Trifolium pratense Biennial legume. Up to 36". Vigorous red clover for cover cropping or grazing. Short-lived 24–36" perennial clover best treated as a biennial: mow or graze the first year, and plow down the second year. Seed early at 15–20#/acre alone, 5–10#/acre in mixes, ½# per 1000 sq ft.
As cover crop: A good crop to precede field corn. Deep taproot raises nutrients from the subsoil. Tolerates shade, so a good choice for overseeding into standing crops.
As food crop: Red clover blossoms, fresh or dried, make one of our favorite teas, which is safe for long-term use. ②
The Trifolium genus is home to more than 300 species, most of which are native to the northern hemisphere (a few pop up in Africa and South America). Clover is versatile, performs well in Maine’s cool humid climate and acidic soils, fixes atmospheric nitrogen, and attracts pollinators—what more could you ask for? The taller red clovers are better hay plants, as they have a more erect habit and greater biomass, and they dry more easily. Red clover blossoms, fresh or dried, make one of our favorite teas. White clovers perform better in pastures and lawns, as they tolerate close mowing (or nibbling) and heavy traffic. No matter what kind of clover you choose, be sure to plant plenty to increase your chances of finding those lucky four-lobed specimens: a survey of approximately 7 million clovers found that 1 in 5,000 clover leaves exhibit this trait!
Clover may be planted from late winter through early fall. Seedlings are slow to establish and will benefit from a nurse crop of oats. If a crop of annual weeds comes up with your clover, all is not lost: keep the plot regularly mowed and by midseason the clover will have outcompeted the weeds. Most clovers are pre-inoculated and clay-coated with an OMRI-approved coating.