QUESTION: I'm from Northern Wisconsin and have problems from wild fern growth when planting my food plots.
I always spray a contact weed killer in advance to the planting, but the wild ferns still pop up all summer long. This occurs after my seeds have sprouted and I cannot spray for fear of hurting my plants. The ferns block out the sun and my plot doesn't grow nearly as well as it should. Is there anything I can do? -- Tom R.
ANSWER: I had a similar problem with one of my plots, which was a reclaimed clearcut.
The first step I took was to till the ground, which broke up the dense rhizomes (which serve a similar purpose for ferns as roots do for vascular plants).
The next step was to spray. Herbicides like Roundup will kill ferns, though you may want to use a more concentrated solution with a surfactant.
Timing is also important. You want to hit the ferns early in the spring, just as the fronds are unfurling.
You should also conduct a soil test, which you should do anyway, and it sounds like you haven't.
By bringing the pH up, you'll not only create an environment that is unfavorable to ferns, you'll also increase nutrition and palatability of your target plant species.
And if none of the above works, you can always dig up the ferns, pot them and sell them to the fine restaurants in your community.