Austrian winter peas are a cool-season annual legume that can produce a
great food plot on their own or as an addition to a seed mixture
planted in the fall to attract deer. Easy to grow and quick to
germinate, winter peas are closely related to garden peas and have the
same nitrogen-fixing abilities than can help you save money on your
Austrian winter peas form vine-like growth that can reach lengths of 3
to 5 feet when planted in fertile soil. This cool-season annual is
highly attractive to white-tailed deer, as well as other wildlife, so it
can sometimes be quickly mowed down if planted alone in small plots.
Winter peas are highly nutritious and extremely digestible to deer. They
carry a protein level between 20 and 30 percent. Both the seed, stem
and leaves are browsed by deer. Foliage color is a pale green, and the
plant produces pink blooms. Austrian winter peas have moderate drought
tolerance but have good winter hardiness.
To establish a solid food plot of Austrian winter peas, broadcast at a
rate of 50 to 75 lbs./acre in September through October. Seeds can also
be drilled at a rate of 30 to 50 lbs./acre. In northern climates, plant
as early as late August or you can also plant in spring to grow winter
peas as a summer annual.
After planting, seeds should be dragged in, lightly disked or preferably cultipacked
to a depth of no more than 1 inch. If the seed you acquire is not
pre-inoculated, be sure to inoculate the seed with the proper strain of
rhizobium bacteria to aid in nitrogen fixation.
Austrian winter peas do best on loam or clay loam soils that are
well-drained. Soil should also be tested and the pH adjusted to a range
of 6.0 to 7.0. When planted as a stand-alone crop, winter peas do not
require much nitrogen because, as legumes, they are able to fix their
own nitrogen from the soil. For this reason, your soil test
recommendations will likely call for less nitrogen than you expected,
which means a lower fertilizer bill!
While Austrian winter peas can be planted in a pure stand for a quick
and attractive bowhunting food plot, unless the area planted is quite
large the crop might not survive heavy grazing and be productive later
in fall. They are better able to withstand overbrowsing when planted in a
blend with other annuals like cereal grains.