Typically, the Carolinas receives an average of four feet of rain each year, unevenly divided among the four seasons. Statistics show that the majority of the rain falls over the summer, with July the wettest month. But rain trends vary significantly by county from the northwest to the southeast. Regardless, the spring rains accompanied by a rise in soil temperature initiates seed germination and the beginning of the "green" season.
Warm-season food plots rely on spring rains to provide the necessary water to start the growth process. It is the catalyst and primer from growth. As soon as the seeds come into contact with water, they begin soaking up large quantities of water. Soon afterwards, the seed's dormant enzymes awaken and begin respiration. Cells begin to duplicate until the seed shell bursts, with the root sprout emerging into the soil and later followed by sprouts shooting towards the soil's surface seeking the first ray of sunlight.
Before germination, the dried-out seeds can lay dormant for extended periods. But as soon as the cells soak up water and activate the comatose enzymes, water must persist around the newly-germinated seeds until the root systems are able to establish and find their own sources of water.
Newly rooted plants are vulnerable, and property managers preparing to plant food plots should pay very close attention to the level of moisture in the soil before ever covering the first seed.
Food-plot plantings in both the spring and fall - as well as duck impoundments - are planted to provide maturing forage or seed availability during a specific period of the year. Food-plot managers often feel pressure to go ahead and get the seed in the ground when the calendar indicates the time to plant. While timing is important, a failed planting will have a much-greater impact than delaying planting for a few days to a few weeks until proper soil moisture is available.
Preparing food plots through harrowing and spreading soil additives aerates and dries out the upper layers of soil when it's windy and hot. If possible, avoid invasive soil manipulation during hot and exceptionally-breezy days if planting is up next on the agenda. Watch the weather fronts plowing across the country and try to plan around mild to moderate upcoming rain events. Avoid torrential rainfall events, too. High rates of rainfall will expose seeds and in worst cases, wash away the seeds.
Fortunately, the soil moisture can be recharged from precipitation and from ground-water sources as well. On most sites, subterranean water sources are not too far below the surface. In time, moisture from below will wick towards the surface to recharge critical moisture levels within the root zone. Sometimes waiting a few days to a few weeks may be the best route to produce that booming crop the deer, ducks and doves will love.