Food Plot Soil Preparation

Food Plot Soil Preparation

Posted by Bill Winke on 24th Apr 2024

Maximizing Deer Attraction: The Importance of Food Plot Soil Testing and Preparation

Food plots serve as crucial components of any hunter's strategy for attracting deer. However, their success hinges not only on the choice of seeds and planting techniques but also on the health of the soil they're planted in. In this article, we explain the critical aspects of soil testing and preparation, highlighting its significance in creating thriving food plots that draw deer year after year.

Understanding Soil Testing

Soil testing forms the bedrock of effective food plot management. By analyzing the composition of the soil, we gain insights into its pH levels and nutrient content, vital factors influencing plant growth and deer forage quality. Whether it's pH testing to assess acidity levels or comprehensive nutrient testing, conducting soil tests prior to planting season is non-negotiable for informed decision-making.

Testing Your Food Plot Soil

Testing your food plot soil can usually be done by your local Co-Op or you can purchase a soil test kit. Typically, for a soil test kit, you can simply take a soil sample and drop it in the mail for a lab to analyze. They should analyze your soil for pH, buffer pH, organic matter, phosphorus, and potassium. After testing, a detailed soil test report will be returned to you with lime and fertilizer recommendations based on your soil and the food plot blends you plan to grow.

Soil Preparation Techniques

Preparing the soil sets the stage for successful food plots. Existing vegetation should be eliminated and the soil should be tilled or loosened at least 4-6”. Tilling and aeration facilitate root penetration and nutrient uptake, while amendments such as compost and manure enrich the soil with organic matter. Ensuring proper drainage and water retention are equally essential for sustaining plant growth throughout the season. Timing is key—soil preparation should ideally be completed well in advance of planting to allow amendments to integrate effectively.

Interpreting Soil Test Results

Deciphering soil test reports is crucial for tailoring soil preparation plans to the specific needs of the plot. Understanding pH levels guides decisions on lime or sulfur applications, while nutrient analyses inform fertilization strategies. By adhering to recommended application rates, we optimize soil health and pave the way for robust plant growth and deer attraction.

Applying Lime & Fertilizer

Now that the soil is tested and we have recommendations, we can apply lime and fertilizer to the food plot. Lime adjusts pH levels, creating an optimal environment for plant development. Follow soil test recommendations for precise application rates and timing. If you are using agricultural lime, it needs to be applied a few months earlier to take effect. Fertilizer supplements essential nutrients like nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, vital for robust plant growth. Apply before planting to ensure nutrient availability for emerging seedlings. Choose environmentally friendly formulations and monitor soil nutrient levels for sustainability.

As a final step before planting, use a disk and/or a drag or even a section of chain link fence to work in your fertilizer and to smooth out your whitetail food plot. Many of the seed blends contain very small seeds and if planted too deep they will not grow.


In the realm of deer management, food plots play a pivotal role in attracting and sustaining healthy populations. Yet, their potential remains untapped without proper consideration of soil health. By prioritizing soil testing and preparation, hunters and land managers empower themselves to create habitats teeming with nutritious forage, drawing deer like magnets season after season. Let us commit to the stewardship of our land, embracing the science of soil management to realize the full potential of our food plots and the abundant wildlife they sustain.