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Something for Almost Nothing
By Joel D. Glover, Certified Wildlife Biologist
Everyone has heard the old adage, “You don’t get something for nothing.” Although this is normally true, there are exceptions to the rule. If you are interested in managing your property for wildlife, you may be able to get something for almost nothing.
Today land managers have multiple options on how to provide quality habitat for the wildlife on their property. After speaking with landowners, it appears that virtually all of them have been influenced by the marketing campaigns employed to sell the latest and greatest miracle planting. There are many excellent forage plantings available today and most properties will benefit by using some supplemental planting. However, the dizzying array of choices often causes land managers to forget that these plantings are supplemental to the natural habitat.
Prices often associated with establishing the latest “super planting” often take a large bite out of the management budget. Therefore getting some good habitat for almost nothing is an attractive option. Many landowners are often surprised to learn that good habitat can be developed simply by applying a little disturbance to the soil. The seeds of native grasses and forbs are very often present in the soil. A little ground disturbance coupled with some sunlight can result in a good array of beneficial natural foods. Better yet is the fact that one of the best methods of disturbing the ground is also one of the least expensive. Lightly disking the ground will often bring seeds of beneficial species to the surface where they can germinate. The new growth will often include butterfly pea, partridge pea, beggarweed, ragweed and many other species that are favored by ground nesting birds. In addition to being great seed producers, these plants also attract insects, which are an essential component in the diet of young quail and turkey. Allowing these areas to grow fallow for a couple of years will normally result in some nesting habitat as well. After three years, the area can be disked again and the whole process starts over.
For very few dollars in equipment costs and a little time, landowners can provide some good native habitat for a fraction of the cost of most supplemental plantings. The next time someone tells you that you can’t get something for nothing, tell them you can come awful close!