We did a bit of gardening this past weekend — backstrap gardening, that is.

In what’s become our annual first-week-of-August tradition, a small group of us successfully planted this year’s food plots.

It was a bit different this year. Though we kept most of our heavy-hitters like radishes and sugar beets, we also tried some oats-and-peas mixture.

The workforce was also a bit different, as my husband supervised from the sidelines while recovery from reparative surgery for a complete quadriceps tear.

With the help of my father-in-law and a good family friend, we successfully limed, tilled, hand-seeded and cultipacked four different food plots that cover more than three acres.

Within the following weeks, we hope to see the fields of overturned, brown dirt slowly turn to varying shades of green as the seeds sprout and hopefully flourish in the now-more-fertile ground.

It’s a weekend task that we perform every year before hunting season — working and sweating in sunny, 80-degree temps to prepare for cooler hunts ahead.

The Pennsylvania Game Commission describes food plots as a supplement to natural food sources for all wildlife, particularly deer. And for us, it’ll do wonders well into rifle season.

“As herbaceous foods diminish through summer, fall food plots can become attractive to wildlife. Luckily, some of the best wildlife plantings establish and grow well as things cool off in September and October,” according to their website.

We can attest to that, as we’ve seen deer frequent the food plots well into October and November, even when fall’s cooler temps put a damper on other plant life.

There have been many evenings in the tree stand and blind, watching does meander into the leafy plots.

Even during the first several snowfalls, you can see deer tracks and snout marks where they’ve diligently dug up the large bulbs to munch on when food is sparse.

We lucked out this year, too, with a gentle rainfall Monday that got some much-needed moisture in the ground, and a rainy Wednesday following that.

And according to the PGC, our plots are in at just about the right time.

“Fall plantings should occur 40-50 days before the first frost. South of Interstates 80, this is near the middle to end of August with a cutoff date around September 1. North of I-80, planting should be completed by the second or third week of August,” PGC officials said, also stressing the importance of planting them just before a cold front that’s bound to bring rainfall to optimize germination.

“Pennsylvania is often in the path of hurricane remnants that are forecast to reach the Keystone State as much as a week in advance,” they said. “Planting just prior to arrival of these weather systems will greatly increase fall planting success.”

With about a month and a half left until archery season opens, we’re glad the plots are successfully in, and we look forward to seeing the four-legged traffic move through, and hopefully stick around.

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