Eliminating Weed Issues - The Ideal Nurse Crop for Fall-Planted Perennials in Canada
By William Cousins
SEPTEMBER is finally here and if you are planning on planting a perennial food plot this fall, you are right on time! In most parts of Canada, you still have time until the 3rd week of September to plant nurse crops before the cold arrives. It’s also a great idea because of the many benefits perennial food plots provide. If you do plant a perennial this fall, then you should definitely consider planting Whitetail Oats PLUS as a nurse crop. As you’ll see, doing so can yield some substantial benefits.
You might ask “What is a nurse crop?” Basically, a nurse crop is a fast-growing secondary crop that’s planted with a primary crop in the same seedbed. Here, we’ll be discussing planting Whitetail Oats PLUS as a nurse crop for a fall-planted Whitetail Institute perennial as the primary crop. Whitetail Oats PLUS is an absolutely ideal nurse crop for this application. That’s true for several reasons.
All Whitetail Institute food plot perennial seed products are designed to emerge and establish rapidly. Whitetail Oats PLUS does so even more quickly and, as a nurse crop, will help the food plot green up even faster and start attracting deer as soon after planting as possible. Its rapid emergence, vigorous growth and extreme attractiveness also allow Whitetail Oats PLUS to take much of the early browsing pressure off the young perennial crop.
If rainfall is ideal after planting, both the perennial and the Whitetail Oats PLUS will perform together, offering a variety of food options in the same food plot. Planting a nurse crop of Whitetail Oats PLUS with perennials in the fall is also a great way to hedge your bets against the chance that Mother Nature will minimize rain after planting. Annuals by nature establish more quickly than perennials, so planting a nurse crop of Whitetail Oats PLUS with fall-planted perennials can act as a sort of insurance policy to ensure you have a highly attractive food plot to hunt over this fall even if the worst-case scenario happens and rainfall is minimal.
The plants in Whitetail Oats PLUS have fibrous roots, which help hold the soil in place while the perennials establish. Whitetail Oats PLUS also creates a microenvironment of higher humidity near the soil surface that helps reduce evaporation of moisture from the soil. This microenvironment, coupled with the water-holding benefits of the Whitetail Institute’s Rainbond seed coating can provide even greater protection for the perennial seedlings as they sprout and grow.
Planting Perennials in Canada during the spring at the peak of weed season can often be a challenge especially without the use of herbicides. With a nurse crop like Whitetail Oats Plus, the Oats will come up again next spring at the same time as your perennial plants of clover and/or chicory and will help to choke out your weeds. All that is needed next spring is a good mowing when your Oats will be approx. 2 feet tall. They can easily be mowed or bailed. Following that step, your perennial plants will now be exposed to the sunlight almost weed free and will be allowed to flourish to their full capacity allowing for a luscious and attractive Perennial food plot with minimal weed presence.
Preparing the seedbed and planting a perennial with a nurse crop of Whitetail Oats PLUS is very easy. With a couple of simple exceptions, just follow the planting dates for the perennial you’ll be planting. You’ll just need to adjust the seeding preparation and planting instructions a little, as follows:
As with any forage planting, it’s best to have your soil tested by a qualified soil-testing laboratory to determine exact lime and fertilizer requirements. If possible, have your soil tested several months in advance of planting so that you can add any lime recommended and disk or till it into the seedbed well in advance of planting.
Remove as much grass and weeds from the seedbed as possible before planting. This can be done by disking, tilling and/or spraying.
Step 1. When you reach the day of planting, start by disking or tilling the soil again. Then, before smoothing the disked or tilled seedbed, put out the fertilizer as called for in your soil-test report or, if you didn’t do a soil test, then put out 400 pounds of 17-17-17 or equivalent fertilizer per acre. Then, broadcast the Whitetail Oats PLUS seed at a rate of 30-45 pounds per acre for the nurse crop. (This rate is slightly less than half the normal seeding rate.)
Step 2. Once you have put out the fertilizer and Whitetail Oats PLUS seed, drag the seedbed to lightly cover the Whitetail Oats PLUS seed and fertilizer. This will also help smooth the surface of the seedbed sufficiently to prepare it for planting the perennial seed. (A cultipacker is not required, but if you have one, it’s okay to cultipack instead of dragging to complete this step.)
Step 3. Once the seedbed has been smoothed, broadcast the perennial seed such as Imperial Whitetail Clover or Imperial Fusion at its full seeding rate (shown on the front of the bag).
Step 4. Do not cover the perennial seed! If you used a drag at the end of Step 2, then do nothing further after you put out the perennial seed. However, if you used a cultipacker at the end of Step 2, then cultipack the seedbed again after putting out the perennial seed to help it establish good seed-to-soil contact.
With Mother Nature’s cooperation, your nurse crop of Whitetail Oats PLUS will emerge quickly, and you’ll see the perennials emerging soon after. As a final note, the planting instructions for Whitetail Oats PLUS, when planted by itself, call for an optional additional fertilization with 100 pounds of 34-0-0 or equivalent high-nitrogen fertilizer per acre 30-45 days after germination. This additional fertilization isn’t necessary when Whitetail Oats PLUS is planted as a nurse crop because the perennial legumes will produce enough nitrogen to maximize the growth of both the legumes and the nurse crop of Whitetail Oats PLUS.
For more information, visit www.canadianwhitetailfoodplots.ca or call Canadian Whitetail Food Plots at (514) 881-2080 to speak with one of our knowledgeable in-house consultants.