Brassicas consists of short season and long season brassicas. The “short” and “long” refer to the length of growing season the plants require. Short season brassicas consists of rape, turnips, and radishes and long season brassicas consists of plants such as kale and swede. Brassicas are a very easy to grow and an inexpensive source of quality forage for whitetails. They are “sweetened” by frost when water from their leaves is moved to their roots, lowering the water concentration in the leaves and raising the sugar concentration, thus they are sweeter to whitetails. Although this sounds good, there are always cases where there are plenty of other food sources and deer may refuse to touch your brassicas or it may take them a couple years to acquire a taste for them. But once you can turn deer onto brassicas you’ll have a great plant to include in your food plot rotation!
When to Plant Brassicas
If planting short term brassicas plant in mid to late July for most Midwestern states, or 60-90 days before your first killing frost. If planting long season brassicas plant them in late April, early May, or 150-200 days before your first killing frost. However, be aware that some Kale varieties have a growing season similar to a short season brassica, thus they’ll have a later planting date.
A common mistake is planting short season brassicas to early, in which case they mature, go to seed and then rot just before hunting season. If a brassica plot is ever allowed to sprout and go to seed by planting too early this can cause major trouble. Another common mistake is planting a short season brassica too late in which there will be little time for root production and less time for leaf production.
How to Plant Brassicas
First step is to till the ground. Then cultipack or drive an ATV on the soil to firm the seed bed. Broadcast 5#’s per acre of turnip and/or rape (or kale and/or swede) and re-cultipack or drive the ATV over the plot again. When seeding a mix of turnip/rape you can also add 5 lbs per acre of radishes (making 10 total lbs of seed being planted) because of the different growing characteristics and not have any problems, but don’t seed more than 5 lbs per acre of just rape and/or turnips at one time. Make sure to properly measure the amount of seed you’re spreading, you do not want to seed too much. The seeds are small and only need to be planted 1/8-1/4 inch deep. Broadcasting them and taking a drag over them or cultipacker will work just fine. An even better approach is if you can use a drill or conventional planter to ensure proper seeding amount and depth. Just till, pack, and run the drill over the plot.
Aerial seeding into soybeans before leaf drop and into standing corn is possible. A risk with soybeans is if the weather doesn’t cooperate with harvest, the brassicas could grow up through the canopy and cause problems with green leaves entering the combine. But this isn’t a worry if you’re planning on leaving the beans standing for wildlife, ensuring a great combination of standing beans and brassicas for some excellent late season hunting! Brassicas can also be broadcasted into standing corn, but make sure the field hasn’t had heavy amounts of Atrazine applied to it. Also wider rows will be better than narrower when broadcasting into standing crops.
What to Plant
Long season brassicas can produce more tonnage in situations where that is needed but short seasons are more commonly planted in food plots. If you are planting short or long term brassicas it is always a good idea to use a mix of brassica varieties (such as rape/turnip or swede/kale, don’t mix short and long season brassicas) so some focus on forage and others on the root production. This ensures that when the forage is gone they can feed on the roots well into winter. Paul commonly plants mixes of short season brassicas such as these listed below but most plotters don’t need to get this much variety. One turnip and one rape variety (when planting short season brassicas) will be fine. Rape providing early attractive forage and turnips a source of late winter feed from their highly nutritious roots. Throwing in radishes is a short season brassica mix is also a great idea! If you find yourself in a situation where you’re wanting or needing to plant a brassica later in August or September, it is recommended you stick with just radishes versus any rape or turnips.
Dwarf Essex Rape Seed 1#
Purple Top Turnips 1#
Appin forage turnip 1#
Barkant Forage Turnip 1#
Barnapoli Rape Seed 1/2#
Pasja Hybrid Brassica 1/2#
GroundHog Forage Radish 5#
or an economical and very productive mix might be
Purple Top Turnips 3#
Dwarf Essex Rape 2#
GroundHog Forage radish 5#
Do not bother mixing other crops such as clover or cereal grains with brassicas at planting. However, keep in mind if your brassica plot gets hammered by deer or the weather doesn’t allow for it to grow well and isn’t canopied by September; you can overseed winter rye into the plot to fully utilize the area. Just don’t mix the other plants with brassicas right away at the planting day. In the spring it is essential to till up the brassica plot and seed another crop down such as clover. Frost seeding clover into a spent brassica plot the following spring is an option but allopathic chemicals are released by the rotting brassicas and commonly cause problems to the clover, thus why tilling the brassicas under is recommended. Also if brassicas so sprout the following spring, aren’t tilled under, and allowed to go to see this can cause some major problems. Generally two things happen when mixing crops with brassicas at the planting day: either the brassicas will take over or the other crop will as shown here…