You could buy a bag of seed that comes in a pretty bag that has high germination count, low weed seed levels and a blend of some of your favorite mixes but that is just the start. So many people focus on seed but that is not where the magic happens. It all starts with the soil and that is why my first book was called from Soil to Success.
For anything to grow effectively here are what is needed. You need a soil that is healthy. So many people only focus on soil pH, they think that if they have their pH between 6.0 and 7.0, that they will see success. That is only a small part of the outcome. Yes, you need proper pH, but you also need a high amount of organic matter. Without organic matter you will more than likely have soil compaction issues, water infiltration challenges and poor nutrient holding capacity. You need a thriving soil environment containing beneficial bacteria, microorganisms, proper macro and micro nutrient levels and a multitude of worms and other living species in the soil.
So, now you have the proper pH, a balanced level of macros and micros and an overall thriving soil, now what? What comes next is a proper seed bed for seed placement. What does that mean? Whether you are frost seeding, doing no-til, minimum til or conventional tillage, there needs to be the soil conditions for effective germination and growth of whatever you plant.
Let’s start with frost seeding and over seeding. If you have an abundance of plant materials on the soil surface, you will have less than effective growth. You also want to have soil that is not compacted and with the ability to effectively freeze and thaw to incorporate that seed into the root zone.
If your no-til or minimum til, you want to have healthy soil to be able to get your seeder breaking the soil surface at a consistent depth. Note, your planting depth varies whether you’re on a bottom versus a steep slope. Very few consider this when planting larger fields.
If your disking or harrowing the food plot, are you doing it when the soil is fit to be worked? Are you working soil that is still too wet? How do you know if it’s too wet? When you move through the plot, is the soil clotty and leaving soil chucks or balls? You want the soil to be loose and lay down flat for proper seed to soil contact.
Lastly, before you plant, walk the ground. If your leaving foot prints 2-3 inches deep, you better cultipack the plot before you broadcast or drill the seed. Then after seed placement, come back and recultipack or roll the ground. If our seed needs to only be 1/8-1/4” deep, your more than likely going to be planting it to deep if you are pressing it into a fluffy vs firm seed bed.
So many people do not know the planting depth of the seed they are planting. Too many people do not know the maturity of the forages they are planting. Not enough people are not aware of competitive species versus non-competitive species. Those of us who sell cover crop seeds need to be aware of it but very few wildlife companies consider this or are aware of this. I see way too many mixes containing forages like sugar beets mixes with fast growing, fast maturing species. The result is sugar beets only thriving on the field edges. There are numerous other examples of situations like this as well.
Educate yourself on doing things right versus relying on the “bag” to be the magic. The magic is the soil under your feet and the soil under your nails.