Rack Maker Plus (Chicory) includes several special legume varieties. The main alfalfa has fine stems and lots of leaf, which deer find very attractive. The ladino clover is a New Zealand grazing type, which withstands a lot of browsing. This blend also contains berseem clover, which comes up quickly and acts as a cover crop, and birdsfoot trefoil, which is extremely hardy. The very high disease resistance and persistence of this blend make it a great choice for a potential 4 to 5 year food plot.
This blend works well in a variety of full sun settings. It would also work well if you want something from which you could bale good quality hay.
Plant in the spring as packaged or with a cover crop like oats. When planting in the fall, use a cover crop for more frost resistance and good quality winter / early spring browse. Cover crops will need to be mowed off once they start to grow a seed stem.
Soil acidity should be in the 6-7 pH range. Your local Soil and Water Commission or feed and seed store can send in your sample for testing. Lime as indicated by the soil test. It takes up to 3 months for the lime to work. Lime early, preferrably the fall or spring before you plan to plant.
When tilling up sod, leave it set for 2-3 weeks so it will resprout any grasses you didn’t get with tillage. Spray the new growth with a glyphosate. After waiting the number of days on the instructions, fertilize, lightly till, and broadcast the seed. It is very important that you get the seeds pressed firmly into the soil, sealing air flow and reducing moisture loss. If you plant a cover crop, put it down first. Use a drag on these seeds. Then broadcast the smaller seeds and cultipack the whole thing.
Fertilize with a low nitrogen fertilizer (6-24-24) at 200 pounds to the acre. If you use a cover crop, you may want to use a little more nitrogen.
Mowing is the key to caring for this blend. It should be mowed as needed the first year and 2-3 times per year thereafter, assuming the deer aren’t keeping it down. This reduces root stress prior to winter and improves survivability. Don’t mow within 6 weeks of the first killing frost date.
Control early weeds and grasses by spraying or mowing. Mowing stunts the grasses and allows the legumes to crowd out the grasses. If you can’t bale this plot, do not let it grow too high. Cut as high as the mower will allow. Try not to mow more than one-third to one-half of the plant in any one mowing. Alfalfa and clover has its best attraction prior to blooming. Once a legume plant starts to bloom, it becomes fibrous and has poor browse quality. After the bloom dies, the plant goes dormant and has little browse value until winter.
Fertilizing in the fall with a no-nitrogen fertilizer (0-30-30) at about 200 pounds to the acre will extend the life of this plot.