Clover in the lawn

Clover is one of the most underestimated plant in the world. They are considered as persistent weed and most people just kill it whenever it sprouts in their lawns or yards. The fact is, this plant indeed can grow easily everywhere all around the globe, with Northern hemisphere having the most diverse species of it.

But clover is actually more than mere weed, since some of the species are cultivated as fodder plant. The most cultivated species for this purpose are white clover or Trifolium repens, and red clover or Trifolium pratense.

Not only that, Shamrock, traditional Irish symbol, is closely associated with clover which according to legend was coined by Saint Patrick. Many people also consider this plant as a good luck charm, especially the four leaf clover. Four leaf clovers are so rare since it only appears occasionally out of the usual three.

After all, in this article we are not going to talk about the plant itself, but rather about how to make your lawn more beautiful with this plant. Interested? You must be, because beauty is not the only thing that clover can offer to your lawn.

Contents

The Trend

Before talking about the plant, let’s talk about the newest trend about planting clover. In early industrial age, clover was an important part of agricultural world. It was used to improve soil quality by the farmers before using chemical fertilizer was a trend.

In fact, clover is a nitrogen fixer, meaning that this plant can enrich the soil by taking nitrogen from the air and adding it into the soil. The roots can also help to aerate the soil without any hard work. Not to mention the plant can also become fodder for the cattle.

But apparently, in modern era this plant is mostly considered as weed and people just want to get rid of it without getting the most of it. Fortunately, this trend is coming to the end, since clover is making a comeback to plantation.

Not for agricultural plantation, yet, but for lawns. Yes, people are planting clover for their lawns instead of grass. Chris and Rick Alexander, West Vancouver residents who were interviewed by Vancouver Sun said that replacing grass with clover has been the best decision they ever made.

They sowed microclover, a newly developed kind of clover with softer stems, mixed with grass seed to re-turf their lawn. “I wish we could have done it all in clover. The clover has been fantastic, it is the grass that is the problem now because it doesn’t look like the rest,” Rick said.

The Benefits

Chris and Rick Alexander apparently are not the only ones to bring back this plant into plantation. It has been a trend recently, replacing grass with clover to make the lawn green. The reason is because it has so many benefits.

First benefit, as mentioned many times above, is improving the quality of your lawn soil. It absorb nitrogen from the air and adding it into the soil, making the plant grow well even without additional fertilizers. This plant can also prevent annoying weed growth, since it can easily out-compete their growth. Thus, you don’t need to pour any chemicals into your lawn in the first place.

Secondly, the plant is pretty easy to maintain. It can grow well in any kind of soil, requires little to no mowing, and stay green all the time with little to no watering. It suits well with you who want beautiful lawn without intensive work.

This plant is also very affordable, costing only about $4 to cover 4000 square feet. That $4 will last for about two to three years with least maintenance, and might last longer if you take good care of your lawn. In this case, taking a good care is supporting the reseeding process.

Planting this plant is also beneficial for the environment, since the flower of the plant attract wild bees. The bees will not only visit your clovery lawn, but will also help you to pollinate other plants that you and your neighbors have. You will have healthier and more beautiful environment because of this.

Enjoyable

Planting clover instead of grass will not only give positive effect to your environment, but also to your heart because this plant is simply enjoyable. It grows quickly, satisfy you faster than growing traditional grass lawn.

Unlike Bermuda grass and traditional bluegrass which are usually planted on lawn, this plant can grow flowers. This is why we said that the plant can attract wild bees. So, this plant can help you decorate your lawn by itself every spring.

You don’t need to mow so often too because the plant can only grow up to 2-8 inches tall. Naturally, clover can also keep its tidiness. Once it is sown, the plant will fill the spaces itself as it grows. In fact, when planting this plant, lush is guaranteed.

Not only that, walking barefoot on clover field feels great because it is softer and cooler than grass. Not to mention the smell that those little crushed leaves have, you will feel like walking in heaven. And you can get the sensation just a few steps outside your front porch.

Your dogs will love the sensation too, because they can freely run and roll on the soft clover field without worrying of being scolded. This plant is pretty friendly with pets. Even you don’t have to worry about ‘dog patches’, because the urine of your dogs will not discolor the plant.

Things You Should Notice

It is particularly easier to plant clover, not much difference from traditional lawn grass. The only difference is maybe how frequent you should water it, because this plant has higher drought resistance than grass.

But there are some things you should notice when you plant clover. First thing first is how to prevent kids stain their clothes with the saps of clover. Clover stain is hard to get rid of while this plant stains clothes easier than grass.

Clover field is also not durable enough for high traffic unless mixed with grass. You’d better put some stepping stones in high traffic areas to avoid destroying your beautiful lawn. Another thing to notice is careful where you step, since there might be bees like mentioned above.

And the last but not least, if you want some good luck charm, maybe you should look for any four leaf clover growing in your lawn. Because, why not?

Sources:

Grow A White Clover Lawn – Using Clover As A Grass Substitute

In today’s more environmentally conscious world, some people are looking for an alternative to the traditional grass lawn and wonder if they can use white clover as a grass substitute. It is possible to grow a white clover lawn, but there are some things to consider before you launch head first into having a white clover yard.

Let’s take a look at issues of using a white clover lawn substitute and how to replace your lawn with clover once you are aware of these issues.

Issues with Using Clover as a Grass Substitute

There are a few things you should be aware of before creating a white clover lawn.

1. Clover attracts bees – Honey bees are a wonderful thing to have in any garden as they pollinate the vegetables and flowers. But, when you have a white clover yard, the bees will be everywhere. If you have children or frequently go barefoot, there will be an increase in bee stings.

2. Clover does not hold up to REPEAT high traffic – For the most part, white clover handles heavy foot traffic pretty well. BUT if your yard is walked or played on frequently in the same general area (as with most grasses), a white clover yard can end up half dead and patchy. To remedy this, it is usually recommended to mix the clover in with high traffic grass.

3. Clover is not drought tolerant over large areas – Many people think that a clover lawn substitute solution is best because white clover seems to survive even the harshest drought. But it is only moderately drought tolerant when the different white clover plants are growing apart from each other. When they are grown close together, they compete for water and cannot support themselves in dry times.

If you are ok with the facts above about having a white clover lawn, you are ready to use clover as a grass substitute.

How to Replace Your Lawn with Clover

Clover should be planted in the spring or summer so that it has time to establish itself before cold weather comes.

First, remove all of the grass on your current lawn to eliminate the competition. If you would like, you can leave the current lawn and seed over top of the grass, but it will take longer for the clover to dominate the yard.

Second, regardless of whether you remove the grass or not, rake or scratch the surface of your yard wherever you would like to grow the clover as a grass substitute.

Third, spread the seed at about 6-8 ounces per 1,000 feet. The seeds are very small, and may be hard to spread evenly. Do the best you can. The clover will eventually fill in any spots you miss.

Fourth, water deeply after seeding. For the next several weeks, water regularly until your white clover yard has established itself.

Fifth, do not fertilize your white clover lawn. This will kill it.

After this, simply enjoy your low maintenance, white clover lawn.

11 Reasons a Clover Lawn is Better than Grass Lawn

Time to give up and let the clover take over! Clover doesn’t need to be mowed, watered, weeded or fertilized, and it’s softer than grass.

Want to make your yard more sustainable and wildlife friendly, but still want a soft patch of grass to play on? Plant clover!

You can either mix it in with your current grass or have a completely clover lawn.

Clover requires zero fertilizer or herbicide and little to no mowing or watering. Meanwhile it improves the soil, attracts bees, butterflies and other beneficial bugs for your garden. And, it’s even softer to sit on than grass!

And if you don’t want so many white flowers in your patch of green, no problem. Over the last decade a new variety of white clover called microclover has become the trend across Europe and is just becoming a thing in the United States. The microclovers are smaller, don’t grow so many flowers and have softer stems for sitting and walking on:

Microclover

Regular clover

It was pretty universal for Americans to use clover in up through the 1940s. Then people started using herbicides to kill off dandelions, plantain and other broadleaf “weeds.” Clover was a casualty.

The Laid-back Gardener lays out 11 benefits of planting clover instead of grass on his blog:

1. Nitrogen fixer. As a legume, clover works symbiotically with bacteria to fix atmospheric nitrogen and make it available to both itself and neighboring plants. That’s why even lawn grasses grow better when clover is present.

2. Less fertilizer. A lawn containing clover needs far less fertilizer, and a 100% clover lawn needs none.

3. Drought Resistant. With its deep roots, clover will remain green through drought, as your neighbor’s lawns turn brown.

4. No mowing. A pure clover lawn doesn’t need mowing, but if you do decide to mow, you’ll only need to do so 3 or 4 times a year.

5. No aerating. Clover can grow in and loosen compacted soil, eliminating the need to aerate.

6. No herbicide. If you’re concerned about a uniform looking patch of green, you don’t have to worry about other “weeds.” Clover tends to smother them as is somewhat invasive.

7. Ground cover. Clover makes an excellent ground-cover for food crops.

8. Beneficial pollinators and wildlife. Clover produces attractive white flowers that attract beneficial pollinators likes bees and butterflies and provide forage for rabbits (and humans).

9. Repels pests. A lawn rich in clover tends to discourage pesky insects, most of which prefer grasses. Grubs will disappear entirely in an all-clover lawn.

10. Sun or shade. Clover grows well in both sun and partial shade.

11. Dogs can pee on it. Clover doesn’t turn yellow when dogs pee on it.

“Lawns are not stable natural habitats,” points out Mike Slater, president of the Baird Ornithological Club. “They originated as a status symbol in Europe, where only the upper class could afford to waste good cropland in nonproductive grass.”

“Unfortunately, we’ve become habituated to them, and having gas mowers, weed trimmers and leaf blowers enables us to maintain way more acreage than we could when muscle power and sheep were required to have a lawn.”

“We can all improve our yards as wildlife habitats by strategically deciding where we really want to have a lawn and how fanatical we are going to be about keeping out weeds.”

As a compromise, Slater recommends planting native wildflowers, bushes and trees around a plot of clover on the edges of your property line.

If enough people did this, our yards could serve as corridors for wildlife to move back and forth between parks and other natural areas nearby.

“America can no longer afford to be defined as the place with tidy green lawns,” he says. “We are facing a global extinction event for many wild animal and plant species … Let’s at least take a few baby steps and show, by our tolerance of a few clover and dandelion flowers, that our planet and the other creatures and plants we share it with are important too.”

How did THAT get into my lawn: Clover

June 11, 2012

It’s a slipping hazard when wet, attracts bees, and is completely out of place visually but it wasn’t until herbicides were invented that clover became a weed and a homeowner’s enemy.

Dealing with Clover

Taking care of your lawn in a manner that promotes healthy growth and weed elimination is the best way to keep you free of clover and other pesky weeds.

Clover in the lawn

Feeling Lucky? – In Ireland, it is said if a person finds a clover with four leaves they will have good luck for as long as they carry it with them. Problem is, most clover only has three leaves and it’s taking over your lawn. This perennial weed tends to survive through grass mowing as it hugs the ground lying just lower than turf grass. The dark green leaves are shaped like shamrocks in tri-leaf clusters and have flower stems that contain pinkish-white flowers throughout the summer months.

How did THAT get into my lawn? – In the 40s and 50s clover was a common element in turf blends due to its ability to pull nitrogen from the air and make it available for your lawn. This is among the leading factors on why clover is one of the most common weeds in North America. Clover helps the lawn grow healthier because it delivers the nitrogen plants need into the soil, which is also why it appears greener than the rest of your lawn. However, despite the benefits, clover can quickly take over a lawn. It will squeeze out the grass and give your lawn an uneven look as it grows in patches and at different heights.

What can I do? – Fortunately, there are a few ways to efficiently rid your lawn of clover. The most effective way, like most weeds, is to maintain a thick and healthy turf. Knowing your lawn’s pH levels is key to balancing out your soil and keeping weeds from invading your lawn. Green Lawn likes to keep the lawn’s pH at 7.0 (neutral), which is why we test your levels during every visit. A balanced pH level not only keeps clover and other weeds at bay, but also improves the effectiveness of fertilizers and helps prevent the build up of thatch. In our service area, we tend to have a lot of heavy clay soils which can lead to low pH (highly acidic) lawns. Lime applications can be used to correct pH and your technician can let you know just how many will do the trick. Another effective way to eliminate clover is through the use of herbicides. Because clover grows in patches intermitent with grass it is important to use a selective broad-leaf herbicide that only attacks the clover and leaves your grass undamaged. Regular applications of weed control and fertilizer are important when eliminating weeds, Green Lawn’s full season program contains regular applications of both as well as service calls in between when necessary. An important note to remember when eliminating weeds; once the weed is gone, you will find that seed will be needed to fill the bare patches.

Read More: Spring Mowing Tips

We’ll Have you Rolling in the Clover!

Q. I like your idea of using corn gluten meal in the fall to prevent lawn weeds, but I don’t want to get rid of the clover in my lawn—in fact, I’d like to have more of it. Should I not use corn gluten meal?

    —Al in Mt. Airy

A. The short answer is that clover grows best in poor soil; so to help it compete well with the grass, you would not directly fertilize your turf. Instead, use a mulching mower; the pulverized, nitrogen-rich grass clippings (and in your case, the even more nitrogen-rich clover clippings) these specialized mowing machines return to the turf will give your lawn—including the clover—a gentle feeding every time you mow. (Conversely, if you want to decrease the amount of clover in a cool-season lawn, you would feed it with corn gluten meal in the Fall and in the Spring.)

Q. I know most people want to kill the clover in their lawns, but I want the opposite—to lose the grass and get the clover to take over. Do you have any advice on creating a clover lawn?

    —Mark in Philadelphia

Are there any down sides to having a “lawn” of clover?

    —Martin in Wilmington, DE

We’re trying to establish Dutch White clover as a lawn. It’s taking a while (and summer wasn’t the smartest time to plant, but keeping the soil moist has helped a lot). The problem is that it’s getting overrun with weeds, which we diligently pull; but I’d have to quit my job to really keep things under control! The sassy guy in the garden center at Lowes said that tilling just makes weed problems worse, and that any pre-emergent weed killer will “salt the earth” and prevent us from growing anything for a year or more. He was right about the tilling, but we need a way to kill the weeds before they sprout that will still allow our clover to grow from seed.

    —Misha in Rancho Cucamonga, CA

A. Let’s begin with a clear look at the plant in question. There are three true members of the clover family: White (sometimes called ‘Dutch clover’), Red, and Crimson (yes, Tommy James & The Shondells fans, there really is a Crimson Clover).

Alas, Crimson clover would not make a good lawn; it’s an annual plant that dies at the first frost. But it’s a dramatic one-season plant, growing up to three feet tall with beautifully colored blooms that attract lots of pollinators and beneficial insects. It’s used by farmers—and savvy gardeners—as a green manure/cover crop. Its deep roots naturally aerate the soil, and after it dies, the above ground growth is either plowed under to nourish the following year’s crop or just left on the ground to release its nutrients slowly without any tilling.

Red clover is biennial—a plant that lives for two seasons. It grows tall—two to three feet—grows fast, loves cold, hates heat, does not attract pollinators and grows in the worst soils. It’s also used almost exclusively as a soil- and drainage-improving cover crop/green manure.

White clover is the best choice to try and grow instead of a lawn or for seeding into a lawn. (In fact, white clover was a deliberate component of virtually all grass seed mixtures up until the 1960’s.) It stays fairly low (topping out at around a foot), can be mowed just like a lawn, handles foot traffic better than the other clovers and tolerates summer heat better. But, like cool-season grasses themselves, white clover still doesn’t like hot summers, and may need a lot of water to survive them. (Typically, clover needs more water than lawn grasses.) It’s also slow to establish; and although ‘technically’ perennial, isn’t very long lived. That means—like the shade-tolerant cool-season lawn grasses—it should be over seeded or freshly seeded every couple of years. The flowers do attract bees, so sting-allergic people should avoid it and the rest us should not go barefoot on it.

Because white clover does behave so much like a cool-season grass, I suspect it would do also best when the seed is sown in late summer—when the heat is abating but the soil is still warm. (As with the cool-season grasses, Spring sowing require you to wait until the soil temp is at least 60 degrees; and by then, stressful summer heat is generally right around the corner.)

To help clover be a lawn rather than just be a part of one, you should add as little direct nutrition to the soil as possible. Clovers have the ability to form a symbiotic relationship with soil-dwelling bacteria that enables the plants to take plant feeding Nitrogen out of the air, and so they kind of feed themselves. (To make sure that this ‘nitrogen fixation’ takes place, purchase a clover-specific inoculant and use it at planting time.)

To start out relatively weed-free (with a big tip of the YBYG hat to the guy at Lowe’s who bad-mouthed chemical herbicides; he’s my new hero!), make a ‘stale seed bed’. Till the area about a month before planting time (which is ideally mid-August for both white clover and the cool-season lawn grasses), rake away as much of the old green as possible, level the soil, water daily to encourage all of the weed seeds you uncovered and then planted to sprout, and then slice off the resulting weeds with a sharp hoe two weeks later.

You should then be able to sow your inoculated clover seed, cover it with weed-seed-free top soil and have a good start on a clover-ishous lawn!

Oh, and one final note—chemical herbicides do ‘salt the soil’ and make it difficult for any plant to thrive, but the natural pre-emergent herbicide corn gluten meal actually improves the soil, long term. You just have to remember that, being a pre-emergent, it does prevent all seeds from sprouting for about six weeks after it’s applied—but that’s its job!

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Ever wonder why clover seems to grow better in your lawn than the grass does?

Why Clover Is Taking Over Your Lawn

There are probably several reasons for this, including the following:

The soil pH is too low or too high for lawn grass – Clover grows well in almost any pH so it’ll be happy no matter what the soil pH is.

The soil is deficient in important nutrients, especially nitrogen – Clover thrives in nitrogen-deficient soil. In fact, white Dutch clover is an indicator plant for low nitrogen – meaning that if you see it growing in your lawn, it probably means the soil is low in nitrogen. A well-time application of organic spring lawn fertilizer can help.

The grass has been cut too short – Longer grass shades and crowds out other plants, such as clover. Keep your mower blade at 3 1/2 inches or higher to encourage taller grass and deeper roots. To keep your grass in tip-top shape, check out our Organic Lawn Care Tips.

The grass doesn’t get enough water – Stressed grass is less dense, leaving room for clover and other weeds. Try watering slowly and deeply (the soil should be moist all the way down to 4-6″ below the surface) once or twice a week during dry periods versus frequent, shallow watering. Watering in the morning prevents disease.

The soil is compacted (usually due to lack of organic matter) – Clover tolerates compacted soil better than lawn grass and has longer roots, enabling it to access water at deeper levels that your grass can.

Controlling Lawn Clover

So, what can you do about it? The best, organic, way to control clover in the lawn is to properly care for the lawn – mow high, water regularly so strong, thick, healthy growth is maintained, and feed the lawn properly with an organic lawn treatment.

For more details on how to get rid of clover in the lawn, check out our article on Cultural Practices to Reduce Lawn Weeds.

Benefits of Clover in the Lawn

However, you may want to consider leaving the clover alone. It wasn’t until recently, when herbicides became popular, that clover was considered a weed. In fact, lawn seed mixes used to deliberately include clover (such as white Dutch clover) – something that some seed providers are now starting to do again.

Because clover takes nitrogen out of the air and soil and makes it available to your lawn, it helps the lawn grow healthier and more pest-resistant, and reduces the amount of fertilizer required. It also requires less frequent mowing, attracts honeybees and other pollinators (although that may not be a positive if you’re allergic to bee stings), and breaks up compacted soil. The one drawback is that it doesn’t stand up to heavy foot traffic quite as well as lawn grass.

So perhaps it’s time to reconsider what a healthy lawn should look like. Maybe you’d be happy with a lovely swath of green – with beautiful white clover flowers throughout…

White Clover

WHITE CLOVER
Trifolium repens

Also called: Dutch White, New Zealand White, Ladino
Type: long-lived perennial or winter annual legume

Roles: living mulch, erosion protection, green manure, beneficial insect attraction
Mix with: annual ryegrass, red clover, hard fescue or red fescue
See charts, pp. 66 to 72, for ranking and management summary. White clovers are a top choice for “living mulch” systems planted between rows of irrigated vegetables, fruit bushes or trees. They are persistent, widely adapted perennial nitrogen producers with tough stems and a dense shallow root mass that protects soil from erosion and suppresses weeds. Depending on the type, plants grow just 6 to 12 inches tall, but thrive when mowed or grazed. Once established, they stand up well to heavy field traffic and thrive under cool, moist conditions and shade.

Three types: Cultivars of white clover are grouped into three types by size. The lowest growing type (Wild White) best survives heavy traffic and grazing. Intermediate sizes (Dutch White, New Zealand White and Louisiana S-1) flower earlier and more profusely than the larger types, are more heat-tolerant and include most of the economically important varieties. The large (Ladino) types produce the most N per acre of any white types, and are valued for forage quality, especially on poorly drained soil. They are generally less durable, but may be two to four times taller than intermediate types.

Intermediate types of white clover include many cultivated varieties, most originally bred for forage. The best of 36 varieties tested in north-central Mississippi for cover crop use were ARAN, GRASSLAND KOPU and KITAOOHA. These ranked high for all traits tested, including plant vigor, leaf area, dry matter yield, number of seed-heads, lateness of flowering and upright stems to prevent soil contact. Ranking high were ANGEL GALLARDO, CALIFORNIA LADINO and widely used LOUISIANA S-1 (392).

White clover performs best when it has plenty of lime, potash, calcium and phosphorus, but it tolerates poor conditions better than most clovers. Its perennial nature depends on new plants continually being formed by its creeping stolons and, if it reaches maturity, by reseeding.

White clover is raised as a winter annual in the South, where drought and diseases weaken stands. It exhibits its perennial abilities north through Hardiness Zone 4. The short and intermediate types are low biomass producers, while the large ladino types popular with graziers can produce as much biomass as any clover species.

BENEFITS

Fixes N. A healthy stand of white clover can produce 80 to 130 lb. N/A when killed the year after establishment. In established stands, it also may provide some N to growing crops when it is managed as a living mulch between crop rows. Because it contains more of its total N in its roots than other legumes, partial tilling is an especially effective way to trigger N release. The low C:N ratio of stems and leaves causes them to decompose rapidly to release N.

Tolerates traffic. Wherever there’s intensive field traffic and adequate soil moisture, white clover makes a good soil covering that keeps alleyways green. It reduces compaction and dust while protecting wet soil against trauma from vehicle wheels. White clover converts vulnerable bare soil into biologically active soil with habitat for beneficial organisms above and below the soil surface.

Premier living mulch. Their ability to grow in shade, maintain a low profile, thrive when repeatedly mowed and withstand field traffic makes intermediate and even short-stemmed white clovers ideal candidates for living mulch systems. To be effective, the mulch crop must be managed so it doesn’t compete with the cash crop for light, nutrients and moisture. White clover’s persistence in the face of some herbicides and minor tillage is used to advantage in these systems (described below) for vegetables, orchards and vineyards.

Value-added forage. Grazed white clover is highly palatable and digestible with high crude protein (about 28 percent), but it poses a bloat risk in ruminants without careful grazing management practices.

Spreading soil protector. Because each white clover plant extends itself by sending out root-like stolons at ground level, the legume spreads over time to cover and protect more soil surface. Dropped leaves and clipped biomass effectively mulch stolons, encouraging new plants to take root each season. Reseeding increases the number of new plants if you allow blossoms to mature.

Fits long, cool springs. In selecting a fall-seeded N-producer, consider white clover in areas with extended cool springs. MERIT ladino clover was the most efficient of eight major legumes evaluated in a Nebraska greenhouse for N2 fixed per unit of water at 50° F. Ladino clover, as well as hairy vetch and fava beans (Vicia faba) were the only legumes to grow well at the 50° F temperature (334).

Overseeded companion crop. Whether frostseeded in early spring into standing grain, broadcast over vegetables in late spring or into sweet corn in early summer, white clover germinates and establishes well under the primary crop. It grows slowly while shaded as it develops its root system, then grows rapidly when it receives more light.

WHITE CLOVER
(Trifolium repens— intermediate type)

MANAGEMENT

Establishment & Fieldwork
Widely adapted. White clover can tolerate wet soil—even short flooding—and short dry spells, and survives on medium to acid soils down to pH 5.5. It volunteers on a wider range of soils than most legumes, but grows better in clay and loam soils than on sandy soils (120). Ladino prefers sandy loam or medium loam soils.

Use higher seeding rates (5 to 9 lb./A drilled, 7 to 14 lb./A broadcast) when you overseed in adverse situations caused by drought, crop residue or vegetative competition. Drill 4 to 6 lb./A when mixing white clover with other legumes or grasses to reduce competition for light, moisture and nutrients.

Frostseeding of small-seeded clovers (such as alsike and white) should be done early in the morning when frost is still in the soil. Later in the day, when soil is slippery, stand establishment will be poor. Frostseed early enough in spring to allow for several freeze-thaw cycles.

Late-summer seeding must be early enough to give white clover time to become well established, because fall freezing and thawing can readily heave the small, shallow-rooted plants. Seeding about 40 days before the first killing frost is usually enough time. Best conditions for summer establishment are humid, cool and shaded (120, 361). Legumes suffer less root damage from frost heaving when they are planted with a grass.

In warmer regions of the U.S. (Zone 8 and warmer), every seeding should be inoculated. In cooler areas, where N-fixing bacteria persist in the soil for up to three years, even volunteer wild white clover should leave enough bacteria behind to eliminate the need for inoculation (120).

Mowing no lower than 2 to 3 inches will keep white clover healthy. To safely overwinter white clover, leave 3 to 4 inches (6 to 8 inches for taller types) to prevent frost damage.

Clovers Build Soil, Blueberry Production

In the heart of blueberry country in the leading blueberry state in the U.S., Richard James “RJ” Rant and his mother, Judy Rant, are breaking new ground and reaping great rewards. Thanks to cover crops such as white and crimson clover taking center stage on their two family farms, the blueberry crop is thriving and the farmers are reaping significant rewards.

The Rants’ soil is also on the receiving end of the multiple benefits of white and crimson clover cover crops.

Judy and her husband, Richard Rant, planted their first bushes in the early 1980s while both were still working full time off the farm. They managed the farm until retirement without going into debt—something of an accomplishment during that period—but the operation never really took off. Still in high school when his father passed away, RJ Rant stepped into the operation during college.

Choosing farming over graduate school, RJ began a quest to improve the blueberry operation and its bottom line. His focus on soil-building and cover crops proved key to the success of their operation, now expanded to two farms: Double-R Blueberry Farm and Wind Dancer Farms, jointly operated by RJ and his mother, Judy.

Michigan blueberry farmers have been using cover crops for many years, and top producing Ottawa County farmers are no exception. Growing blueberry bushes on ten-foot centers, there is a lot of space between rows that farmers try to manage as economically and efficiently as possible. Seeking something that will not compete with the cash crop, most farmers choose rye or sod. Both require significant management in terms of time and labor, not to mention seed and fuel costs to plant and kill.

RJ Rant took a different tack. Their sandy loam soils were decent but not excellent, and his research led him to focus his efforts on improving the soil by reducing tillage and planting cover crops. While rye, an annual cover crop, required tillage in fall before planting and in spring to kill and incorporate, perennial white clover could be grown for two or more years without tilling. Because it is low-growing, the clover required less labor in planting and mowing.

“There are so many positive things I could say about cover crops,” Rant says. “The reason I keep using them is because they save me time and money.”

Although he started his research and planted his first Alsike clover crop on his own, RJ soon found research partners at Michigan State University. He cooperates with researcher Dale Mutch to fine-tune cover crop selection, planting methods and management options.

“I get really excited when I think about improving my soils,” Rant says. I see my fields as one unified system, and the biology of the soil in the inter-rows is as important as the soil and fertility up and down my blueberry rows.”

Early screening of different cover crops led Rant to further test crimson clover, a winter annual cover crop that not only grows well in fall and spring, but also shows great potential to reseed itself, further reducing costs. They have also tested red clover, small white clover, mustard, rye and spring buckwheat. Rant says white clover is his favorite because it is low growing and out-competes weeds.

Soil-building remains a primary objective of Rants cover crop program. Compacted soils are a problem for blueberries, which prefer loose, friable soil. To build better soil structure, Rant is working with MSU’s Mutch to improve soil organic matter with cover crop mulches and manures.

Mutch and Rant are studying crimson clover reseeding, another cost-saving measure, comparing mowing and tilling the crimson clover after it has set seed. They are also studying pH ranges for the clovers, which prefer a higher pH than the blueberry cash crop.

Mutch and Michigan State researcher Rufus Isaacs are helping to elucidate other management aspects of clover cover crops, such as whether honeybees and native bees such as mason bees and sweat bees are attracted to clovers.

“The clovers work really well for blueberry production, rather than needing to fit system to cover crop. If you really want to do this, you can make it work,” says RJ.
—Andy Clark

Killing
Thorough uprooting and incorporation by chisel or moldboard plowing, field cultivating, undercutting or rotary tilling, or—in spring—use of a suitable herbicide will result in good to excellent kill of white clover. Extremely close mowing and partial tillage that leaves any roots undisturbed will suppress, but not kill, white clover.

Pest Management
Prized by bees. Bees work white clover blossoms for both nectar and pollen. Select insect management measures that minimize negative impact on bees and other pollinators. Michigan blueberry growers find that it improves pollination, as does crimson clover (see Clovers Build Soil, Blueberry Production.

Insect/disease risks. White clovers are fairly tolerant of nematodes and leaf diseases, but are susceptible to root and stolon rots. Leading insect pests are the potato leafhopper (Empoasca fabae), meadow spittlebug (Philaenis spumarius), clover leaf weevil (Hypera punctata), alfalfa weevil (Hypera postica) and Lygus bug (Lygus spp.).

If not cut or grazed to stimulate new growth, the buildup of vegetation on aged stolons and stems creates a susceptibility to disease and insect problems. Protect against pest problems by selecting resistant cultivars, rotating crops, maintaining soil fertility and employing proper cutting schedules (361).

Crop Systems
Living mulch systems. As a living mulch, white clover gives benefits above and below ground while it grows between rows of cash crops, primarily in fruits, vegetables, orchards and vineyards. Living mulch has not proved effective in agronomic crops to this point. To receive the multiple benefits, manage the covers carefully throughout early crop growth—to keep them from competing with the main crop for light, nutrients, and especially moisture—while not killing them. Several methods can do that effectively.

Hand mowing/in-row mulch. Farmer Alan Matthews finds that a self-propelled 30-inch rotary mower controls a clover mix between green pepper rows in a quarter-acre field. He uses 40-foot wide, contour strip fields and the living mulch to help prevent erosion on sloping land near Pittsburgh, Pa. In his 1996 SARE on-farm research, he logged $500 more net profit per acre on his living mulch peppers than on his conventionally produced peppers (259).

Matthews mulches the transplants with hay, 12 inches on each side of the row. He hand-seeds the cover mix at a heavy 30 lb./A between the rows. The mix is 50 percent white Dutch clover, 30 percent berseem clover, and 20 percent HUIA white clover, which is a bit taller than the white Dutch. He mows the field in fall, then broadcasts medium red clover early the next spring to establish a hay field and replace the berseem, which is not winter hardy (259).

New Zealand white clover provided good weed control for winter squash in the wetter of two years in a New York trial. It was used in an experimental non-chemical system relying on over-the-row compost for in-row weed control. Plants were seeded into tilled strips 16 inches wide spaced 4 feet apart. Poor seed establishment and lagging clover growth in the drier year created weed problems, especially with perennial competitors. The living mulch/compost system yielded less than a conventionally tilled and fertilized control both years, due in part to delayed crop development from the in-row compost (282).

The research showed that in dry years, mowing alone won’t suppress a living mulch enough to keep it from competing for soil moisture with crops in 16-inch rows. Further, weeds can be even more competitive than the clover for water during these dry times (282).

A California study showed that frequent mowing can work with careful management. A white clover cover reduced levels of cabbage aphids in harvested broccoli heads compared with clean cultivated broccoli. The clover-mulched plants, in strip-tilled rows 4 inches wide, had yield and size comparable to clean cultivated rows. However, only intensive irrigation and mowing prevented moisture competition. To be profitable commercially, the system would require irrigation or a less thirsty legume, as well as field-scale equipment able to mow between several rows in a single pass (93).

Chemical suppression is unpredictable. An application rate that sets back the clover sufficiently one year may be too harsh (killing the clover) or not suppressive the next year due to moisture, temperature or soil conditions.

Partial rotary tillage. In a New York evaluation of mechanical suppression, sweet corn planting strips 20 inches wide were rotary tilled June 2 into white clover. Although mowing (even five times) didn’t sufficiently suppress clover, partial rotary tilling at two weeks after emergence worked well. A strip of clover allowed to pass between the tines led to ample clover regrowth. A surge of N within a month of tilling aided the growing corn. The loss of root and nodule tissue following stress from tillage or herbicide shock seems to release N from the clover. Leaf smut caused less problem on the living-mulch corn than on the clean-cultivated check plot (170).

Crop shading. Sweet corn shading can hold white clover in check when corn is planted in 15-inch rows and about 15 inches apart within the row. This spacing yielded higher corn growth rates, more marketable ears per plant and higher crop yields than conventional plots without clover in an Oregon study. Corn was planted into tilled strips 4 to 6 inches wide about the same time the clover was chemically suppressed. Adapted row-harvesting equipment and handpicking would be needed to make the spacing practical (139).

Unsuppressed white Dutch clover established at asparagus planting controlled weeds and provided N over time to the asparagus in a Wisconsin study, but reduced yield significantly. Establishing the clover in the second year or third year of an asparagus planting would be more effective (312).

Other Options
Seed crop should be harvested when most seed heads are light brown, about 25 to 30 days after full bloom.

Intermediate types of white clover add protein and longevity to permanent grass pastures without legumes. Taller ladino types can be grazed or harvested. Living mulch fields can be overseeded with grasses or other legumes to rotate into pasture after vegetable crops, providing IPM options and economic flexibility.

COMPARATIVE NOTES

White clover is less tolerant of basic soils above pH 7 than are other clovers.
In a Wisconsin comparison, ladino clover biomass was similar to mammoth red clover when spring-seeded (402).
White clover stores up to 45 percent of its N contribution in its roots, more than any other major legume cover crop.
Ladino and alsike are the best hay-type legumes on poorly drained soils. Spring growth of fall-seeded white clover begins in mid-May in the Midwest, about the same time as alfalfa.

Seed sources. See Seed Suppliers.

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White Clover Establishment and Management Guide

Bulletin 1251 View PDF picture_as_pdf

Revised by Dennis Hancock and Deidre Harmon, Crop and Soil Sciences Department

Original manuscript by John Andrae, Extension Forage Agronomist, Crop and Soil Sciences Department

  • White Clover Basics
  • Variety Selection
  • Establishment
  • Management of Established White Clover
  • Summary

White Clover Basics

White clover (Trifolium repens L.) is a cool season perennial legume of Mediterranean origin. White clover has been used as a forage in North America since Colonial times. Benjamin Franklin noted its prevalence in cleared and disturbed land as early as 1746. There are many reasons for white clover’s popularity among forage producers. Several of the more common reasons are listed below.

White Clover Uses

Figure 1. White clover has “runners” or stolons that provide a secondary root system and energy storage for regrowth and grazing tolerance.

Pasture Renovation

White clover has a creeping growth habit and spreads with stolons or “runners” (Figure 1) above the soil with adventitious roots forming at each node. This type of growth pattern is one reason for the excellent grazing tolerance of white clover. Livestock only consume the leaves and flowers of the plant, reducing plant injury and promoting timely regrowth. White clover also helps to fill voids in the sward, which would otherwise be filled with weedy species.

Improved Forage Distribution

Because white clover fills voids in grass stands, forage yields are often increased, particularly when tall fescue and orchardgrass stands have thinned. In addition, white clover is a cool season forage, so it can improve (at least as an annual) the forage distribution and grazing season of warm season pastures like bermudagrass and bahiagrass. White clover is generally productive in late winter to late spring and mid-fall to mid-winter when warm season perennials are not productive or have low nutritive value.

Improved Diet Quality and Animal Performance

Because of the high quality of white clover, it is well suited for use as a complimentary forage in cool season perennials like tall fescue and orchardgrass. Table 1 lists the approximate nutrient content of grazed grass and clover plant species.

The high total digestible nutrient (TDN) and crude protein content of white clover can increase animal performance on pasture simply due to increased nutrient density. In addition, the higher level of magnesium in clovers decreases the potential risk of grass tetany in the spring months. The majority of tall fescue in Georgia is infected with a toxin-producing fungus that diminishes animal performance (see UGA Cooperative Extension publication Circular 861: Novel Endophyte-Infected Tall Fescue). White clover interseeded into toxic tall fescue pastures can reduce intake of these toxins and improve animal performance. Animals will selectively graze the clover, thereby reducing consumption of the toxic grass. This, in combination with the improved diet quality of the clover, greatly improves performance of animals grazing toxic tall fescue (Table 2).

Table 2. Beef steer performance as affected by white clover in endophyte-infected tall fescue. (Hoveland et al., 1981)
Average Daily Gain (lb) Gain/Acre (lb)
Infected tall fescue 1.06 374
Infected tall fescue + clover 1.53 582

White clover can also be seeded into bermudagrass pastures on favorable soils to improve nutrient content of the sward. New grazing-tolerant white clover varieties have persisted for three years under grazing in bermudagrass sod in trials near Calhoun Georgia.

Provide Nitrogen to Companion Grasses

In addition to improving animal performance, a frequently mentioned benefit of including clover in pastures is nitrogen fixation. The earth’s atmosphere is made up of about 80 percent nitrogen; this nitrogen is not, however, in a form plants can utilize. Nitrogen is “fixed” in clovers through a symbiotic relationship with Rhizobium bacteria that infects the plant’s roots. The plant provides energy for the bacteria, and bacteria provide the “machinery” necessary to convert atmospheric nitrogen into a form available to plants. Nitrogen fixation is one of many economically important features of clover, particularly when clover represents a substantial proportion of available forage. A vigorous stand of white clover will fix 100-150 pounds of nitrogen per year depending on soil and growing conditions (Table 3). At fertilizer nitrogen prices of $0.60 per pound, this translates to $60-$90 per acre. The economic value of nitrogen fixation alone should more than pay for seed and establishment expenses.

Direct benefits of nitrogen fixation are realized almost exclusively by clover plants. Studies have shown that mixed grass and clover stands can produce forage yields equivalent to those of nitrogen fertilized grass stands. In the clover-containing system, overall grass yields decrease, but clover yields offset these decreases. In addition to clover plants supplying forage without nitrogen fertilization, overall forage quality available to animals is higher in pastures containing clover.

Most people envision a “pipeline” that transports nitrogen directly from clover to grass. Unfortunately almost no nitrogen is contributed to grasses in this way. Essentially all nitrogen supplied to grasses from clover is indirect. Because of this indirect route, nitrogen from clover root nodules is not immediately available to companion grasses. Root nodules must decompose and nitrogen must be converted into a form available to plants. This conversion or “mineralization” releases nitrogen slowly, much like a time release fertilizer. This slow, steady nitrogen supply from a healthy stand of white clover can keep perennial grasses green and productive through the growing season.

Fixed nitrogen from clovers is also supplied to grasses via grazing animals. Nitrogen in consumed high quality clover plants that is not digested or deposited in the animal, returns to the pasture as dung or urine and can be a valuable source of fertilizer for grasses.

Variety Selection

White Clover Types

White clovers are frequently classified into one of three morphological groups: small, intermediate and large. Small types seldom exceed 3 inches in height and are found in closely grazed areas or lawns. These clovers have low productivity and contribute little to grazing animal production. Large or ladino white clovers are larger leafed, later blooming and more upright growing than either small or intermediate white clover types. Under optimal fertility and management, ladino white clovers are more productive than other white clover types. However, ladino clovers are not dependable reseeders and have fewer stolons and leaves close to ground level. Because of these reasons, ladino clovers have lower grazing persistence. Intermediate clovers are exactly as their name implies: intermediate. Flowering period and leaf size fall between small and large-type white clovers. Intermediate types typically reseed more dependably than ladinos, possess many stolons and leaves at ground level, and produce more forage than small types. Because of these traits, intermediate types of white clover persist well in grazing situations.

Factors to Consider When Choosing a White Clover Variety

Many commercial varieties of white clover are available on the market. It is recommended that you choose a good yielding, persistent and disease resistant variety that is well suited to your growing environment. While varieties that yield high amounts of forage are attractive, producers must be able to effectively harvest these yields. In contrast, low yielding clovers (for example, “white dutch” or common cultivars) do not typically furnish adequate amounts of high quality forage in many Georgia environments.

Most cultivars are susceptible to viruses that decrease productivity and shorten stand life. Recently, grazing-persistent varieties have been developed that produce good yields, have excellent tolerance to defoliation, and survive for many years. Consider all these factors when selecting a variety for establishment.

Most commercially available white clover varieties are the large or ladino type. Most available ladino varieties have performed similarly in tests across north Georgia. Regal is a variety developed in Alabama that has consistently yielded well in the Southeast. Regal seed are readily available and well adapted statewide. Osceola is a Florida developed variety which is also a good performer. Colt and Will also produce good yields and will typically persist for two to three years under good fertility and proper grazing management. Ivory and Tripoli typically yield and perform well in Georgia for one to two years, but are probably the least persistent of the ladino types in this area.

Two white clover varieties, Durana and Patriot, were developed and released by Dr. Joe Bouton at the University of Georgia in collaboration with Dr. Derek Woodfield and Dr. John Caradus, AgResearch, New Zealand. These two newly developed white clovers persist well in grazed Georgia environments and offer excellent potential to improve both animal performance and pasture quality.

Durana and Patriot Development

To improve grazing tolerance of white clovers, Dr. Bouton collected plants that had survived several hot, dry summers from several locations in Georgia. These plants, called native ecotypes, were dug from pastures where clover had not been planted for many years. After transplanting offspring of these ecotypes into the harsh environment of the Department of Animal and Dairy Science’s Beef Research Unit near Eatonton, Georgia, plants were subjected to heavy, continuous grazing with grass competition. Productive survivors were crossed, and a promising entry (ultimately named Durana) was increased for further development.

Durana has smaller leaves than ladino clovers but produces many more “runners” or stolons, which allows for aggressive spreading and excellent grazing tolerance. Durana flowers profusely for long periods, which may make it a more dependable reseeder. Parent material that gave rise to Durana was also crossed with a virus-resistant ladino clover. The product of this cross, named Patriot, is also commercially available.

Small-plot testing of Durana under clipping at four-week intervals indicates it is highly persistent but slightly lower yielding than ladino-type white clovers during the establishment year (Tables 4 and 5). Even though Durana yields are lower than ladino varieties during establishment, Durana’s persistence overcomes yield reductions after two to three years when ladino stands ultimately fail in grass pastures. Patriot yield is more like the ladino type (Table 4), but its persistence is superior (Table 5). Note that clipping trials likely overestimate the persistence of Regal ladino clover. Patriot’s increased yields make it ideal for producers practicing rotational grazing who can effectively harvest this forage.

Figure 2. Dense stolons of Durana white clover provide energy reserves for regrowth and survival under heavy grazing.

Grazing persistence is a far better predictor of clover performance than yield clipping trials because grazed clovers are frequently defoliated and subjected to repeated hoof abuse. Table 5 is derived from a study conducted at the Northwest Georgia Branch Station by Dr. Carl Hoveland and Greg Durham. In this study, Durana, Patriot and Regal clovers were fall planted in bermudagrass sod and continuously grazed. Ground coverage of all clover entries was similar at the beginning of the study. After one year of grazing, basal coverage of Regal ladino clover was significantly less than that of Durana or Patriot. This is important because basal coverage provides energy storage and growing points for good regrowth and survival of Durana and Patriot (Figure 2).

Table 5. Percent basal coverage within row of white clover entries continuously grazed in bermudagrass sod. Planted Oct. 1, 1999, at the Northwest Georgia Branch Station.
Entry Percent basal cover
Mar. 31, 2000
Percent basal cover
Jan. 31, 2002
Regal 77 6
Durana 90 65
Patriot 85 75

Figure 3. Beef steers grazing tall fescue overseeded with Durana white clover. As of 2003, this clover had persisted for five years at the Animal and Dairy Science’s Beef Research Unit near Eatonton, GA. Approximately 45 percent white clover and 55 percent tall fescue on dry matter basis.

Performance of stocker steers grazing four-year-old pastures near Eatonton also demonstrates the benefits of Durana white clover persistence (Table 6). In this study, steers grazing toxic tall fescue and Durana gained almost 300 percent more pounds per day and greater than 100 pounds more per acre than nitrogen fertilized toxic tall fescue. Regal ladino white clover had essentially failed as indicated by low average daily gains (no clover forage to offset intake of toxic tall fescue) and low gain per acre (low nitrogen fixation). We continued grazing the excellent Durana pastures (Figure 3) while Regal stands had to be reseeded. Tall fescue stands overseeded with Patriot at the Northwest Georgia Station have also persisted well and improved performance of animals grazing toxic tall fescue.

Table 6. Beef steer performance on tall fescue pastures planted fall 1998 with Durana white vs. Regal ladino clover in central Georgia, fourth year after establishment, Mar. 28 to Jun. 14, 2002. (Bouton, Andrae and Hoveland, 2003)
Pasture Average Daily Gain (lb/d) Pounds Gained per Acre
Toxic tall fescue + N 0.60 187
Toxic tall fescue + Durana 1.79 296
Toxic tall fescue + Regal 0.89 136
Note: Paddocks were not grazed the first year due to extreme drought.

Establishment

Soil and Site Requirements

White clover has several soil nutrient requirements for satisfactory establishment and growth. Soil acidity influences availability of several nutrients and decreases survival of Rhizobium bacteria, which are necessary for nitrogen fixation. Soil should be limed to a minimum pH of 6.0. Clovers are highly responsive to potassium and phosphate, so adequate amounts of these nutrients are critical for establishment, persistence and productivity. Below optimal levels of soil P and K are responsible for many clover failures in pastures. White clover performs well on wet soils and persists far better on these soils than red clover. White clover will also perform well on lighter soils, but you should avoid planting in deep sands.

Include the proper Rhizobium inoculum (type B) at planting if white clover has not grown in the field for several years. Most clover seed is pre-inoculated, but check the seed tag to ensure that inoculum is present and has not expired. Inoculum is inexpensive (about 10 cents per acre) and should be included in all clover plantings to ensure that 100-150 pounds of nitrogen is fixed annually.

Also be sure that no herbicide with residual broad-leaf activity has been applied to the field in the year prior to seeding. 2,4-D has only a short residual activity (two to three weeks) and should not pose many problems, but dicamba (Banvel or Weedmaster) has a 120 day residual activity and picloram (Grazon P+D) has residual activity up to one year after spraying.

Establishing New Stands of White Clover And Cool Season Grass Simultaneously

White clover seedlings can be extremely competitive with tall fescue and orchardgrass seedlings, so establishment mixtures should be planted with caution. Because of the low, creeping growth habit of white clover, seedling grasses can be lost from “smothering.” Paddocks may need to be flash grazed (allowing animals access for a short period of time to remove excess growth) during establishment to minimize clover competition. Delaying clover seeding until after perennial grasses are well established is a preferable practice. Delaying clover establishment allows broadleaf weeds to be controlled with herbicides while the cool season grass is establishing.

Establishing White Clover in Existing Pastures

The 2- to 3-pound per acre seeding rate of white clover appears low for a simple reasonâ??seeds are tiny! On average there are more than 750,000 white clover seeds per pound. For a relative comparison, there are only 11,000 wheat seed per pound. Because of this small size, clover seed must be planted at the proper depth for good emergence. Seeding depth should not exceed 0.25-0.5 inch. If seeds are planted too deep, poor germination will occur and may lead to an establishment failure.

Figure 4. White clover can be established by sod-seeding with a no-till drill (top), broadcasting and dragging (bottom) or by broadcasting and trampling seed in with temporarily heavy stocking rates.

It is difficult to adjust a standard grain drill to accurately deliver appropriate seed amounts at the proper rate and depth. Use drills with seed boxes designed for small seed metering and delivery (Figure 4). If planting with a no-till drill, use the coulters or disc openers to slice existing sod and lightly scratch the soil surface. Use press wheels to establish good seed-soil contact at a shallow depth.

Because of the shallow seed depth requirements of clover, seed can be broadcast onto closely grazed sod during late winter and incorporated into soil surface by (1) dragging, (2) hoof treading with temporarily high stocking rates, or (3) frost. Using a chain drag is an inexpensive and rapid method that can be used either simultaneously with broadcasting or in two separate passes. Using animal hoof action is a cheap (but less dependable) alternative to a no-till drill. Frost can also be used to deliver clover seed to an ideal planting depth in far north Georgia. Freezing forms a “honeycomb” appearance on the soil and allows legume seeds to settle just below the surface after several freeze-thaw cycles. Broadcast seeding is more effective in February than in fall months, so first-year forage production will likely be decreased when broadcasting. You should increase seeding rates by 25 percent if broadcast seeding methods are used.

Manage Pasture to Favor Clover Seedlings During Establishment

Clover seedling growth must be favored when planted in competitive established grasses like tall fescue or bermudagrass. Excess competition from companion grass is probably the most common reason for clover establishment failures. Remember that during establishment, grass is the enemy! Consider any practice favoring clover seedlings and penalizing existing grass (without completely killing it). Several management options are available to aid clover establishment.

Remove excess forage and thatch just prior to seeding.

This will prevent shading, improve seed-soil contact and help clover seedlings survive. Ideally, excess forage should be removed with heavy grazing, but haying is also be an acceptable alternative.

“Chemical frosts” will suppress autumn tall fescue growth and favor clovers at establishment.

Figure 5. Regal white clover established in a dense stand of tall fescue with a “chemical frost” of paraquat to suppress grass (left) and without suppression (right).

These chemical frosts are created by spraying low rates of Gramoxone onto well established tall fescue before clover seeding to suppress grass growth. Follow label requirements closely and calibrate the sprayer, as tall fescue can be excessively thinned or killed with improper herbicide rates or under environmentally stressful conditions. In many stands of tall fescue, clover can be established without chemical suppression. However, if tall fescue sod is dense, light applications of Gramoxone are helpful in suppressing sod and dependably establishing white clover (Figure 5). Banded applications of Gramoxone that treat approximately 40 percent of tall fescue can also be used to help minimize grass injury and allow good clover establishment.

When establishing white clover in bermudagrass or other perennial warm season grasses, delay planting until after a killing frost to minimize grass competition.

Plant clover into closely grazed sod in fall or early winter after warm season grasses are dormant to allow adequate clover establishment before green up. Spring plantings should be avoided in the Coastal Plain and Piedmont because of heavy grass competition with clover seedlings.

Manage grazing during establishment.

At establishment, white clover produces a primary stem and root. The primary stem produces runners, which allows the plant to spread. Like bermudagrass, these stolons provide a secondary root system and allow white clover to perenniate. The primary root of white clover will eventually die, so it is critical to allow secondary root growth to occur soon after establishment. It is equally important to minimize grass shading and allow sunlight to reach the clover seedlings. Therefore, a balancing act must take place. Competing grass must be removed with minimal grazing damage to young clover seedlings. Flash grazing is a useful tool for balancing this grass/legume relationship. Once the white clover runners have rooted, it is safe to graze.

Consider fertilizer and poultry litter effects on seedlings.

During the first year of clover establishment, nitrogen fixed by clover is not mineralized and is unavailable to grasses. Avoid applications of nitrogen fertilizer or poultry litter while clover is establishing as this will favor grass growth and increase competition. Light nitrogen applications (30-40 pounds per acre) should only be applied when grass production (1) is desperately needed and (2) can be reliably and effectively removed with grazing to prevent shading of clover seedlings. If nitrogen is added to these stands, pastures must be grazed in a controlled manner to prevent grasses from out-competing clover. Conduct grazing in a manner that avoids or minimizes clover injury. If controlled grazing methods are not feasible, do not apply nitrogen during the establishment year. Adequate levels of phosphate and potash, on the other hand, are necessary for competitive and productive clover plants. It is critical to conduct a soil test and, if necessary, apply these nutrients for successful clover establishment and persistence.

Scout for insect damage in early fall.

Figure 6. A stand of ball clover that was treated with insecticide (right) and not treated (left) at establishment to curtail insect damage. White clover would respond similarly when insect pressure is present in the fall.

Insects can be a serious pest when planting legumes in the fall. Pygmy crickets can quickly and completely eliminate newly emerged seedlings (Figure 6). Scout fields closely and be ready to apply an appropriate insecticide if necessary. Crickets may be difficult to spot, but their presence will be indicated by small circular-shaped bites on clover seedling leaflets. Delaying planting until after a killing frost greatly decreases insect pressure.

Management of Established White Clover

Fertilization

Soil test pastures on alternate years and apply necessary lime, phosphate (P) and potassium (K) to maintain healthy and productive stands. Although P and K are not removed in large amounts under grazing, nutrients can be redistributed to shade, watering and other lounging areas where urine and dung are concentrated. This is particularly true in large continuously stocked pastures.

Grazing Management

Even though white clover is tolerant of close grazing, it is still sensitive to grazing pressure. For example, white clover can become a weed in lawns that are frequently mowed. Close defoliation allows light to reach white clover leaves and favors clover growth over tall fescue. In contrast, white clover is seldom found in ungrazed pastures or hay fields that are cut infrequently. The tall grass in these uncut fields shades clover and favors grass growth.

Figure 7. Diagram depicting effects of grazing pastures to 1.5″ stubble height (left) versus 3″ stubble height (right) on grass and clover regrowth. From Blaser et al., 1986, Virginia Polytechnic Institute Bulletin 86-7.

When pastures are rotationally grazed at frequent intervals to short residue heights, clover regrowth is favored over grass regrowth (Figure 7). Rotational grazing also increases use of grasses and allows storage of root carbohydrates. Graze pastures containing white clover to roughly a 1.5 to 2 inch stubble height to encourage clover persistence. Rest periods of two to three weeks are generally adequate for white clover-bermudagrass mixtures, but three- to four-week regrowth periods may be necessary for tall fescue or orchardgrass pastures containing white clover.

If pastures are continuously grazed, monitor stocking rates closely. Spot grazing and clover shading will occur at low stocking rates, while high stocking rates reduce animal performance and grass vigor.

Weed Control

White clover is more tolerant of 2,4-D applications than other clovers, but effectiveness of these applications is dependent upon weather and maturity of weedy species. Two pints of 2,4-D per acre will injure white clover, but in most cases it will recover. Clover is highly sensitive to dicamba (Weedmaster, Banvel), picloram (Grazon P+D) and triclopyr (Remedy), and these chemicals will normally completely eliminate existing clover. Typically, if the proportion of clover has dropped to 5-10 percent of the stand dry matter and weed pressure is heavy, it is probably appropriate to kill weeds and reseed clover after the herbicide residual activity has expired.

Diseases of White Clover

Figure 8. Two-year-old grazed white clover plant infected with a virus. Note yellow streaking pattern on the leaves.

Occasionally white clover can be affected by viruses (Figure 8). Peanut stunt virus, alfalfa mosaic virus and clover yellow vein virus are all transmitted by insects like aphids or thrips. Many of these viruses cause reduced stolon growth, depressed leaf yields, and decreased root growth and nodulation (Pederson, 1995). There are no controls and no true virus-resistant cultivars. If clover stands fail as a result of viruses, the only option is to reseed.

Preventing Bloat

Unfortunately, the fear of animal bloat has prevented many producers from establishing perennial clovers in pastures. The lost animal performance from not including clovers, particularly in tall fescue pastures, greatly outweighs the improbable and infrequent losses from bloat when clovers are utilized. Bloating is rareâ??particularly when clovers make up less than 50 percent of available forage dry matter in a pasture. For reference, the forage in Figure 3 was made up of 45 percent white clover and 55 percent tall fescue on a dry matter basis. Stocker animals grazed this paddock in the spring and fall for four years with no incidence of bloat. Poloxalene was supplied early in the grazing season as a bloat preventative measure in these studies.

Most feed supply stores carry some type of bloat preventing feed additive, usually in the form of a feed block. It is uncommon for pastures to contain more than 50 percent clover in Georgia. The additional precautions below will further decrease bloat risks (Lacefield and Ball, 2000).

  • Never turn hungry animals into a lush white clover stand. Fill animals with low quality hay and watch them closely for the first few hours after turning into a pasture containing large amounts of clover.
  • Cull chronic bloaters from the herd.
  • Do not initially put animals on lush white clover pastures if plants have large amounts of surface moisture (dew or rain) present.
  • If bloat risk is high, feed bloat preventing compounds (for example, poloxalene) and provide access to dry hay.

Summary

There are many animal and agronomic related reasons for establishing a productive stand of white clover in existing grass pastures. The following are a few tips to help ensure a productive stand:

  • Choose a productive and persistent white clover variety.
  • Establish white clover on fertile soils with a pH of at least 6.0.
  • Minimize grass competition with grazing or herbicides until clover is well established.
  • Manage soil fertility and grazing to favor clovers after establishment.

Status and Revision History
Published on Mar 18, 2004
Published on Mar 24, 2009
Published with Full Review on Mar 30, 2012
Published with Minor Revisions on Feb 28, 2016

Questions about Microclover

What potential benefits may occur from including microclover in a typical lawn?

Microclover is a legume. Legumes can convert atmospheric nitrogen into organic nitrogen forms that can be eventually be utilized by turfgrass species. The nitrogen fixation process takes place in microclover root nodules formed by Rhizobium bacteria. Thus, it is anticipated that significant reductions of nitrogen fertilizer applications can be achieved when microclover in mixed with conventional lawn grasses, while maintaining good turfgrass quality. Estimates range for a potential fertilizer reduction of 1 to 2 pounds of nitrogen per 1000 square feet annually.

Additionally, microclover has a dark green color that many homeowners enjoy. Turfgrass stands that include microclover often appear darker green due to the inherent color of microclover, and maintain this darker green appearance more uniformly over the entire growing season.

What differentiates microclover from regular white clover?

White clover (Trifolium repens) was a common component of lawns before the introduction of broadleaf weed herbicides in the 1950’s. Although the most common targets of these herbicides were weeds such as dandelion, broadleaf plantain, buckhorn plantain, and other broadleaf weeds, white clover was also either damaged or killed by these applications. In addition, white clover tended to form large clumps, which suppressed desirable grasses. When white clover was flowering, the lawns attracted bees, which many homeowners, particularly those with children, considered objectionable. As a result, white clover was considered a undesirable weed by a significant number of homeowners.

Microclover ( Trifolium repens L. var. Pirouette) is a selection from white clover that has smaller leaves and a lower growth habit. When seeded at an appropriate rate, it mixes better with most turfgrass species than common white clover, without forming clumps and without excessively competing with desirable turfgrasses. Thus, the lawn also tends to have a more uniform appearance.

Which types of lawn grasses will mix successfully with microclover?

Microclover has been reported to successfully mix with most cool season turfgrass species, including Kentucky bluegrass, perennial ryegrass, turf-type tall fescue, and the fine fescues. However, in a study conducted at the University of Maryland, microclover totally dominated when mixed with chewings fescue and hard fescue. This problem may have been due to excessive microclover seeding rates or due to environmental conditions in the Mid-Atlantic region.

What percentage of microclover should be mixed with lawn grasses?

In University of Maryland trials, microclover was mixed with hard fescue, chewings fescue, turf-type tall fescue, and Kentucky bluegrass. The percent of coated microclover seed in these mixtures was either 5% or 10% by weight.

Microclover totally dominated when mixed with either hard or chewings fescue, resulting in little or no desirable turf. Further work needs to be done to determine if 1-3% microclover would produce an acceptable mixture with hard or chewings fescue in the Mid-Atlantic region.

Microclover at both 5% and 10% mixed well with both turf-type tall fescue and Kentucky bluegrass. Although initially (first 6 months) the microclover seemed to be predominating, a good balance between the microclover and these turfgrass species was ultimately achieved. No difference was observable between the two microclover seeding rates. Further research is needed to determine if lower rates of microclover might be acceptable.

Can other broadleaf weeds be controlled in lawns without removing microclover?

Many of the herbicides that will control the most common objectionable broadleaf weeds in lawns will also injure or kill white clover. More research is needed on screening individual broadleaf weed herbicides to determine if programs can be developed to kill weeds such as dandelion and plantains, while allowing microclover to persist. It is possible that adjustments to normal rates and timing of application of these herbicides will minimize damage to microclover while controlling other broadleaf weeds. For example, 2,4-D is known to damage white clover leaves, but the amount of white clover actually killed can vary greatly depending on many factors, including application rate. Also, the broadleaf weed herbicide MCPA generally has a minimal long-term impact on white clover.

Cultural practices can also have a major impact on reducing potential broadleaf weed problems, thus reducing or eliminating the need for broadleaf weed herbicide applications that may injure microclover. Proper soil preparation prior to seeding, including adjusting soil pH and phosphorus as recommended by soil tests, will help ensure rapid establishment and maximize lawn density, thus minimizing weed encroachment. Using recommended turfgrass cultivars when seeding turfgrass-microclover mixtures will help maintain stand density. Also critical to reducing the potential for weed encroachment is avoiding mowing the lawn too short. Mowing at a height of 3 inches versus less than 2 inches has consistently been shown to greatly minimize weed populations.

Are there any disease problems of microclover?

While disease problems of microclover are infrequent and have not been widely reported, the disease southern blight (Sclerotium rolfsii) severely damaged microclover during the summer of 2011 in University of Maryland research plots. Large patches of microclover (up to 2 feet in diameter) were killed during hot, humid weather in July. This disease has not occurred in other years on research plots, and probably occurs infrequently.

Microclover killed in patches by Southern blight disease

What happens to microclover after a frost or during the winter?

Microclover leaves tend to die back during the winter months, appearing as if the plants have died. However, the roots, crowns, and stolons are alive, and new leaves emerge as the weather begins to warm in late winter and early spring.

Is microclover heat and drought tolerant?

Microclover will survive most summers in the Mid-Atlantic region without major problems. However, under unusually severe conditions, significant amounts of microclover clover may die. During the very extreme heat and drought experienced at the University of Maryland Paint Branch Turfgrass Research Facility during the summer of 2012, approximately 95% of the microclover in test plots was killed. It should be noted that after the heat and drought conditions subsided, plots that had contained microclover exhibited pronounced nitrogen response effects (darker green color) until early spring 2013, compared to plots not originally seeded with microclover.

Is microclover shade tolerant?

In research studies at the University of Maryland, microclover did not persist in either medium or full shade locations. In the Mid-Atlantic region, it appears that mixtures of tufgrass and microclover will be predominately for use in full sun situations.

What is seed coating and is it necessary for microclover establishment?

Microclover can be purchased as coated or uncoated seed. Coated seed normally consists of limestone, an adhesive, and the bacteria Rhizobium leguminosarum biovar. Trifolii. Nitrogen fixation by white clover only occurs when the roots of the plant become infected with this specific strain of bacteria. The bacteria are normally present in soils that previously contained Rhizobium leguminosarum biovar. Trifolii infected plants. In such situations it is not necessary to use coated seed to obtain the nitrogen fixing benefits of clover. However, many lawns in new residential developments are established in soils not having a past history of clover use. In such situations coated microclover seed should be used. Bacteria viability on coated seed is limited. Accordingly, avoid using coated seed that has a seed label date that is more than six months old.

Microclover seed can be inoculated with Rhizobium leguminosarum biovar. Trifolii without coating the seed. In this case the bacteria is mixed directly with the seed and a small amount of water. The viability of uncoated freshly moisten bacteria is only a few hours, Thus freshly inoculated seed should be broadcast as soon as the seed dries.

White Dutch Clover As Alternative Grass Lawn

Trifolium repens L.~~
White Dutch Clover Seed is gaining popularity among homeowners and others as an alternative to traditional grass lawns. You may mix White Dutch Clover into an existing grass lawn or use it solo as an alternative lawn. Dutch White clover can work as a lawn alternative on a smaller scale but may present some issues for larger lawn areas. You may choose to plant a new lawn with a combination of eco-friendly grass and White Dutch Clover. This clover is a soil nitrogen fixer so there is no need to use expensive and harmful chemical nitrogen fertilizers.
See our section on Pasture uses of White Dutch Clover for information on White Dutch Clover as a forage crop.

White Dutch Clover Features

  • Grows to a height of four to eight inches in a thick mat
  • Tolerates low mowing well (if desired)
  • Spreads to fill in empty spaces
  • Stays green through droughty periods of summer
  • Tolerates dog urine
  • Provides nitrogen (up to 2 pounds of n/1000 square feet) for the other grasses in the lawn, eliminating the need to fertilize
  • Looks good especially if it is blended evenly throughout the lawn.
  • Attracts butterflies, bees and other pollinators

Please click on the products below for more pictures of White Dutch Clover.
White Dutch Clover Seed

Code Name Image Price
CLOV-DUTCH-01 White Dutch Clover Coated Seed – 1 LB.- Perennial Alternative Lawn,Food Plot,Pasture – Inoculated $14.95
CLOV-DUTCH-05 White Dutch Clover COATED Seed – 5 LB.- Perennial Alternative Lawns,Food Plot,Pasture – Inoculated $49.95
CLOV-DUTCH-50 White Dutch Clover Coated Seed – 50 LB.- Perennial Alternative Lawn,Food Plots – Inoculated $199.50

Planting Dutch White Clover

Planting Dates: Early Spring or Late Summer
Planting Rate: 4-8 lbs per acre
Planting Depth:1/4″ – no deeper
Soil : White Dutch clover will grow best if planted in moist, well-drained soils. It also requires a neutral soil pH in order to reach its full growth potential. White Dutch is more tolerant of poor soils than other white clovers and will survive on slightly acidic, sandy soils.
Fertility: Do not apply nitrogen to lawns containing White Clovers. The two most important soil fertility factors in growing white clover are pH and phosphorus. A soil test is recommended for determining nutrients needed.
Inoculants: Clover, as with other legumes, should be inoculated for proper nitrogen processing. Inoculants are cultures of nitrogen fixing nodule bacteria in a peat based medium. Be sure and purchase an inoculant if your legume seeds are not pre-inoculated and you are planting on a poor soil with low nitrogen levels.
Germination: Clover plants will emerge 2 to 3 days after planting in the summer or hot humid climates (day temperatures of at least 75°).
The small, yellow seeds of Dutch White Clover have a hard seed coat that permits germination many years after the initial seeding. Even though this is a fact you may have to re-seed every 2 to 3 years to keep full coverage for a lawn. But this is a lot less costly than the known environmental risks and expense of using chemical nitrogen fertilizers.

Seeding & Overseeding Lawns With Dutch White Clover

If overseeding, mow existing grass to the lowest height you can without killing it. Broadcast seed as evenly as possible covering bare spots that are evident ( I used a Spyker spreader with a setting of 1.5). You may want to mix the tiny clover seed with dry sand or soil. Inoculate if necessary, following the instructions on inoculant package. Lightly rake seed into soil with a stiff rake no deeper than 1/4″. It is alright to see seed on the ground. Keep the seeded area watered for the first 10 days keeping it moist.

More Facts To Consider

Do not mix white Dutch Clover with grass seed that contain fungicides if you must inoculate. Doing so will kill the natural bacteria inoculant used while planting the clover thus defeating it’s purpose. If you are planting a new lawn and wish to include White Dutch Clover, we suggest using a grass seed with no coating (raw seed). Alternatively, you can mix coated grass seed with White Dutch Clover if your soil is not “nitrogen challenged” or plant the seed a few days apart, planting the clover first.
White Dutch Clover will be killed by broadleaf herbicides so do not use these on your lawn. Of course, why would you? You are trying to avoid chemicals by planting this environmentally safe, natural grass alternative.

Using White Dutch Clover Solo In A Lawn

When planting White Dutch Clover as an alternative lawn or solo, it is best to do this in a smaller lawn area. While it has the benefit of being nitrogen-fixing (adds nitrogen to the soil), it is not very drought-tolerant when grown at the density needed to serve as a lawn alternative in a larger area. It does not recuperate from heavy foot traffic as well as a grass lawn. Another drawback is that clover stains on clothing are more difficult to launder than grass stains.
Dutch white clover attracts lots of honeybees, bumblebees and other pollinators to the flowers which is a concern to people who are sensitive to insect stings. Some people may appreciate all the bee activity, the butterflies and other pollinators that are attracted to flowering clover.

Resources

http://versicolor.ca/lawns/docs/clover.html
White Clover in Low Maintenance Lawns – Cornell Cooperative Extension
The Author – Debra Johnson

Clover Seed Planting Instructions

Clover Basics:
Clover needs water, sun and lime (in most soil) for good germination. Clover gets its phosphate and potash from the soil and its nitrogen from the air through a bacterium that lives on its roots. Lime is necessary to bring the pH of the soil up to the neutral range (6.0 to 7.0 for the best performance). On acid forest soil (especially in acid acid rain areas), clover simply will not grow without lime. Lime will also release phosphate and potash from dark forest soils reducing the need for fertilizer. To ensure successful planting with clover seed, get a soil test to check the pH of your soil. This will enable you to utilize the proper amount of lime for best germination and establishment.

Clover is a hardy plant and can thrive in most soils (sandy loams to clay) and conditions that range from full sun to partial shade. Plant clover in the spring or early summer, when the ground has become soft and moist from the spring rains. You may also plant in September or early October in most locations. Clover seed is very small, so you may want to mix it with lime or fertilizer to give you more substance to work with. Do not use a strong fertilizer on clover, as it can burn the plant’s thin roots.

Ground Preparation:
It is difficult to kill weeds out of clover since broad-leafed herbicides will kill the clover as well. Due to this fact, it is essential that competing vegetation be killed before planting. If you must till or plow the soil before planting, be sure you wait 4 to 6 weeks for new weeds to emerge so you can kill them before planting the clover seed.

You may also use the no-till method. Mow or burn off existing vegetation in spring, wait for green-up so those perennial weeds and seeds emerge, then spray with Roundup (Monsanto) or another total herbicide to kill all existing vegetation. Wait for it to turn brown then lime (if necessary) and seed. The dead thatch will provide all the cover needed for the seed. We recommended spraying the area with our LazyMan Liquid Gold or Lazyman Soil Doctor to break down existing thatch and to aerate the soil. This will help in seed germination and establishment.

If you are planting a small area, kill off all living vegetation and simply rake the ground and remove any debris and large obstacles, such as big rocks. Scatter the seed mixture lightly on top of the loosened soil at the recommended seeding rate per package directions. Water lightly, but not so heavily that the seeds are washed away. Keep the planting area moist until the seeds germinate and the clover is established.

Sun:
Clover will grow in light shade, but not very fast. You may want to double your seeding rates if planting in light shade. Clover will not fair well at all in dense shade and is not recommended. If possible, cut back brush, trees, etc. to all the clover to receive 4 to 6 hours of sunlight a day.

Water:
At time of seeding it is critical that new seeds are kept moist as much as possible. In optimum growing conditions, the seed never dries out in between waterings. After clover establishment, it generally needs approximately 30 inches of rain a year to be productive and 45 inches or more is optimum. Most clovers will tolerate poorly drained soils, but no clover will grow where water stands for weeks at a time. It will thin out and eventually die if there is no soil drainage.

Seeding:
Clover seed is very small so a little goes a long way. It should be spread with a broadcast type spreader. As mentioned earlier, you may want to mix the clover seed with lime or low nitrogen fertilizer to give you more substance to work with. Clover seed planted deeper then 1/4 inch in the soil may not emerge; therefore, ensure the clover seed is spread on the surface or just lightly raked in to the soil.

Planting Time:
Plant in spring when frost season is completely over and night time temperatures are staying in the 40’s or warmer. You may plant clear up to late summer/early fall at least 6 weeks before a heavy freeze. In the south where snow and freezing temperatures are rare, you may plant all through the winter. If you plant when temperatures are warm, clover seeds will germinate in 7 – 15 days.

Bulk White Dutch Clover Seeds Trifolium Repens

Clover Specifications

Latin Name: Trifolium Repens

Season: Perennial

USDA Zones: 3 – 10

Environment: Full sun to partial shade

Height: 8 inches

Bloom Color: White

White Dutch Clover (Trifolium Repens) – White Dutch Clover designates a strain of white clover which is perennial. Used in lawns, as a ground cover, cover crop, for erosion control, and in pasture mixtures. Usually matures around 8 inches tall. White Dutch clover and our Miniclover® are the most popular clover seeds used for lawns. Miniclover® is more dwarf only reaching approximately 4 inches tall, has a much smaller leaf blade, and is not as aggressive as white Dutch making it the better lawn clover choice.

Inoculated Seed – Our White Dutch clover seed has been coated with an inoculant for better establishment. Nitrogen fixation is a one of the key values found in legumes and can only occur with the proper inoculation. Although many strains or Rhizobium may be present in the soil, all are not equally beneficial. With Nitro-Coat® each seed is inoculated with the correct Rhizobium strains and coated through a proven process that ensures a very high level of successful inoculation. A key to any successful establishment and early seed development is moisture. Nitro-Coat® is naturally water absorbent and helps attract soil moisture to the seed, getting your stand established quickly. This coating process which Outsidepride utilizes, assures that only the top-performing and crop-specific rhizobia will be applied to ensure your clovers reach maximum nodulation, stand establishment, and yield potential. With Nitro-Coat® each seed is inoculated with the correct Rhizobium strains and coated through a proven process that ensures a very high level of successful inoculation. The weight of the clover seeds will contain approximately 34% coating material that contains the inoculant and water holding material for better establishment and viability of the seed. There is no difference in the seeding rates between the coated and raw seed due to the increased germination and viability of the bulk clover seeds that are coated and inoculated. This coating material is not OMRI certified.

Many homeowners include White Dutch clover in their lawn seed mixture because clover sprouts fast and grows so dependably that it’s a valuable aid in getting a new lawn started. White dutch clover is the most popular clover seed for lawn alteratives, due to the fact it is cheaper than Miniclover®. If you are looking for bulk clover to mix in with an existing lawn, our Miniclover® seeds works better as it blends in much better and will not take grass over. White clovers are good for lawns since nodules on the roots fix nitrogen from the air. Actually, up to 1/3 the nitrogen your lawn needs can be obtained from white dutch clover! Grows vigorously even in poor clay subsoil around new home construction. If you want all the benefits of a cover crop but don’t want to till early or mow, clover is your best bet.

Getting a good stand of white dutch clover seeds is a first and critical step to success with this high quality, persistent crop. Since white clover is usually grown with a cool season perennial grass (may be planted alone too), it is usually either seeded at the same time as the grass or seeded into an existing grass stand. Regardless of when it is seeded, certain principles and practices are important for success. These will be discussed below; however, readers should refer to state and local sources for specific recommendations for their area.

Fertility

The most important investment in a fertility program is a soil test, which will indicate soil needs with regard to pH, phosphorus, and potassium. White dutch clover yields better and stands last longer when grown on soils with a medium level of phosphorus and potassium. A pH of 6.0 – 6.5 is usually recommended for excellent yields and stand persistence. In some states, minor elements may also be recommended.

Fertilization with nitrogen is not recommended when seeding white clover seeds into grass. Nitrogen will stimulate the grass, thus providing more competition for the white clover seedlings during establishment. This becomes even more of a problem when seeding white clover into established grass pastures. Increased grass competition from added nitrogen can result in death of white clover seedlings. In most states, application of nitrogen to established clover/grass mixtures is not recommended if white clover occupies 20% or more of the ground cover.

Seeding Rate

Seeding rates vary with geographic location, seeding method, and seeding mixture. In general, rates 1/4 – 1/2 lb per 1000 square feet or 8 to 10 lbs per acre are recommended.

Seeding Depth

The ideal seeding depth for clover seeds is approximately 1/4-inch maximum, but under favorable weather and soil conditions, clover seed present on the soil surface may germinate and become established. Good seed-soil contact is important to ensure rapid germination and emergence.

Seeding Time

In the Southern USA, white clover is seeded in late winter or early spring and in late summer. In the Northern USA, most white dutch clover is seeded in early spring or late summer.

Seeding Method

White dutch clover can be seeded by many no-till or minimum till techniques and by broadcast seeding. In conventional seedbeds, white clover is almost always seeded with a perennial grass for lawns or hard or sheeps fescue for erosion control. Just scatter the seeds, rake lightly, and keep the clover seeds moist until it sprouts! After sprouting occurs, cut back watering as root development starts taking place and less water is needed. Withstands mild drought, grows well all over the U.S., even on barren soil where nothing else wants to grow. Winter hardy and it stays so low you can just till it under in spring if you are using it for a cover crop.

Weeds

The best weed control is provided by a vigorous white clover-grass stand. If necessary, white clover-grass stands can be mowed to remove grass leaves and seedheads and to suppress broadleaf weeds and woody vegetation.

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