Adding trees to your food plot provides a robust, long-term method to manage your land for game. Not only do fruit trees and chestnuts improve the habitat and increase the amount of forage available, but they also increase the capacity of your land to provide a stable source of food for wildlife for years to come.
The Case for Planting Food Plot Trees
Deer and wildlife will always follow the food! When you make fruit and chestnut trees a part of your food plot plan, you provide a reliable food source all year round, bringing hungry and happy deer to your desired hunting locations.
Iain Wallace and Bob Wallace from Chestnut Hill Outdoors, our preferred partner for edible and flowering plants for wildlife, explain the top benefits of adding chestnut and fruit trees to your food plot plan, including reductions in annual expenses and watering needs, the ability to bear crops for fifty to a hundred years or more without replanting, adaptability to different soil types and locations, and honoring the heritage of America’s original native hardwood forests
When is the best time to plant fruit and chestnut trees in your food plot?
To give your trees a head start and set them up for success come spring, fall can be a great time to plant.
As the weather cools, trees begin to enter a dormant state. Whether you pick up, mail order, or purchase your fruit and chestnut trees online, planting your trees in the fall means that your trees:
1. Require less water after planting
2. Experience reduced shock when transplanted
3. Require less maintenance because fewer weeds and other competition are present when compared to spring or summer
4. Focus their energy on growing a strong root system that builds through the winter
5. Enter the Spring season ready to withstand temperature shifts and, in some cases, are able to bear fruit more quickly
According to Bob and Iain Wallace of Chestnut Hill Outdoors, planting trees in the fall is the best way to help ensure your trees become established and prepare to provide a ready food source for the wildlife on your property.
When considering the best timing to plant in your region, consider the average date when the weather cools, at least a month before your first fall frost and before winter sets in, to allow roots ample time to establish. In Northern states, be sure to plant before the soil temperature drops below 60 degrees. In the South, you can continue to plant through the winter months. (You can find your hardiness zone on this map!)
● Northern States (Zones 5-6): Plant between mid-August through September
● Central States (Zones 6-8): Plant within September or October
● Southern States (Zones 8-9): Plant between November and December
Meet The Dunstan Chestnut
Did you know that deer choose chestnuts 100:1 over acorns? It’s true! Because of their taste and nutritional value (40% carbohydrates and up to 10% high-quality protein), deer rush to consume sweet-tasting chestnuts, especially during the rut. Imagine lining your food plot with chestnut trees and catching sight of that giant buck you’ve been tracking all year!
The Dunstan Chestnut is an excellent choice for food plots, hunting property, and backyard orchards. Depending on the climate and care they receive, a chestnut tree can begin producing nuts in only 3-5 years (but will take 5-7 years in colder regions). Dunstan chestnuts are easy to grow in a variety of locations and require a minimum of 300 chill hours to ripen the chestnuts.
When you plant in the fall, you give your chestnut tree a headstart into the following growing season.
Which fruit trees are the best food sources for deer?
In this episode of LandBeat, Iain Wallace walks viewers through the line of fruit trees that best meet the nutritional needs of deer, especially when supplemented by a traditional field-style food plot.
The following fruit trees ship every fall and early winter in planting zones 6-9, starting at the end of September. Chestnut Hill also ships to box stores Walmart and Rural Kings according to the best time to plant in your area.
● Crabapple (Check out our LandBeat video about the benefits of crabapples!)
In the Spring, plants including pear, apple, grape, blackberry, and strawberry become available to plant.
When choosing the plants to best supplement your food plot, look for hearty growers and native varieties, as they often are pest and disease-resistant. In addition, wildlife is genetically trained to seek out native plants as a food source, even if they didn’t previously find it on your property. Once fruiting is established, wildlife will learn to return to that very spot year after year.
How to Plant and Maintain Fruit Trees on Your Food Plot
For more details on how to maximize your fruit or chestnut tree investment, catch this episode of LandBeat, in which Bob and Iain Wallace share steps for watering, fertilizing, and protecting your plants.
The key components of a successful food plot include planning, preparation, and patience! When your property begins providing a variety of forage for deer, look forward to filling your tags and enjoying the fruits of your labor.
For those looking to grow a food plot on the perfect hunting property for sale, contact your local Whitetail Properties Land Specialist or visit our website to discover properties for sale today.