Long Term Food Plots with Tree Plantings
By John Howle
a few trees that produce mast enjoyed by wildlife, and you’ll have a
food source that lasts for years. The great news is many of the wildlife
attracting trees often begin making acorns and fruit within 10 years.
January offers an ideal time to select your trees, pick your planting
spots, and put long term wildlife forage in the ground.
hard mast production, you can’t beat sawtooth oaks. For trees that
produce soft mast or fruit, great choices for Alabama are persimmons,
plums, crabapples and pears. Whether you are planting hard or soft mast, a
multitude of wildlife will be attracted to your land once these trees
Close-up of sawtooth acorns
production for the sawtooth oak usually begins in less than 10 years
depending on the amount of care given and the areas the trees were
planted. That’s still considerably quicker than the 20 to 25 years
required by the sawtooth’s close relative, the white oak.
recently marketed version of the sawtooth is the gobbler sawtooth. This
produces smaller acorns than the regular sawtooth oak, and the idea is
turkeys will be better able to make food sources of the mast that is
produced. However, the wildlife managers I’ve spoken with say they’ve
never seen a turkey turn down an acorn from the regular variety of
trees are my favorite soft mast producer. My grandfather would use the
hard wood of the persimmon for wedges used in the splitting of wood. He’d
bake the wedges in the stove until they were super hard and use them to
split fence posts. In addition, the hard wood was once popularly used in
golf club heads and axe handles. However, it’s the fruit of this tree
that drives wildlife wild.
our farm in Alabama, you can find coyotes, deer, turkeys, and raccoons
Close-up of persimmon fruit
persimmon trees each day during late fall combing the ground underneath
the trees searching for the fruit. The fruit is purplish orange and
slightly larger in diameter than a quarter. Only the female persimmon
trees produce fruit so buy at least 10 seedlings to make sure you have a
male in the group to do the pollinating.
trees not only offer favored fruit by wildlife, they provide ideal cover
for quail and turkey poults. The Chickasaw Plum is an ideal choice for
its fruit as well as its cover providing properties. The trees colonize
as they grow creating ideal thickets for quail and turkey poults.
Planting plum trees in rows helps break up large field and provides
travel corridors. The fruit is produced in summer but the cover lasts
are a hearty choice for a soft mast apple tree for wildlife. The fruit
is produced in late summer and hangs on into early fall. Make sure the
variety you select actually drops its fruit. Some ornamental varieties
of crabapples will produce fruit that doesn’t drop from the tree.
Photo of pears on tree
are likely to see pear trees from abandoned farmsteads that continue to
produce fruit year after year even when they are neglected. Pear trees
are ideal soft mast producers because the fruit often stays on the tree
for quite a while. Edward Fort of Edward Fort Nurseries in South
Carolina produces a variety of pear that hangs on the tree for a long
time. "We sell a grafted pear tree that begins producing fruit in
summer, but this particular variety will have fruit that often hangs
onto the tree into November," says Fort.
any seedling will thrive in naturally fertile, moist soil that is
well-drained. The trees need sunlight 75 percent of the day. This means
for optimum yields, the seedlings should be planted in open fields or
clear, open areas in the forest. Areas where pine trees have been
clearcut harvested works well if there is fertile, well drained soil and
pH levels are within ideal range or close enough to be adjusted with
applications of lime from your local Co-op.
the first five years of growth, seedlings can’t handle weed and other
vegetative competition. This is where a weed mat helps protect the young
seedlings. If you plant the seedlings in open fields, space them in rows
25 feet apart in rows 25 feet wide.
allows a tractor and mower to easily be driven between rows to keep
competing vegetation under control. Control the competing vegetation
through mowing or the use of herbicides.
you are planting a large number of seedlings, a dibble bar, which is a
long narrow shovel made of steel, makes the job more efficient and helps
in getting the seedlings planted at the proper depth. Be sure to plant
the trees no deeper than they were planted at the nursery.
the dibble bar into the ground with your foot at an angle. Push the
dibble bar forward creating a hole. Remove the dibble bar and place the
seedling into the hole at the desired depth. Re-insert the dibble bar
into the soil a few inches from the hole, and push the bar forward. This
closes the soil around the seedling’s root system. Finally, pack the
soil around the seedling with your foot to ensure soil contact.
Step 1: Push the dibble bar into the ground at an angle with your foot.
Step 2: Push the dibble bar forward creating a
hole for the seedling
Step 3: Place the seedling into the hole
Step 4: Re-insert the dibble bar a few inches from the seedling, and push it forward to close the soil around the seedling.
Step 5: Pack the soil around the seedling with your foot to ensure good soil contact.
browse on the succulent young leaves and stems as the tree grows, and
beavers love to chew the bark around young trees. Placing a weed mat
around the seedling and sliding and securing a tree tube around the tree
will protect the tree and actually promote growth since the tree tube
though many online nurseries carry Sawtooth Oaks and soft mast trees, it’s
best to speak with your local Extension agent to determine which trees
will grow best in your zone based on the rainfall, temperature, and soil
type of your area. Edward Fort Nurseries in South Carolina have
personnel that can guide you to the right soft mast trees for your area
as well as planting and seedling care tips. Call 1-866-295-TREE for
Edward Fort Nurseries. You can order wildlife trees through QDMA at
1-800-209-3537 or you can visit the National Wild Turkey Federation at www.nwtf.org,
then, land management, then, trees. Finally, check with your local
forestry commission for the availability of seedlings.
Howle is a freelance writer from Heflin.