The following is some basic information to help you sort through your seed choices and enable you to make an informed purchase. Seed choices should be based on your ability to plant with or without tillage and your ability to get them planted at the appropriate time.
Turnips, radishes and rape are cool season crops ideal for fall plantings. The leaves are high in protein, though the leaves of turnips and rape typically don’t become attractive to deer until after a couple frosts. The cold frost converts bitter tasting starches in the leaves into sweeter sugars. Radishes don’t need a frost to become attractive. The tops of these crops will stay green well into the hunting season, but are usually killed with a hard freeze of 25 F or colder. The roots of turnips and radishes then provide attractive extended forage into the winter months, but they too will usually freeze and turn to mush in late winter.
If your goal is to have turnip and radish roots in addition to leaves for forage, then it is important to plant these crops during late summer. Planting in September ensures enough growing season to enable the radishes and turnips to develop substantial root sizes. Waiting later to plant often means that you will get tops only.
Turnips, rape and radishes become best established when planted in tilled ground so that there is good seed to soil contact. You can do light single pass tillage with a disc and then just broadcast seed into the rough tilled soil. The small seeds will find their way in the cracks and voids on the soil surface and then subsequent rains will further cover up the seed. These crops need nitrogen. If you have time for a soil test, it's good to have one done. Gregg Farms has several combinations of fertilizer in stock all the time.
Soybeans plots are great places to put trail cameras since deer seem to really be attracted to these young soy plants. Consider mixing buckwheat with the soybeans for an added attraction. The dear prefer the young soybeans. However, the buckwheat can produced seed (a food preferred by wild turkey) prior to the first frost. Buckwheat will take about 60 days to mature so plant accordingly if you want seed production. Soybeans and buckwheat will be killed with the first frost. They establish best with tilled soil like the turnips, rape and radishes.
Clovers are a valuable food source at some key times during the year when other foods sources are not available. Clovers green up early to provide early spring and summer forage, then go dormant and become less attractive to deer during the heat of the summer. With the arrival of cooler weather, clover will develop lush attractive growth again, when much of the natural browse has withered away.
Planting clover with other crops in the fall will not usually provide enough growth for fall forage, but can be used as a strategy for establishing it for the following year.
White/ladino clovers are more palatable and longer lived than the red clovers or alfalfa. Red clovers and alfalfa (high tonnage hay type forages) typically will only last 3-4 years before replanting is necessary and they require much more management as compared to white clovers to keep them palatable for the deer. White clovers are known as grazing clovers because their stems run along the ground and only the tender leaves are upright and exposed for grazing. In contrast, red clovers and alfalfa have stems that are upright and thus need frequent mowing to prevent them from becoming stemy and less palatable.
Cereal grains like oats, winter wheat, and rye can be planted individually or in mixtures. These grains are best planted after September. Planting too early can result in too much top growth of the cereal grains going into hunting season and the bigger plants don’t seem to be as attractive to deer. Young oat plants are very attractive to deer and they will selectively graze oats among wheat and rye plants.
Cereal grains can be planted in tilled ground, or no-tilled into fairly clean (not a lot of weeds) soils with great success.
Winter peas are like deer candy and won't last long in a small plot. The planting dates match up well with cereal grains and we recommend using it in a mixture. Plant winter peas into tilled ground to ensure good seed to soil contact.
Annual ryegrass is not cereal rye. Annual ryegrass establishes quite rapidly and often will grow in situations where other crops won't. This hardy annual grass is easy to establish and has a great fit for areas with poor soil or places where minimal soil preparation is the only option. Annual rye is not near the top of most food plot lists but it does have it's use in remote food plots areas or areas with tough soil where other crops won’t grow.