Every timber harvest has an area where logs are sorted and then loaded onto trucks for delivery to a sawmill. These areas are called landings, and they are more impacted by logging than any other part of a harvest because of all the equipment driving around. Right after a harvest, a landing can look messy, with the plants worn away and bare dirt exposed. But these areas don’t have to stay messy.
Every timber harvest has an area where logs are sorted and then loaded onto trucks for delivery to a sawmill. These areas are called landings, and they are more impacted by logging than any other part of a harvest because of all the equipment driving around. Right after a harvest, a landing can look messy, with the plants worn away and bare dirt exposed. But these areas don’t have to stay messy. With a little effort, you can turn that old landing into a wildlife buffet called a food plot.
Landings are where loggers sort logs and load them onto log trucks. They can be ugly after a harvest, and the exposed soil could wash away or support invasive plants. One way to restore old landings is to convert them to wildlife food plots.
Converting a landing to a wildlife food plot involves planting a mix of grasses and legumes that provide balanced nutrition for a host of plant eaters. All the supplies you need to do this project are available at most garden centers.
But what makes landings so great for wildlife feeding areas? First, because they’re open, they get a lot of sunlight that helps small plants grow within reach of animal mouths. Turkey, grouse, fox, deer, and rabbits are just a few of the species that prefer these open areas to feed. Second, because landings are usually small, they offer quick protection for animals to retreat into the woods if a predator comes along.
Converting your former landing starts with loosening up the soil. Trucks and other equipment will typically have squashed the soil in a landing, so drag a stone rake or disk over the landing to mix up that soil and prepare it for planting.
Before you put any plants in the ground, though, consider adding lime and fertilizer to help those plants grow. You don’t need as much as you would if you were farming crops, but adding 100 pounds/acre of 10-20-20 fertilizer and 1,000 pounds/acre of lime will encourage what you plant to grow more quickly. That might sound like a lot of weight, but because landings are often located close to roads or driveways, you can usually get a pickup truck or push spreader to the landing to deliver the lime and fertilizer. For best results, use that stone rake again to mix the lime and fertilizer into the soil.
After all that prep, you’re finally ready to seed. I recommend a mix of 20 pounds/acre of perennial rye grass, 2 pounds/acre of timothy, and 6 pounds/acre of inoculated birdsfoot trefoil. You can spread the seed by hand from a bucket, but you’ll get a more even distribution if you use a hand-cranked seeder.
The best times to seed are spring and fall. You want to avoid both the freezing cold of winter and the dry heat of summer.
Once you’ve spread your seeds, cover them with a thin layer of weed-free hay or straw mulch. That will help keep the seeds from blowing away and hold the soil in place until the plants grow.
Weed-free hay or straw spread over your seeding area will help protect seeds and limit how much soil can wash away. This landowner not only spread hay and seed, but also planted pine seedlings to start a new generation of trees in their landing.
That’s it! If you planted in the spring, within a few months you’ll see plants coming up and wildlife starting to visit. Eventually, your food plot will make that once messy landing all but invisible.
Over time, a well-done food plot can make it so that no one can tell that the area used to be a log landing.
For more information on food plots, including links to videos about how to build and maintain them, check out the MyWoodlot Activity Make a Food Plot.