Spring Food Plot Preparation

clover food plot for whitetail deer

As we move into April 2019, my thoughts turn to the food plot on my property. In 2018, I planted a late season plot consisting of annual forage. I used rape, winter peas, and purple top turnips. The deer hit the peas early in September and continued feeding in the plot throughout the winter months.

This season, my plan is to put in a perennial plot of Clover and Chicory. I want to give the herd as much nutrition as possible during the fawning season as well as provide the bucks ample forage for antler and body development. The plants that I plan to use are Ladino Clover, Crimson Red Clover, and Chicory.

Ladino Clover

Ladino clover plots will last four to five years in the Northern climates making it an excellent choice for Northeast Ohio. The plants are highly palatable to deer and will grow up to 10 inches in height.

Ladino clover prefers a soil pH of 6 to 6.5 but will thrive in a variety of soil types and conditions. I plan on doing a pH test of my soil this weekend and adding lime before I turn the soil over, if needed.

Ladino clover is planted no deeper than 1/4 of an inch. It can be drilled or broadcast into the soil. I plan to simply broadcast the seed and roll the plot with a lawn roller to firm up the seedbed and ensure seed to soil contact.

Ladino clover will need to be mowed when it reaches a height of 10 to 12 inches in the summer months. Ladino clover should be mowed no lower than six inches to allow the plants to regenerate and continue growing. It is slow in developing the first year it is planted but improves with time. Years two through five can be fantastic for Ladino clover production.

Ladino is a high protein forage that whitetail deer love and need during the summer months and into early fall.

Crimson Red Clover

Crimson Red Clover will be planted because of the noted slow established nature of Ladino. Crimson red is an annual clover, making it much easier to establish year one of a food plot.

Crimson clover prefers the same 6 to 6.5 pH range that the Ladino likes so there is no need to worry about a mismatch in soil acidity. Crimson also grows well in a variety of soil types and is relatively easy to establish with the proper seedbed.

Like Ladino, Crimson clover can be broadcast or drilled into the soil. Packing the seedbed is recommended to ensure good soil and seed contact. Unlike Ladino, Crimson clover will not be mowed as it is an annual legume. This clover provides forage from April through June in the Northern climates.

Whitetail deer love Crimson clover and it is a good draw to the plot for the herd. It is palatable and digestible and provides a good protein base for the herd.


Chicory is from the sunflower family and looks much like the common weed plantain. This herb boasts 15 to 30 percent crude protein and develops a long taproot to aid in draught conditions.

Chicory likes soil with a 6.5 pH which allows it to be planted with clover. It also can be planted by drilling or broadcasting the seed and covering with up to 1/4 inch of soil. Simple maintenance of mowing the flowering stem is required to stimulate new growth. This may need to be done multiple times during the growing season.

Chicory will continue to produce for three to five years with proper maintenance. It can be planted as a stand-alone crop but a mix with clover varieties produces the best stand.

Chicory is highly palatable and digestible for whitetail deer. Deer may take some time to discover the plant, but once they do they will return time and again.

Springtime is a critical period for whitetail deer. Quality protein sources are needed as does nurse fawns and bucks begin developing their antlers. Providing additional forage options for whitetails is a good way to benefit the overall herd health.

I will be posting pictures and videos of my “home” food plot this year. Continue following Whitetail OCD to keep up on the progress.

Good luck with this year’s food plots and Stay Afflicted with Whitetail OCD.

Stay Afflicted with Whitetail OCD!
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Author: Eric Hall

Afflicted with Whitetail OCD, I have been addicted to the Whitetail Deer since the late 1980s. It is an all-consuming and never-ending passion to learn about and ultimately preserve the heritage of whitetail deer hunting. Now I feed that addiction with the Whitetail OCD blog.

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