 3,183 feet.

Step 5

Calculate the total fertilizer to use on your plot by multiplying the fertilizer rate by the total number of square feet in your plot. For example, if the application rate is 8.8 lbs. per square feet and the plot is 8,000 square feet, multiply 8.8 by 8. You will spread 70.4 lbs. of fertilizer over your food plot.

Step 6

Break up your food plot to a depth of 12 inches with a lawn tractor and plow.

Step 7

Spread soil amendments such as compost, peat moss and lime or sulfur in addition to fertilizer over the soil in a 4-inch layer. Compost and peat moss will help to improve the soil's texture, drainage and moisture retention. Sulfur or lime will adjust the pH of your soil so that the plants placed in the food plot will take up nutrients from the fertilizer efficiently. Sulfur will lower the pH while lime will raise it. Most plants thrive in neutral pH ranges from 6.5 to 7.5.

Step 8

Mix the amendments and fertilizer into the soil by plowing them under with the lawn tractor and plow. You are now ready to plant your food plot.

Things You'll Need

  • Soil auger Plastic bucket Plastic bag Measuring tape Lawn tractor Plow attachment Compost Peat moss Lime Sulfur Fertilizer


  • University of Arkansas Extension: Seeding and Fertilization Rate Conversions
  • University of Florida IFAS Extension: Establishment of Food Plots for White-tailed Deer in Central and South Florida
  • Lousiana State University Extension: Concepts of Soil Fertiltiy for Hunter Food Plots

Who Can Help

  • Ohio State University Extension: Establishing Wildlife Food Plots
Keywords: planting food plots, calculating fertilzer applications, fertilzing food plots

About this Author

Tracy S. Morris has been a freelance writer since 2000. She has published two novels and numerous online articles. Her work has appeared in national magazines and newspapers, including "Ferrets," "CatFancy," "Lexington Herald Leader" and "The Tulsa World."