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June 2010
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Crimson Clover:characteristics, growing and planting conditions and care that should be taken.

Crimson clover is a wonderfully versatile plant. Crimson clover is an annual legume with short spikes of deep red or mauve flowers. It can be used as a shade-tolerant flower in a garden to attract beneficial insects, or it can be sown away from a garden to lure rabbits away from plants. Crimson clover is also a nutritious grazing plant for livestock, and it is commonly planted as a cover crop on farms because it fixes nitrogen in the soil, suppresses weeds and reduces erosion.

Required Growing Conditions

– Plant crimson clover in the fall about six weeks before the first predicted hard frost to give the plants a chance to establish themselves, as frost-damaged young plants don’t grow well and may not bloom.
– Crimson clover will grow on poorer soils than most other clovers, thriving on both well-drained sandy and clayey soils.
– It does not do well in extreme cold or heat.
– The preferable pH range is 6.0 to 7.0.
– After the seedlings become well established, it makes good growth at lower temperatures than most other clovers.
– Crimson clover has been used for a cover crop as far north as northern Maine; primary growing areas are the Southeast and southern Atlantic coastal states.

Cultivation and Care

– Crimson clover seed should be inoculated for planting on critical areas where bacteria may have been lost in erosion of the surface.
– On sites that have been in pasture or hay, this is probably no longer necessary.
– Soils should be brought up to moderate to high levels of phosphorus and potash prior to planting clovers, but nitrogen should not be applied unless degraded sites are being planted.
– Plant in the spring or late summer.
– Clovers may be frost seeded in late winter.
– The best planting method is to drill the seed into a firm, weed free seedbed.
– No-till methods can be used successfully when effective weed control is employed.
– Seeding rates range from 10 to 15 lb/acre when seeded alone and 5 to 10 lb/acre when seeded in a mixture. Seed should be planted at about a ¼ inch depth.
– When used as a cover crop and green manure with annual plants, crimson clover is generally tilled under about three weeks before spring planting to give it time to decompose and improve the tilth of the soil.

Uses of Crimson Clover

– Crimson clover, as a winter annual, is usually planted in the late summer to early fall.
– It can be utilized in pasture, hay, organic farming, pollinator enhancement, silage mixes, or used as a winter cover for soil protection or green manure crop for soil improvement.

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