What do I Plant?

We all have a little Johnny Appleseed in us and the thought of planting things, seeing them grow and reaping the fruit of our efforts makes us feel warm and fuzzy inside. Whether it is a backyard flower, vegetable garden, a tree or a wildlife food plot, there is a certain amount of satisfaction that we receive when we plant. Most of us have the innate quality of wanting to do good things. That trait lies at the core of calls we receive from members and landowners asking the question “What do we plant for our wildlife?” 

What seems like a relatively simple and straight forward question is really quite complex. There is no one-size-fits-all answer. Each landowner, each property and each situation is different from others. Unfortunately, the concept of planting food plots has been portrayed as the universial remedy for wildlife management. While food plots can be an important component of an overall holistic management program, they may not produce the results and meet the expectations of well-meaning landowners. Frequently, food is not the limiting factor on many properties. There could be other factors such as the absence of water, nesting and brooding cover, and escape or loafing areas. Lack of diversity of cover types or lack of overall forest or property management can also cause problems.

We do not want to mislead people into thinking that by simply planting a “magic bean” wildlife will suddenly flourish on their property. The best advice for landowners interested in managing wildlife is to consult a wildlife professional in their area. Most state fish and wildlife agencies employ biologists that offer technical advice to landowners. A visit by one of these folks can provide valuable advice and site specific recommendations.

NWTF regional biologists may also offer management suggestions, although they do not visit properties. If a phone conversation won't suffice, a consultation with someone from the local Cooperative Extension Service office can be helpful. They can give specific planting advice especially as it relates to applicability, planting dates, seeding rates and other technical information. 

Use our new approach to conservation delivery

NWTF has designated six major geographical areas deemed  America's Big Six of Wildlife Conservation to help identify the most urgent needs and better monitor conservation objectives. The organization will focus on each landscape to improve and concentrate its habitat management efforts in the coming years. Each region has unique challenges and opportunities and planting may be applicable in some of these landscapes. Other practices such as non native species control, active forest management, prescribed burning and water conservation may have higher priorities than planting.

NWTF offers a variety of seed programs through our local chapters for members and also offers a variety of mixes on our online retail site. Included in those mixes are annuals, perennials, native warm season grasses and pollinator mixes. Wildlife trees and shrubs and other land management products are also listed.  After consultation with a natural resource professional, some of the products may be applicable to your specific property and needs.

Donnie Buckland, Private Lands Manager for the NWTF

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