Planting White Clover Guide What You Need To Know
White Clover A Green Manure Cover Crop
White clover is excellent as a cover crop to help prevent weeds from moving in on our garden while planting our primary plants.
Like all plants, it has multiple names like Dutch White, New Zealand White, and Ladino.
We can also till the white clover into our garden as a source of green manure to help improve the quality of our soils. While it works as green manure, the low level of plant matter above and below ground limits its usefulness as a green manure source.
The primary way it will improve our soil is through the creation of additional nitrogen it adds. It does not enhance the fertility of our soil to the same extent other cover crops can provide.
It is a member of the legume family. It is an organic gardening method to add some extra nitrogen to our soil that our other crops can use.
I like to use it as a cover crop to reduce weeds from moving into the bare areas of my garden, plus it can help to attract bees and other helpful insects to our gardens.
The one pest we need to keep our eyes out for is slugs, especially in the beginning of their seedling stage.
White clover (Trifolium repens) is an herbaceous perennial in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 3 through 10.
Because of how rapidly and aggressively it can spread, many people in the United States consider it an invasive species.
White Clover Germination Time
On average, our white clover will take under one week to germinate, but we can see sprouts in as little as two days under optimal conditions.
When clovers were grown in optimum temperatures (5–25°C), annual clovers required less time for radicles to exceed the seed's diameter than perennial white clovers. T. Repens discovered that the germination rate of annual clovers increased with increasing temperatures up to 25°C before decreasing.
It does not matter what tillage system you want to plant the clover seeds between extremely shallow, around 10 mm or .05 inches deep. I like to use a garden rake to loosen the soil, toss the seeds over the area, and provide them with a nice heavy watering.
We must keep our soil moist for the first few days to ensure the sun does not dry out our seedlings.
How Tall Does White Clover Grow?
White clover will grow from 6 to 8 inches in height. You can add it to help prevent weeds from moving in while using your higher-growing crops to provide the shade it needs.
How Long Does White Clover Bloom
The white clover blooms in the spring to early summer, depending on the location grown. Once it begins to bloom, it will usually continue to bloom for several more months.
From around June to September in my area, I will see the white clover in flower. It usually takes around 12 days for seeds to begin to be somewhat viable. Still, it takes about one month of flowering to fully ripen.
Remember, once we see our white clover in bloom, they will begin to release new seeds into our garden as the flowers dry out. Depending on your goal, you may want to remove the clover before it reaches this point.
White Clover Fertilizer Requirments
You are not going to need to add any fertilizer when you are growing white clover. It will uptake the nitrogen in residual soil.
If you want to add fertilizer to maximize its growth, focus on a fertilizer that does not have nitrogen. White clover is a member of the legume family. It will grab nitrogen from the air passing it to soil bacteria that will convert it for use by plants in our soils.
You can turn your white clover into a green manure source for your garden providing nutrients and natural fertilizer to the soil for your next planting. Another option is to mow down the clover, collect it and use it as a green source in your composting.
White Clover Growth Stages
- 1) Germination
- 2) Seminal Taprooted Stage
- 2) Fragmentation of the Taprooted Plant
- 2) Clonal Growth Stage
- 2) Flowering
Is White Clover a Good Cover Crop
Its fast germination and growth rates quickly help to prevent weeds from moving in.
Many people have started using it in intercropping systems to help reduce the need for using as much inorganic fertilizers.
What Are The Advantages of Growing White Clover?
They will help to minimize soil erosion on your garden or farm plot. Their fast germination and high survival rates benefit our soils, keeping key nutrients in place. It also allows greater water penetration into the ground and overall soil development.
It is an easy way to add more organic matter to your soil, helping to feed the microorganisms and improving the quality of your soil.
There will be more nitrogen naturally added to the soil. This will help reduce your need to use fertilizers in the future.
If you use the plant as a source of green manure, the added organic material in the soil helps the aeration of the soil reducing the soil compaction.
Like the increase in microorganisms, adding more organic materials also benefits the encouragement of earthworms.
White clover is a cover crop and will prevent weeds from moving into your garden. It is considered the most resilient of the clover genus. It has a high survival rate with mowing and even high foot traffic areas.
Having healthier soil helps keep our following planted plants healthy, reducing the chance of disease.
It works as a premier living mulch system over any other legume and is robust, resilient, and competitive.
How Do You Kill White Clover?
The two most common methods to kill white clover are mowing or using a burn-down herbicide for no-till plantings.
If you are killing the clover to prevent it from seeding, you will want to start removing them from your garden when they enter flower. Once the flowers have dried, the seeds have already formed at that point.
No-tilling the white clover is also an effective method to prevent erosion and weeds from moving in.
Rolling is currently being considered an alternative method of killing white clover.
Another natural way I have read about but not personally tried is making a solution of a small amount of white vinegar with the same amount of dish soap in a spray bottle filled with water. Use the spray bottle and coat the white clover with it.
You can also significantly reduce the amount of clover by allowing the sun to thoroughly dry out the area. A week or 2 of bone-dry soil will cause a large portion of the white clover to die off.
Like any cover crop, the time to kill white clover will depend on two things. The soil moisture is the first consideration. During a dry spring, we need to kill the crop early to prevent it from causing water stress on our primary plants.
The second consideration is when you plan on planting your next crop. If you are using the clover as green manure, you want to kill it a minimum of one week before planting the next crop. Ideally, you should aim to kill it 2 weeks before your next planting.
Tilling White Clover
We do not need to till our soil to plant and grow our white clover.
When the white clover has reached the height I want, I will trim it down with a weed wacker and leave it on my garden plot. I usually will not till it into the soil until the following season.
Tilling(turning the white clover about 1 foot under the soil) is a great way to really help improve the ground's tilth, fertility, and aeration.
The nutrients in the clover will also slowly release, acting as a natural fertilizer.
Green manure is one of my favorite ways to quickly provide additional nutrients for my future plants.
But once you have tilled it into your garden, you need to wait for one to two weeks before planting any new seeds into your garden.
White clover is a fast-sprouting member of the legume family that can reduce our use of inorganic nitrogen fertilizers.
We can use it as a cover crop to ensure our soils are well covered, helping to prevent weeds from moving in on our gardens.
We can till it into our soil later using it as a source of green manure or collect it and add it to one of our compost piles.
It is not very resistant to droughts, so if you live somewhere where little rainfall and many hot days are drying out your soil, it is probably not the best cover crop to use.