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  • Writer's pictureMike Kangas

Frost Seeding Food Plots with Clover

Frost seeding food plots in the late winter to early spring can be super advantageous to getting a jump on the growing seasons and reducing some land management expenses. It also is a great time of year to walk your property and learn by observing. Here in Minnesota this is the time of year snow is finally disappearing and it feels so good to finally see the ground again.

I wanted to dive into my journey of property management and show you applicable things you can do at any time of the year. This is the beginning of spring here in Minnesota and I am stoked to be chatting about frost seeding and doing some walk-through observations of the land.

Viewing from a hill side down to a river and eagle in picture.
Views From the Hillside Looking For Planting Areas

Why Frost Seeding

One of the main questions around frost seeding is - 'Why would I want to frost seeding?'.

Well it is pretty simple actually. The process of frost seeding can be super beneficial to your land management plan. This is something that can be done with minimal equipment. It takes little time compared to other planting strategies. The biggest thing though is the bang for the buck. Literally and figuratively. Frost seeding can be one of the cheapest food plot strategies you can apply on your property. Other than some early successional strategies we will talk about in later posts.

By frost seeding you are using the natural process of freezing and thawing of the ground in order to "plant" the seeds. So no need to incorporate the seed in the soil with other equipment such as compactors, tills, or drills. All you need is to get the seed on the ground.

The next thing you will want to consider is when you want to frost seed.

When To Frost Seed

When to frost seed is dependent on your particular area. Here in central Minnesota I usually wait until mid March or later. It also depends on how much snow is left.

Over the past weekend on March 29th, I spent some time frost seeding a couple of areas that could benefit from getting some clover and chicory starting to grow in early spring. There were still several areas with some drifted up snow.

Where I hunt in Northern Minnesota I will be waiting longer since there is still a significant amount of snow covering the ground. Normally you can plant right into small amounts of snow, but in my areas and experimenting with planting new areas I want to get a good look at the ground before frost seeding. Snow being gone is required in my case.

If you are in Tennessee for example you may need to frost seed in late January or February.

The main thing to keep in mind is finding a time when the ground is freezing and thawing. Here is how I planned my frost seeding time in Central Minnesota.

As you can see in the image below the next few days after planting there was going to be several freezing days (highlighted temperatures below), which is crucial to the frost seeding process. The freezing and thawing of the ground is what helps pull the seeds into the soil. This reduces tilling and equipment necessary for planting early spring clovers and chicory.

Weather forecast to determine when to frost seed.
Weather Forecast for Finding Freeze/Thaw Days

One of my take-aways from this year is that I could have planted a little earlier since we may not see too many more freezing days going forward. Clover is a pretty hardy seed so it can usually withstand some longer cold temperatures.

What To Frost Seed

There are only certain seeds that do well with frost seeding and that is usually small hard seeds. Seeds that can't handle frost seeding are soft seeds such as soybeans and corn.

Filling the hand seeder with mixture of clover and chicory seeds to frost seed.
Prepping To Frost Seed Clover and Chicory

What you can frost seed:

Cool-season perennials

  • Alfalfa

  • Chicory

  • Clovers

Cool-season annuals

  • Wheat

  • Rye

  • Oats

  • Brassicas (not ideal for early season plantings)

Basic Steps For Frost Seeding

  • Pick your spot that you want your food plot to be.

An area of a good spot to frost seed clover.
Location Found for Frost Seeding

  • Check the current state of the area to see if there is bare dirt and other plants there.

  • Scrape up the ground, move thick/tall debris areas.

  • Test your seed rate and determine how you are going to walk the plot.

  • Use a hand spreader and walk the plot broadcasting the seed on top of the ground.

Using a hand spreader to frost seed clover.
Frost Seeding with a Hand Spreader
  • Wait for some freezing and thawing days and observe.

  • Test your soil and make sure you have good spoil conditions. There is never a wrong time to get a soil test. Just do it.

Here is a snapshot of what the ground looked like after frost seeding.

Displays a mixture of clover and chicory seeds broadcasted onto the ground.
Broadcasted Clover and Chicory Seeds

Observation Minute

Wildlife observations:

  • Turkeys were gobbling near one of the areas we were planning to frost seed

  • Bumped four deer near the river bottom by another area we were planning to frost seed

  • Saw one bald eagle on the east side of the river bottom

  • There were thousands of black birds flying between the two main areas of mature trees.

Land Observations:

  • Clover in past plantings is starting to come up

  • Most of the non agricultural open areas are overtaken by tall fescue

  • Most of the planted Oak trees planted near the lake are not doing well

  • The access to the hunting and planting areas are limited and could be disruptive

  • The main tree lot heading east out of the river bottom to the agriculture fields is all dead branches and limited space for other forage in the understory/ground level

Found an area where clover had been planted before was starting to come back up.
Clover Starting To Grow Up

Frost Seeding Conclusion:

As a result from getting out and testing out some areas with frost seeding, I am excited to see the results and will share those results in a later post.

Benefits of Frost Seeding:

  • Low cost

  • Good way to have fun on your property

  • Will help get a jump on other weeds and grasses

  • Minimal equipment required

Hope you enjoyed the post! Would love to hear others experiences with frost seeding and other content that would be helpful.

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