Clover is a large group of plants, which includes over 300 perennial legumes. One of the most commonly cultivated, generally as fodder for livestock, is white clover (Trifolium repens, USDA zones 3-10), which grows from 6 to 8 inches in height. Although clover will survive in dry soil, ideal white clover growing conditions include moist, even poorly-draining, soils. While some consider clover in the home garden to be a weed, others plant it as an ornamental ground cover. Clover grows readily from seed.
Timing of Planting
The ideal time for clover seed germination is the spring, although fall sowing works as well. Early spring presents an opportunity for less competition for the seedlings as many weeds have yet to germinate. White clover seeds may be sown on frozen ground and will germinate when the soil warms. You can also boost grasses in your pasture by no-till seeding the clover. When temperatures are above 59 degrees Fahrenheit, clover germination time is usually less than a week.
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Ground Preparation for Planting
Many homeowners add clover to an existing lawn. Prepare the lawn before planting the clover seeds by power raking to loosen the soil and give the seeds something to adhere to. When planting in the soil, plow and compact the dirt to make it firm. Water the bed deeply to at least 10 inches before sowing.
Planting White Clover Plant Seeds
Clover seed is quite tiny, so sowing it is a bit more challenging than sowing grass seed. To ensure uniformity, mix the seed with sand or sawdust before adding it to the spreader. Use 2 to 8 ounces of seed per 1,000 square feet when planting in the lawn. The higher rate will ensure more clover than turfgrass. Walk the lawn, spreading the clover seed in a crisscross pattern. When grown in a pasture, sow 2 pounds of clover seed per acre. Water well after planting, and keep the soil moist until the clover seeds germinate and establish, at least for the first 10 days.
Maintenance of Clover
A white clover plant requires no additional nitrogen fertilizer and, in fact, fails to thrive in heavily fertilized areas because the plant is a legume and obtains nitrogen from the air. Apply phosphate, if needed, in fall or spring, according to the results of a soil test. The clover may require additional nutrients, such as magnesium, depending upon soil type. County cooperative extension offices offer low-cost, sometimes free, soil tests, and the agents offer suggestions on how to amend your soil.
With a seed germination time of less than a week in ideal growing conditions, clover is a plant you can quickly establish in your pasture or yard. Give the seeds plenty of moisture, and watch them grow.