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Growing clover

Clover (Trifolium), or trefoil, is a genus of about 300 species of plants in the pea family Fabaceae. The genus has a cosmopolitan distribution; the highest diversity is found in the temperate Northern Hemisphere, but many species also occur in South America and Africa, including at high altitudes on mountains in the tropics. Clovers originated in southeastern Europe and southwestern Asia Minor. They were once believed to be a curative for heart disease because of their heart-shaped leaves. Modern medicine has extracted a chemical, coumarin, from clover which is used as a blood thinner
Several species are extensively cultivated as fodder-plants. The most widely cultivated clovers are White clover Trifolium repens and Red clover Trifolium pratense. Clover, either sown alone or in mixture with ryegrass, has for a long time formed a staple crop for soiling, for several reasons; it grows freely, shooting up again after repeated mowings; it produces an abundant crop; it is palatable to and nutritious for livestock; it grows in a great range of soils and climates; and it is appropriate either for pasturage or green composting.
Not only does clover act as a cover crop, it also enriches the soil with nitrogen and prevents erosion. Clover snatches nitrogen out of the air, bringing this most essential fertilizer “down-to-earth” by means of nitrogen-fixing bacteria living in nodes along the roots — all at no cost to you, in terms either of money or of maintenance. The plant’s fast growing quality and aesthetic appeal makes it popular among lawn growers. Clover tolerates compacted soil better than lawn grass does. It has longer roots, enabling it to access water at deeper levels.
Clover does best when planted in spring and summer. If you wish to add clover to your lawn, power rake or otherwise scruff the soil surface to provide good soil to seed contact. Seed at a rate of 2 to 8 oz. per 1,000 square feet, depending on the amount of clover desired in the lawn. At 8 oz. per 1,000 square feet, clover will become the dominant plant. Ensure that the seeds are not planted too deep. Clover seeds are very small and should not be sowed deeper than half an inch.
The first requirement for planting Clover is not unlike the requirements of other forage crops. pH should have been adjusted well before planting and seedbed preparation should begin with a very thorough disking of the selected site in September. The food plot should then be harrowed to achieve a uniform planting surface. This is the first step that can be overlooked with some other forages that one should pay special attention to with clover.
Since clover seeds are small, uniform distribution may be difficult. Mix sawdust or Milorganite, a low analysis organic fertilizer, with the seed prior to spreading to simplify distribution. Keep soil moist until clover has become established. Clover will not thrive under a program of heavy fertilization. Remember that adequate moisture is critical for clover growth as it keeps the bacteria alive. Water the plot using spray nozzle. Make sure you do not use a strong nozzle for this purpose as it can wash the seeds.
If you consider clover a weed, and want to control it, spray with MCPP in spring or fall, when temperatures are expected to remain cool. Do not use it when temperatures are predicted to reach 80 to 85 degrees within 24 hours. MCPP, (short for 2-(2-methyl-4-chlorophenoxy) propionic acid), may be listed as mecoprop and is the active ingredient in clover and chickweed killer. It is also found in some general purpose broad-leaf weed killers. Wait 3 to 4 weeks before reseeding after using MCPP. Don’t reapply MCPP if clover appears unaffected. Usually it takes 6 to 8 weeks for the clover to disappear.

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