There is a lot written about turnips and radishes, or brassicas in general. The common knowledge out there is that brassicas get planted for fall and deer only eat them after the frost. However, brassicas do well in spring depending on what species and how you plant them.
When should I plant turnips and radishes for deer? Brassicas should be planted at the end of summer when days are getting shorter and nights are cooler, cooling the soil.
Brassicas are used by farmers and food plotters to suppress weeds and to reduce soil pathogens. Mustard, for instance, is used to reduce damaging nematodes by exuding chemicals that kill these pests.
The large leaves shade out winter annual and biennial weeds like thistles. Brassicas, especially radishes drill down into the soil with a large taproot, conditioning soil and placing holes that water can infiltrate in spring.
Also, after summer, food plot will be going downhill or deer will have eaten it to the ground. However, brassicas also do well in a summer cover crop mix and can put into a mix to plant in the spring as well.
Hybrid brassicas like pasja and t-raptor grow well in spring and are palatable without having to rely on frost. In this post, I will describe different brassicas, why turnips are not the best brassica to plant, seeding rates and how to use brassica as part of your overall food plot strategy.
How To Plant Turnips
Turnips and other brassicas have a very small seed. They are made to be on top and not buried under the soil too far. If you are using a pure stand of them, here are the steps to planting a good stand of turnips:
- till the soil surface
- use a cultipacker to firm the seedbed
- apply 4-5 pounds of seed per acre
- cultipack again to push seed into firm contact with the soil
How To Plant Radishes
Radish seeds are a bit larger. They are a hardy plant that is easy to plant and grow. To get a good stand of radishes you can:
- broadcast them on top of your summer plot at 5-6 lbs per acre
- plant as above using a cultipacker
- turnips can be drilled at 1/2″ with other seeds – when in a cover crop mix, use only about 3-4 lbs per acre
Other Members of the Brassica Family I Recommend
There are 3,700 species of plants in the brassica family, or cruciferous vegetables. Many of them are found on the grocery store shelves. Broccoli, kale, bok choy, cabbage, mustard, radishes, turnips and others are enjoyed by people at the dinner table every day. The cruciferous name comes from the characteristic cross-shaped flowers. Here are some brassicas used in farm fields for cover crops and in the case of canola, to make cooking oil and fuel.
All of these plants are relished by deer.
- collards – great for summer cover crop mixes
- hybrids – tunip/rape cross – very good leaf production
- rape – small and not as large leaved
- canola – goes to flower early in spring with pretty flowers
- kale – very tough and cold tolerant but not as palatable = good to add into a mix for winter
The Best Way to Plant Brassicas
Although brassicas can be planted with a seed drill when using a cover crop mix or broadcast and cultipacked, the very best way is to use a Brillion seeder. The Brillion seeder is the sure way to get an even seeding rate and set the seeds exactly where they need to be. Farmers use them to plant clovers, alfalfa and small seeds like brassicas.
Turnips and radishes are an important part of any food plot program. But, people get carried away with growing them because they often produce a large plant with a huge tubers. But, deer don’t generally eat the tubers so I prefer to plant large-leafed plants such as t-raptor.
If you are obtaining huge plants with big roots, then you have to ask yourself, why? Are you growing a garden for selling turnips or are you feeding deer? If deer aren’t eating it, then why grow it? If you have to wait for a frost to make deer turn to the less-palatable turnip greens, then is it the best alternative?
Here is a video on why I like radishes and t-raptor better than turnips: Turnip video
This year, in my summer mix, I will add radishes and collards as they are pretty tolerant of the hot summer weather when in a cover crop mix. If you try to grow brassicas in a pure stand in summer, you will suffer from beatles eating holes in the leaves and the leaves will be tough and not very tasty.
The best thing about radish is their ability to drill through hard pan. I once planted radish in a new food plot in the late summer on a newly cleared plot in the woods. The ground was like concrete, but I ran my brillion seeder over it anyway.
When the rains came, they germinated and grew to be shin-high in October. By December, the plants had been eaten down to the dirt by deer. I planted that field into clover and it has been in clover for several years.