Brassicas are the best food plot to plant in September. Deer eat like kings in the spring and summer months, feeding on natural and agricultural forage.
The fall presents a different challenge as those summer plants fade away after the first frost. Winter is the most challenging season of all for deer. Your choice of crops in a food plot can bring in big bucks during the season, and keep the deer in your area throughout the year.
What Crops Should I Plant in my Food Plot?
As they say in real estate, location, location, location. The best plants for your particular area are determined by the arrival of frost and the severity of the subsequent arrival of winter.
The realities of establishing a food plot are very different from Georgia to Northern Montana, but many similarities remain.
There are two principal crop styles that deer will always gravitate to. The first crop grouping is brassicas, and the second is cereal grains.
What are Brassicas and why Should I Plant Them?
Brassicas represent a broad group of plants that produce tubers and bulb-like growth beneath heavy leafy foliage. Humans eat a lot of brassicas, but deer love them too.
Brassicas such as turnips, radishes, cabbage, kohlrabi, rutabaga, and brussel sprouts are all examples of great choices in a September food plot.
Deer aren’t trendy, you won’t see them on the talk show circuit; they know what they like and don’t care about the latest smoothie recipe with kale, wasabi, and watercress. Incidentally, they don’t like those last three examples of brassica either.
Another crop similar to brassica is sugar beet. Deer love everything about sugar beets. They’ll eat the tops as they first break the surface of the ground, they’ll eat “beet tops” as farmers refer to the beet leaves, and they love the beet itself later in the season.
Nature works well with brassica in a food plot.
Brassica are among the most cold-resistant garden plants. Cabbage and turnips will continue to grow long after the frost has wilted all the lettuce and tomato plants.
Brassica are deer favorites from the first shoots early in the season to the frozen, below zero depth of winter.
Turnips and radishes, along with the non-brassica sugar beet, become a tasty treat for whitetails and mule deer alike after the first hard frost.
When the frost hits, plant growth stops or is diminished, this drives the sugar from the leaves into the root. Sugar beets don’t have much sugar content until after the frost, the same is true for brassica.
America has 10 hardiness zones for growing garden plants, small fruits, and fruit trees, but only three zones that run in a slight crescent from east to west when considering the best time to plant a food plot.
The greatest attribute of brassica in a food plot comes after all the surface leaves are gone. Deer will eat the root while in the ground. It’s common to see the outline of turnips in the frozen soil, with just the skin of the turnip remaining.
The deer have nibbled the entire contents of the turnip, leaving just a cone-shaped impression in the dirt.
Sugar beet farms are deer favorites, especially along the corners of fields where the digging equipment left a few beets in the ground. By spring you’ll see holes that look like a football cut in half dotted all along those corners where beets once grew the summer before.
The farther north you are, the less time you have from September to the arrival of winter for a food plot to develop. The southern end of this crescent can sometimes have growth 12 months a year if a frost never arrives.
The middle band represents an area where you can get the greatest benefit from a food plot since the growing season is longer than in the north, but deer still seek out the sweetness of root crops after a frost. This is also the rough outline of the “breadbasket” of America where most of the grain and corn are grown.
Are Cereal Grains a Good Choice for September Food Plots?
Deer love oats, barley, corn, and wheat. They’ll eat the plants as they break the surface, and they’ll devour a field of cereal grain when the wheat, oats, or barley hit the “milk stage” or the time when they begin to form kernels on the stalk.
Planting cereal grains in September creates an alternative food source for deer. The alfalfa and summer grasses will soon be grazed away, or harvested by farmers, leaving just stubble.
A new crop of oats, barley, or wheat offers a little smorgasbord of green delights for the doe or buck to taste.
Corn is different, it is a nitrogen user, meaning corn can quickly deplete the soil of necessary nitrogen if it’s not rotated with a nitrogen fixer such as alfalfa or clover.
Corn doesn’t grow as fast and isn’t a good crop for September planting, but even harvested corn is an excellent place to hunt deer in the autumn.
The most sophisticated harvesting techniques still leave a lot of corn on the ground. Deer will nibble away at these kernels, and so will ducks and geese if you’re a waterfowl hunter.
Plant some turnips or cabbage next to that cornfield, and it’ll become a deer amusement park.
What Should or Shouldn’t I Plant in a September Food Plot?
Competition for food is a condition for survival in deer. Agricultural areas, suburban gardens, and city parks are all favorite haunts for America’s growing population of whitetail and mule deer.
If you live near an agricultural area or own a farm, you should grow something different than the main crop of the area in a food plot.
If there are thousands of acres of sugar beets growing near your food plot, planting sugar beets won’t bring in the big bucks, there is just too much competition.
Plant a few hundred square feet of cabbage or turnips instead to break up the monotony of the beets. Deer will appreciate the change in diet and frequent your food plot.
What About the Lay of the Land Around my Food Plot?
Location is again the key factor. If there are heavily wooded areas, farm fields, maybe a few ponds, along with high spots and depressions around the area you want to plant a food plot use these geographic features to your advantage.
A small, quarter-acre section of oats planted in early September next to a heavily wooded area will bring in deer to graze all hours of the day or night.
Sugar beets, turnips, or rutabagas next to a source of water that doesn’t freeze through the winter will be doubly attractive. The deer will come in for water, then stay and nibble away at the beets, turnips, and any other root crop you plant.
Do Food Plots Work in Attracting Deer?
My own experience comes in the high panels, and electric fence I have to place around my garden each summer. When the tomatoes start to turn red, they begin to disappear and I’ll notice little piles of deer scat about five feet from the missing plant.
These are mule deer in my garden, and they love tomatoes. But they’ll also devour cabbage and brussel sprouts. The jalapeno plants don’t have much interest from the muleys.
Here is a very general rule to follow no matter where you live in planting a food plot. Oats, barely, and wheat, along with brassica should account for over half of your food plot. You can mix in a little clover, maybe some peas or soybeans to provide more attractions for the deer.
A September food plot can be just the ticket in attracting deer through the October and November seasons. Select the right plants, whether they’re brassica or cereal grains in early September, and by opening day you’ll have deer frequenting the young plants to graze on a regular basis.
Set up the tree stand and wait for a trophy to walk in among the beets, oats, and cabbage.