Barrier Island Wildlife in the Florida Panhandle; Part 6 The Maritime Forest

Barrier Island Wildlife in the Florida Panhandle; Part 6 The Maritime Forest

For some the forest is a scary place; for some it is a magical one; and for others it is spiritual.  For wildlife it is a popular place.  There are many places to shelter and plenty of food.  Though the forest of our barrier islands is not as dense and dark as those of the west coast of the United States or the mountains of Appalachia, it is very wooded provides the same needs.  Much of the wildlife on our islands call this part home.  Even if they forge in the dunes, or on the beach, it is the forest where they reside. 

Forest do exist on barrier islands and provide excellent habitat for a variety of wildlife. Photo: Rick O’Connor

I have hiked through many of these maritime forests.  The northern terminus of the Florida Trail ends at the edge of a maritime forest on Santa Rosa Island.  They are populated by many of the same species of trees you would find in inland forest.  Pine, Oak, and Magnolia are all common.  In some locations they short and twist their branches in all sorts of patterns to avoid direct exposure to the salt spray from the Gulf.  Those more protected from the spray by large dune fields grow quite tall.  Small rolling dunes of quartz sand can still be found on the forest floor, as can palms and palmettos, holly trees, and species of shrubs found in the dune fields themselves.  All of these provide good shelter, and some provide food.  And, as with the American southwest, these xeric conditions support cactus – there are plenty of cactus in the tertiary dunes and maritime forest of our islands.  Covered toed shows are recommended when hiking here. 

Due to wind and salt spray many of the trees on barrier islands grow in interesting twists and bends. Photo: Rick O’Connor

Though not common, within these forest there are small ponds of freshwater.  Back in the 1950s there was an attempt to build a pompano hatchery within the forest of Santa Rosa Island.  It failed because the water they chose to use (groundwater) was fresher than they thought it would be.  Visiting the site today you will find the grow out ponds the farmers dug, full of freshwater.  Near Ft. Pickens, on the west end of Santa Rosa Island, there are moats the soldiers dug to protect the fort from attack.  These too are filled with freshwater.  Between these and the naturally occurring ones, there is habitat for fish.  The few samples I have collected over the years have yielded live bearers, like mosquitofish and mollies, and as well members of the killifish family.  There could be others, but I have not explored this enough. 

This holding pond was dug to grow pompano in an attempt to farm them at the beach. They provide habitat for both fish and wildlife on the islands. Photo: Rick O’Connor

It is also good habitat to support frogs.  I have seen southern leopard frogs and southern toads, and have heard spring peepers on the islands, but I have not conducted formal surveys to determine what other species might exist.  There are inland species that do well in dry sandy soils, and you would think would do well on barrier islands if they could reach them.  Maybe some have, again – we need to conduct a good survey.   I am not aware of any salamanders on these islands, but again I have not looked for them. 

The leopard frog are found on barrier islands.

This is the realm of the reptile.  As with the deserts of the American southwest, reptiles do very well in dry xeric conditions.  Snakes and lizards seem to be the most abundant.  Six lined racerunners are quite common, as are other species of skinks (if you look for them in hiding places).  The horned toad was once common in all sandy environments in Pensacola, but then were only found on the barrier islands, and now are hard to find there.  They are reported to still be found on Santa Rosa Island though I have not seen one in years.  One of my colleagues recently saw one on Perdido Key – so, they are still around.  

Six lined skinks are island lizards well adapted for the hot conditions out there. Photo: Rick O’Connor

With snakes, the southern black racers and their close cousins the eastern coachwhip are very common here.  I have found garter and ribbon snakes.  I have seen the rough green snake in the maritime forest, usually in the branches.  I have found both the cottonmouth and the banded water snake near the freshwater ponds.  The denser forested areas have a lot of leaf litter on the floor that could support the eastern coral snake.  Though I have never seen one on the islands, they could be – they are very secretive.  One of the more common snakes – found in all habitats of the barrier island – is the eastern rattlesnake.  Encounters with impressive creature is rare.  Most of mine have been near the campgrounds and after hurricanes when the National Seashore was closed.  When FIRST opened to the public, you see them, then they just disappear. 

The eastern diamondback rattlesnake is a classic serpent found in xeric habitats like barrier islands and deserts. They can be found in all habitats on barrier islands. Photo: Bob Pitts

Alligators are known to haunt the freshwater ponds; I have seen them near the old pompano hatchery.  I have seen photographs of them crossing the island, swimming across the intracoastal waterway, and even swimming in the Gulf!  But sightings and encounters on our end of the panhandle are rare. 

Though not in the maritime forest, these tracks show that the American alligator is a resident of many of our barrier islands. Photo: Caroline Harper

Birds have no problem reaching barrier islands and they love forested areas.  There are numerous species of songbirds (passerines).  I have seen cardinals, blue jays, mockingbirds, and more.  Many of the ones you find just across the intracoastal can be found here.  Mourning doves are quite common in all habitats.  The forested areas are where you encounter the raptors.  I have seen osprey, bald eagles, and great horned owls all nesting here.  Within the pines of the forest, you often see the great blue herons nesting.  There are other occasional aquatic birds visiting the ponds, including ducks.  Duck hunting still happens in the winter on some islands.  These barrier islands are popular places to conduct the Audubon Christmas Bird Counts. 

If look closely, there are blue herons in the tops of these maritime pine trees. Photo: Rick O’Connor

And there are plenty of mammals.  Though more crepuscular or nocturnal, you often find their tracks in the sand in the morning, and occasional see them.  Raccoons and armadillos are abundant, not only in the forested areas, but all island habitats.  Skunks were once very common in the maritime forest.  I remember days camping at Ft. Pickens when they would approach you eating lunch knowing you were going to leave you food and move away!  We encountered them frequently while hiking and saw them inside some of the fortifications.  Then… in 2004… Hurricane Ivan rolled over Santa Rosa Island.  A study conducted by LSU suggested the entire west end of the island may have rolled over 300 feet north that night.  Since then, I have not seen a skunk.  They may still be out there, but I have not seen one. 

The round entrance of this burrow indicates that is the home of a mammal. most likely an armadillo, but there are others who burrow. Photo: Rick O’Connor

In recent years there have been more encounters with river otters.  They may have always been there but recently more tracks, and more encounters with live animals have occurred.  There are squirrels and mice, out there.  I have seen deer, fox, and coyotes on the islands.  I have heard there are black bears.  I have never seen one, nor their tracks, but know they have been encountered a lot recently in coastal Santa Rosa County and also know they are good swimmers.  So, these reports could be true.  I have looked for bats at dusk and have not seen them, but I am sure they are around.  Especially near the forts and old live oak trees. 

This is a ‘slide” made by otters using one of the old fish hatchery ponds. Otters are being seen more often by folks visiting the islands.

Time in these maritime forest will yield a lot of wildlife encounters.  This is most likely the most diverse location on these islands.  I would encourage you to dawn some good hiking boots (waterproof if you can), long pants (the green briar and cactus can be bad), a pair of binoculars, sun protection and water, and explore these amazing forests.  Many of them within our state and national parks provide trails for easier access.  

We have once last habitat to explore – and that would be the salt marsh.  This will be Part 7. 

The author exploring the maritime forest of Santa Rosa Island.
Sawtooth Oak:  A Good, Not Perfect Tree for Wildlife Enthusiasts

Sawtooth Oak:  A Good, Not Perfect Tree for Wildlife Enthusiasts

Since entering the U.S. from Eastern Asia in the 1920s and especially since its promotion as the ultimate wildlife tree in the last few decades, I doubt there has been a more widely planted tree by outdoor enthusiasts than Sawtooth Oak (Quercus acutissima).  It is easy to see the tree’s appeal.  Sawtooth Oak grows quickly relative to other oaks, rates of 3-4’ per year in youth are not uncommon.  It bears fruit at a very young age, as soon as five-seven years from seed, and produces a heavy crop almost every year, unlike many native oak species.  Mature specimens are also mostly pest/disease free and very attractive, reaching 40-60’ in height with sweeping, wide-spreading branches, and deep, furrowed bark. 

While it seems that I just described the ideal wildlife tree, and Sawtooth Oak can indeed be a worthy inclusion to your property, it is not perfect.  All too often I see landowners and hunting lease holders plant solely Sawtooths as a part of their mast-producing tree strategy.  As in other areas of life, avoiding monocultures and adding a little diversity to your wildlife tree portfolio is beneficial.  Keep that, and the following lessons I’ve learned the hard way, in mind when you consider adding these wildlife attracting trees to your property.

  1. Acorns Drop Early – Sawtooth Oaks produce all their acorns very early in the season, beginning in September.  Conversely, most of our native oaks drop their mast (a fancy word for tree fruit) during the winter months that comprise our main hunting season, November-January.  So, while Sawtooth Oak is an excellent wildlife attractor and most any creature will readily gobble up their acorns, if you plant them to hunt around or provide a critical winter food source, you’ll likely be disappointed. 
  2. Invasive Potential – As Sawtooth Oak is non-native, very adapted to the Southeastern U.S. climate, and produces literal tons of acorns each year, the species has the potential to become a nuisance invasive.  I’ve visited several sites over the last few years that had a couple of large Sawtooth Oaks planted in areas mostly excluded from wildlife pressure.  I was surprised to see small Sawtooth saplings popping up everywhere.  It was eerily reminiscent of other nuisance trees like Chinaberry and Camphor.  Though I don’t think Sawtooth Oak will ever be a problem on the level of Chinese Tallow or Cogon Grass, it’s wise to use caution with plants that have invasive potential.
  3. Less Nutritious Acorns – Sawtooth Oak acorns are heavily browsed, but it’s not necessarily because they’re extremely nutritious.  A study from the 1960s compared the nutritional quality of Sawtooth Oak acorns to 8 common native oak species and found Sawtooth lagged the natives by a significant margin in all macronutrients measured:  protein, fat, and carbohydrates.  This finding suggests that, while Sawtooth Oak is an excellent wildlife attractor, if your goal is growing higher quality game animals and providing valuable nutrients to get them through the winter when wildlife forages are scarce, Sawtooth Oak should be a minor component of your strategy, not the endgame.
  4. Longevity – The jury is still out on longevity.  However, anecdotal evidence from around the Southeast suggests that Sawtooth may not be as long-lived as some of our native oaks.  This could be due to several factors.  First, as a rule, extremely fast-growing trees tend to be shorter lived due to weaker branching structure, less dense wood, and other factors.  Think of the tortoise and the hare analogy.  The quickest do not always win the race.  Second, Sawtooth Oak did not hold up particularly well during Hurricane Michael and other strong storms.  Their growth habit (heavy, wide spreading branches low to the ground) is not conducive to major wind resistance.  This is to be expected as Sawtooth Oak is native to areas that do not experience tropical wind events and likely evolved accordingly.

I am by no means suggesting that you shouldn’t add Sawtooth Oak to your property in the hopes of encouraging wildlife.  There are few trees available that do a better job of that.  I am suggesting that Sawtooth Oak should be a small part of your larger overall planting strategy and you should keep in mind the potential drawbacks to the species.  Plant mostly native oaks, allow Sawtooth Oak to be merely a supplement to them, and I think you’ll be pleased with the results!  Putting all your acorns in one basket is rarely a good strategy.

For more information on Sawtooth Oak, other wildlife forage and attractant strategies, or any other natural resource, agronomic or horticultural topic, please reach out to your local UF/IFAS Extension Office!

Dealing with the Armadillo

Dealing with the Armadillo

Florida has a love-hate relationship with this animal.  Some find them cute and adorable, others find them a pest and a nuisance, either way there is no ignoring this guy.  They are everywhere and yes – they can make a mess of your lawn and garden.  So, for those who are not so in love with the creature – what can be done? 

Let’s first meet the animal. 

There are about 20 species of armadillo found in Central and South America but there is only one in the U.S., the Nine-Banded Armadillo (Dasypus novemcinctus).  The Nine-Banded Armadillo is originally from South America and there were several different species of armadillos that made the trek from South to North America prior to the ice age.  But after the ice age it seemed no armadillos were present in the U.S.  After the ice age, the Nine-Banded Armadillo expanded north into Mexico, but it seems could not cross the Rio Grande.  That is until Americans began to settle the area.  Prior to American settlement, armadillos were hunted for food, and the land on both sides of the river was regularly burned.  The American settlers ceased the burning and the Native Americans declined in numbers, so hunting pressure declined as well.  Many armadillos were probably brought across intentionally, but others who managed to swim across, and armadillos can swim, now found suitable habitat with the decreased burning.  They had arrived and began expanding both east and west across the southern U.S.  However, the Mississippi River presented another barrier they could not deal with. 

The common nine banded armadillo scurrying across the lawn. Photo: Les Harrison

The introduction in Florida was a different story.  Apparently in the 1920s and 30s they were released by humans.  One release appeared to be an escape from a small zoo.  Another was from a circus.  There are reports of armadillos riding cattle cars on trains from the west and this allowed them to cross the Mississippi.  In the 1920s bridges were built across the river for a new invention called the automobile.  All of this led to the invasion and the animals are now here, they are also expanding north. 

Armadillos like warm/wet climates.  They prefer forested areas or grasslands and, again, can swim small rivers and creeks easily.  It has been reported they can hold their breath up to six minutes and have been seen literally walking along creek bottoms. 

They feed primarily on a variety of small invertebrates such as grubs, snails, beetles, and even cockroaches (many of you will like that).  They like to feed in wet areas or loose sandy soils where digging is easier.  Unfortunately, your lawn is a good place to hunt.  They rarely, but do, feed on small reptiles and amphibians and eggs. 

They breed in the summer but delay egg implantation so that birth is in the spring.  They typically give birth to quadruplets.  The armor of the young is not hard at first but hardens over time and does provide protection from large predators like panthers, bears, and alligators.  They typically live 12-15 years, but some have reached the age of 20. 

So… now you know the animal… for those who do not want them, what can be done?

Based on an article from UF IFAS Extension, not a lot.  Typical methods of deterring wildlife have not worked.  Poisons, smells, and even using firearms has not relieved the homeowner of the problem.  One study looked at trapping and found that in general it is hard to get them to enter.  In this study they caught one armadillo every 132 trap nights – low percentages.  Another study looked at baits and found crickets and worms worked best, but the smell of other armadillos in the trap also lured them.  One colleague mentioned the need for solid wood traps and he baits them with nothing but the shells of roadkill as had good success.  He mentioned the designs of these wooden traps are online.  You can get plans to build them, and you can also purchase pre-made ones.  Once captured they can be relocated but the trapper should be aware that armadillos have many peg-like teeth and very sharp claws for digging.  HANDLE WITH CARE.  It is also known that armadillos can carry leprosy, though cases of leprosy being transmitted to humans are rare.  None the less, handle with care. 

For more information on this animal, contact your county extension office. 

How Are the Terrapins Doing in 2022?

How Are the Terrapins Doing in 2022?

Since 2005 we have been tracking and monitoring diamondback terrapins in the Florida panhandle.  For those of you who are not familiar with the animal, it is a turtle in the family Emydidae.  Emydid turtles include what we call “pond turtles” and also include the box turtles.  Terrapins differ from the others in that (a) their skin is much lighter, almost white, and (b) they like salt water – more accurately, they like brackish water. 

Diamondback terrapin (photo: Molly O’Connor)

The animals range from Massachusetts to Texas and within this there are seven subspecies.  Five of these live in Florida, and three only live in Florida.  In the Florida panhandle we have two subspecies: the Ornate terrapin (Malaclemys terrapin macrospilota) and the Mississippi terrapin (M.t. pileata).  It is believed the that the Mississippi terrapin only exist in Florida within Pensacola Bay – more on that in a moment. 

Image provided by FWC

There are literally no peer reviewed publications on terrapins from the Florida panhandle… none.  And this was how the Panhandle Terrapin Project began.  The first objective for the project was to determine if terrapins even existed here.  We began surveying for evidence of terrapins in 2005 using students from Washington High School in Pensacola.  The project quickly fell to myself and my wife due to the best time to do terrapin surveys was May and June.  And the worst time to work with high school students was May and June.  Between 2005 and 2012 we were able to verify at least one terrapin record in each of the panhandle counties.  Yes… terrapins exist in the Florida panhandle. 

The second objective was to assess their population status.  To do this we used what I call the Mann-Method.  Tom Mann, Mississippi Department of Wildlife, had developed a method of using nesting surveys to estimate relative abundance of terrapins within a population.  Terrapins tend to have strong site fidelity – they are “home bodies” – and do not move from marsh to marsh.  If you can find their marsh, you can find their nesting beaches.  If you can find their nesting beaches you can use the Mann-Method to assess their relative abundance. 

Tracks of a diamondback terrapin. Photo: Terry Taylor

There are a couple of assumptions with the Mann-Method.  (1) You are assuming every female in the population nest every year – we are not sure that is true.  (2) You are assuming that each female will lay more than one clutch of eggs each season – we do believe this is true.  (3) You are assuming that each female will not lay more than one clutch in a 16-day period – we are not sure this is true.  (4) You know where all of the nesting beaches are – we are not sure we do.  (5) The sex ratio of male to female is 1:1 – we are sure that is not the case.  One study suggested that in the panhandle the ratio may be 1:3 in favor of males, another suggested 1:5 in favor of males. 

Based off this model, and its assumptions, during a 16-day period of the nesting season, each track/nest would be an individual female.  Using 1:1, 1:3, and 1:5 as your sex ratio you can get an estimate of relative abundance. 

Another method for estimating relative abundance is counting the number of heads in a 30-minute period.  It is understood that if I see different heads during periods of the survey, I may be seeing the same head, but the argument is that if I typically see 10-15 heads during a 30-minute and over time that becomes 15-20, or 20-25, the relative abundance of terrapins is increasing – and visa versa.  

A terrapin swimming near but not entering a modified crab trap. Photo: Molly O’Connor

And we now have a third and fourth objective.  A third objective is to capture animals to place tags on them.  Doing this can give us a better idea of how these terrapins are using the habitats in the panhandle, how far they may travel and how they are getting there.  The fourth objective is to obtain tissue samples for genetic analysis.  The purpose of this is to determine whether the populations in Pensacola Bay are Mississippi terrapins, Ornate terrapins, or hybrids of the two. 

Since 2015 this work is now being conducted by trained volunteer citizen scientists – people like you – and we do the trainings in March if interested. 

So… how did things go in 2022? 

In 2022 we trained 47 volunteers to be survey beaches.  25 (53%) participated in at least one survey. 

173 surveys were conducted between April 2 and July 31 at 14 nesting beaches between Escambia and Bay counties.  Encounters with terrapins, or terrapin sign, occurred during 43 of the 173 surveys (25%) and three terrapins were captured for tissue and tagging. 

Escambia County

Number of SurveysDatesNumber of Surveys / Day
29Apr 3 – Jul 310.2
Number of EncountersFrequency of EncountersHeads / 30-minutesEstimated Relative Abundance
4.18No surveys conducted4-12

Santa Rosa County

Number of SurveysDatesNumber of Surveys / Day
58Apr 4 – Jul 50.6
Number of EncountersFrequency of EncountersHeads / 30-minutesEstimated Relative Abundance
15.26N=2, 0-49, X = 2430-90

Okaloosa County

Number of SurveysDatesNumber of Surveys / Day
43Apr 18 – Jul 150.5
Number of EncountersFrequency of EncountersHeads / 30-minutesEstimated Relative Abundance
25.58N=17, 0-32, X = 1130-90

No surveys were conducted in Walton County

Bay County

Number of SurveysDatesNumber of Surveys / Day
43Apr 2 – Jun 300.5
Number of EncountersFrequency of EncountersHeads / 30-minutesEstimated Relative Abundance
0.00No surveys conducted0

Summary of 2022 Terrapin Season

Surveys of nesting beaches occurred in four of the five counties in the western panhandle. 

Terrapins were encountered in each of these cand captured in two of them. 

The relative abundance ranged between 0 (Bay County) to between 30-90 individuals (Santa Rosa and Okaloosa counties) and was about 64-192 animals for the entire western panhandle (depending on the sex ratio you use). 

We are sure that we have not found all of the nesting beaches in this region and will continue to look for more. 

We are awaiting results from the tissue sampling to determine whether we have a distinct population of Mississippi terrapins in Pensacola Bay, but more samples will be needed. 

We need to place satellite tags on some females to get a better idea of how they travel through the system. 

And our relative abundance numbers suggest that populations in the Florida panhandle are relatively small compared to others within the terrapin range. 

More needs to be done and we will continue to survey each spring.  If you are interested in becoming a member of the Panhandle Terrapin Project, contact me (Rick O’Connor) at roc1@ufl.edu

The American Robin

The American Robin

In the southeast it marks the beginning of Fall. The American Robin (Turdus migratorius) is found throughout North America. They spend their spring and summer months in the northern states but as the winter temperatures approach, they migrate to the southern gulf states. This allows them to escape the summer heat which is extremely stressful to them.

The American Robin. Photo: Kalyn Waters

Robins migrate due to the freezing temperatures which harden the ground making it difficult for them to access their main food source, the earthworm. As they migrate, they travel at about 30 to 36 m.p.h. covering anywhere from 100 to 200 miles per day. To navigate their way during migration robins use the angle of the sun in relations to the time of day, this is why they travel during the day.

While robins are excellent migrators, only about 25% of all fledglings will survive the migration, and several adults will fall victim as well.

The head and tail feathers of the male robin are very dark with brighter orange when compared to the females. In the spring the males will migrate back to cooler climates before the females. This has to due with the roles they play in raising their young. The male’s job is to find the best territory and defend it. While the females build the nest, lay, and incubate the eggs. The female has no rush to return so she will wait until the thaw has come. If she returns to early to start building, a frost can damage the strength of her nest, which is built from mud.

While robins typically nest in the exact same location every spring in the north, they typically wander in the winter months to different locations from year to year. As our fall temperatures continue to bring a chill, be on the look out for the American Robins as we welcome them to the south this fall. And while they are likely not the same birds we had last fall, they have made their 1000 + mile journey to enjoy our mild winter.

For more information on American Robins visit: https://journeynorth.org/tm/robin/facts_migration.html

Comments on Cool-Season Wildlife Food Plots

Comments on Cool-Season Wildlife Food Plots

A buck chases a doe through plots of wildlife forages being evaluated at the University of Florida’s North Florida Research and Education Center. Photo Courtesy of Holly Ober

When I sat down to start writing this article, I was thinking it would be a rewrite of an article I posted back in 2016, Don’t Rush Wildlife Plantings – Wait for the Rain. The prolonged period of dry weather which the Panhandle has been experiencing and the time of year made the topic appropriate. However, I am happy to report that it has rained almost two inches at my house in Chipley in the past 24 hours. This changes things a bit – at least for those of us who were fortunate enough to have received rain. For those who did not get rain, see the aforementioned article. If you did get rain, it’s time to start getting some seed in the ground.

All that said, instead of just focusing on dry conditions I am going to share some highlights from recent conversations I’ve had regarding the establishment of cool-season food plots. For the sake of brevity, I may not elaborate fully on each point, feel free to call of email me if you have any questions or would like to discuss further.

  • Check your pH. Collect a good representative sample from each of your food plots and have it analyzed by a reputable lab. Contact you County Extension Office for help with this. Food plots are notorious for being planted on marginal sites (not good farmland) where the pH needs to be modified. Poor pH will inhibit plant performance and reduce plant response to really expensive fertilizer applications. In general, food plots perform the best with a pH of 6 – 6.5.
  • You’re gonna have to make those really expensive fertilizer applications if you want to see real plant performance. See the comment above about marginal sites. Even good soils require fertilizer to make a good crop. A lab analysis is the only way to know exactly what you need. Just for the sake of reference, applications of 300lbs of 13-13-13 per acre as soon as the plants are up good is a pretty standard starting point and generally multiple applications are needed during the season.
  • Deer like broadleaf plants considerably more than they like grasses. Cool-season grasses (oat, wheat, triticale, cereal rye) are relatively inexpensive and easy to grow. Deer will utilize them some and game birds will feed on seed heads in the spring.  
  • Brassicas (Kale, Rape, Radish, Turnip, Swede) are broad-leafed and grow very quickly on a wide variety of soil types. Unfortunately, deer preference for them is somewhat hit-or-miss and they are not readily utilized by other game species.   
  • Cool-Season legumes (clover, winter peas, vetch) are generally what deer show the greatest preference for and, when properly inoculated, do not require any nitrogen fertilizer. Cool-season legumes are somewhat finicky about what soil types they will perform well on. They all like moderately well drained heavier soils with some clay content (good upland farm ground) and they all struggle in deep, excessively drained sands. For sites on the wetter side (more poorly drained) look at white clovers. For sites on the drier side (well to excessively drained) look at the vetch, peas, and maybe crimson clover.
  • In general, seed size dictates optimum planting depth. Large seeds (grasses, vetch, peas) can be planted deeper (1-2 inches). Small seeds (clover) need to be planted very shallow (0-0.5 inches). This variation in planting depth likely will necessitate separate techniques for large and small seeds as small seeds planted too deeply will fail to emerge. Small seeds, like clover, need to be planted into a firm seed bed. To achieve a firm seed bed, prepare soil and wait for the tilled soil to settle and preferably become rain packed. If waiting is not an option soil should be firmed with a cultipacker or roller.  

Much more information on cool-season planting options is available in the document:

A Walk on the Wild Side: 2021 Cool-Season Forage Recommendations for Wildlife Food Plots in North Florida.

Don’t hesitate to contact me to discuss any of the points above in greater detail. Mark Mauldin mdm83@ufl.edu; 850-638-6180.