You can find many products on HancockSeed.com that explicitly instruct you not to plant them after the first frost. It makes sense to humans that plants prefer to be warm versus being cold. But did you know there’s a strategy for casting your seed upon frozen ground? This method of planning wildlife food plots has a name rooted in its wintry methodology: frost seeding.
The idea is for those tending the soil to spread their seed on top of the soil. When the weather gets cold, the water in the soil freezes into ice, and that in turn pushes the soil upward, surrounding the seeds for clover, chicory, oats, or other forage crops that were sown. The primary benefit to this method is you don’t need to rent equipment, or spend money on fuel, to complete the seeding process. It is even possible to sow new seed on as much as 2 inches of snow.
The freezing of soil, followed by a thaw, followed by another freeze (et cetera), leaves the seeds in a great place for the coming Spring!
It’s important to make sure that you’ve selected the proper variety of seed, however. Cool season perennials (such as clovers), and cool-season annuals (such as oats) are your best options. Warm-season crops, such as corn, are better planted during (you guessed it) warmer weather.
Blends containing brassicas, corn and soy are best saved until it warms up. Frost seeding is possible...but not recommended.
Hancock Seed offers a number of seed blends that are ideal for frost seeding. Few are as well-equipped as Hancock’s Killer Clover Seed Mix, thanks to its blend of clovers and alfalfa (another great frost seeding option). Our Fall & Winter Food Plot Seed Mix features plenty of forage that can thrive in cold weather...but its seeds can also hang cool until the soil warms up!
Although not necessary, frost seeding works best when you spread seed in an area where it won’t need to compete. You can plan ahead by selecting a field that previously hosted an annual; or you can do it the old-fashioned way and use herbicide during the Fall. Fertilizer, liming, and other steps in the soil improvement process still play a major role. Make sure the target soil is healthy before seeding!
Once you’ve got your plot planned out, just distribute the seeds at their regularly-recommended rate. We recommend a rate of 40 lbs. / acre for our Fall & Winter Food Plot Seed Mix, and our Killer Clover can go down at a rate of 10-15 lbs. / acre.
You’ll want to frost seed about a month before when the Spring greenery is expected, so it depends on where you reside and how the weather is behaving. For example, our Florida neighbors can frost seed as early as January or February. If you live in Maine, you might not be able to frost seed until Spring is already well underway.
To repeat, frost seeding is a great way to plant a Spring food plot without the costly equipment or fuel. But there is a cost, of sorts: Frost seeding typically results in a lower germination rate than more conventional methods. Weigh this against the cash total you’ll save.
You can still see quality results, however! Frost seeding is just a reminder that, even if you don’t have the correct equipment, it’s never too late to start a great food plot!