Sweet Tea Seed
Bare Root Sweet Tea Plants Available Dec. 15th - March 31st. Contact us for details.
Sweet Tea™ Wildlife Seed
The Ultimate Food Plot Plant
In most cases as hunting season fades away, so does the available forage in our food plots. The bad thing about this is that spring and summer are when deer utilize large amounts of protein for does to produce milk, fawns and yearlings to grow frame and bucks to grow antlers. Additionally, when there is no food, deer stop using the plots. This hinders the effectiveness of our plots from a hunting standpoint. "Sweet Tea" routinely tests in the mid to high thirties in crude protein; higher than iron clay peas, clover, alfalfa and soybeans. Sweet Tea is also much higher in calcium and phosphorous content. These levels are very important for growing antlers and bone.
What exactly is Sweet Tea Wildlife Seed?
Sweet Tea is a special selection of a perennial plant in the Mallow family named Sida that is highly attractive to deer. There are at least a dozen species of Sida that occur in the Southeastern United States, some of which are native and some non-native. There are numerous common names for different Sida species and many times the same common name is used for different ones, which leads to confusion. This is probably because there are several that look a lot alike. Sweet tea has been identified as Sida acuta, which is a native plant of the Southeastern United States. Some of the common names used for this plant include Ironweed, Teaweed, Broomweed, Fanpetals and Wireweed. Teaweed is also used as a common name for Sida spinosa, which is an invasive plant in agriculture. Since it is native, Sida acuta could never be considered an invasive plant. If it were going to become a problem plant, this would have happened many eons ago! This said, it does have weedy tendencies in that the seed is easily transported by tires, which is why Sida is commonly found along roadsides and disturbed areas. Of all the Sida acuta and other Sidas we studied, one stood out from all the others and seemed to be irresistible to deer.
How did the Sweet Tea selection come about?
We are in the native seed and plant business and are always on the lookout for natives that are preferred by game species. An article was published by the University of Florida about Sida acuta and its benefits for wildlife which was complete with forage analyses and other useful information. As we researched further we concluded that some stands of Sida acuta were browsed by deer while others were not; even in the same areas. Sweet Tea was initially selected from wild stands that were being very heavily browsed. We began making collections and growing plants for observation, research and testing and eventually were left with one that was superior to all others. Because of how much the deer liked to browse it we decided to name it Sweet Tea.
When do I plant it?
Sweet Tea germinates when night time temperatures are generally above 60 degrees. In the Southeast this is usually some time in April-May through some time in Sept.-Oct. It starts very slowly and may stay less than an inch tall for a month or more. From our experience deer do not show much interest in very small plants but if you have a very high deer population you may consider using repellent or other protective measures until the plants reach 6 inches or so. If planted in spring it will likely reach browsing size by summer but it is perfectly acceptable to plant it throughout the growing season. If planted in late summer or early fall it will get established but usually doesn’t produce much browse until the following spring. Because of the hot temperatures and moisture though, late summer is an ideal time to plant. Sweet Tea is perennial and will come back from the roots every spring and really grows like wild in hot weather when it is already established. In the establishment year it doesn’t grow nearly as fast and requires a little patience.
How and where do I plant it?
Sweet Tea is adaptive to a wide range of soils except calcareous soils (soils derived from limestone) and seasonally flooded clays. It also does not persist in wet soils for very long. Generally the soil should be fairly well-drained. Do not apply lime where you plan to establish Sweet Tea as it has a serious aversion to limestone. It readily germinates along shady edges of food plots where there is fresh organic matter like leaf litter or pine straw. In these areas you can just shake it out directly onto the ground and slightly work it through the litter and into the soil with a garden rake. We are getting excellent results by shaking the seeds right into dead grass or weeds. The dead weeds or grass provide a mulching effect and protect the small seedling. Once it emerges through the weeds it will take off. Additionally we tell customers to take a few seeds home and plant them in pots so they know what to look for when they are assessing their plots.
What is the planting rate?
This is a common question that we are asked every day. The answer in truth is that there is no exact planting rate. We generally recommend getting at least 2,000 sq. ft. out of a container of Sweet Tea which contains approximately 3,000 live seeds. This equals 1.5 live seeds per square foot. Individual plants can easily reach four feet tall and three feet wide in a couple of years so a little can go a long way. In time, the seeds dropped by these plants will thicken the stand.
How do I manage it?
We recommend using 10 lb. 10-10-10 fertilizer per 1,000 sq. ft. at planting and then side dressing with that much or more every year in May. The protein level and digestibility increases dramatically with fertilization and commonly analyses come back at around 40% CP! Incidentally, it is also higher in calcium and phosphorus (critical for antler development) than iron clay peas, soybeans or alfalfa. Established Sweet Tea is most heavily browsed from April through September. It will enter a sluggish state in early fall as it goes to seed. Mowing to 12” will return it to a vegetative state, producing more browse well into the fall and will tolerate a number of light freezes before eventually going dormant. Sweet Tea is a very fibrous, tough, almost woody plant which is one reason why it tolerates browsing so well. This can also make mowing difficult so if you decide to mow, make sure to have a sharp blade, get your RPM’s up and take it slow. Afterwards we recommend sweeping off your tires if you don’t want to spread the seed.
What is different about Sweet Tea compared to regular commercial forage seed?
Sweet Tea is a native or wild plant and has not been through all the breeding processes that commercial forage and other traditional field crops have. There is a huge amount of variability in wild plants from varying germination times to varying growth rates when subjected to different soils, temperatures, day lengths, etc. Virtually all of the variability has been bred out of commercial cultivars. This was done in order for the crop to be uniform for a more efficient harvest. The good thing about variability is that there is protection built in to wild plants against untimely extreme weather events such as floods, droughts or freezes. Since there are always plants at all growth stages within the stand, including seeds in the soil beneath, the stand has a much better chance of persisting over the long term. Keep this in mind when you are getting your stand of Sweet Tea started and don’t compare it to planting something like peas or oats. You are establishing a stand not a crop. Once your stand is established it will be there every year. Then no matter if you have had time or the right weather to plant any other summer forage, Sweet Tea will be providing your deer with high protein browse all summer long. This will enhance the productivity of your deer hunt in two ways: The first is by providing a consistent nutrient source that will help does make milk and bucks grow antlers and frame. Secondly, when deer are accustomed to the plot being a reliable source of food they will be more likely to use the plots in hunting season. Be sure to inquire about our bare root switchgrass to create channeling and perimeter screens which has proven to be very effective in getting mature bucks out into the plot during daylight hours.