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clover seeding question  RSS feed

 
Christopher G Williams
Posts: 69
Location: Ossineke, MI
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I have about an acre of a former poplar forest that I cleared three summers ago. I have been trying to improve the soil and getting various types of perennials established. The end goal is to turn the whole thing into an orchard/berry patch/food forest. It may be several more years before we are able to get entire space filled up with the trees and bushes we want, so in the mean time I want to get several types of clover more or less permanently established.

I planted medium red, ladino, white, alsike, and alfalfa almost immediately after the trees were cleared and it came back nicely last season. This year it didn't come back as well so I had to put more seed down to thicken it up. So I had the idea this summer to let it all go to flower and then mow it down leaving the seeds to work their way into the ground, hopefully to come back year after year. I did this just last week but I have a few questions/concerns about it and I was wondering if anyone here can offer advice.

#1. The flowers were 80% dried up and of the ones I checked most of them had seeds in them(thanks to the hundreds of wild honey bees that were attracted to the garden). However the seeds are green and I am unsure if they are going to be able to dry out properly or if they may just rot on the ground. Will these seeds germinate this season or in seasons to come?

#2. Is the established clover likely to come back? What I had been doing over the past few years is mowing the clover several times a year and using it as mulch or for compost tea, however I never let it get to the advanced state of maturity that I did this time. I'm wondering if, having seeded, the clover will decide it is at the end of it's life cycle and not come back. I am particularly worried about it not coming back because of the weather; I know clover grows best in cooler temps and it is supposed to be quite dry for the next week to 10 days.

Any answers to these questions or advice on long term soil improvement for the space are very much appreciated.
 
John Elliott
pollinator
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I've got the same problem -- where I try to get it to come back, it doesn't; where I don't care what happens, it pops right back.

I'm going on the theory that it doesn't like being mowed. That it has to go to seed naturally and then drop its seed. If I mow it at 80% dried up or so and leave the clippings on the field to dry out, it just doesn't seem to resew itself.
 
Hugo Rozzo
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I have only a small garden, but managed to grow red wild clover. You got to wait for the flowerheads to be dry, when you pick em they must fall into your hand just like that. No pulling. Keep em in an envelope in the winter and sow in march. You can throw em down straight away where you want em as well, they do grow, but i've had more luck in spring. I transplanted them to a place where they block wind in a row. They don't like it, but with a little water if they looking sorry they'll survive. They don't like the bits of the garden i didn't make loose with the spade.
Good luck to you.
 
Christopher G Williams
Posts: 69
Location: Ossineke, MI
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Thanks for the replies! Over the couple weeks since I posted the clover has made a full come back, but it remains to be seen weather the seeds that fell will germinate. I may not know until next season, but I fear that both of you are correct in that the flower heads need to be more dried out and the plant closer to the end of it's lifecycle. I think I will mow it one more time this August and then let it go to seed again just before the heavy frosts come in. Hopefully then this coming spring I'll have some new plants coming in to freshen the stock.
 
Judith Browning
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Location: Arkansas Ozarks zone 7 alluvial,black,deep loam/clay with few rocks, wonderful creek bottom!
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I think to establish a good stand of clover it shouldn't be mowed more than once, if that for it's first year or so. I plant a variety of clovers in the fall. Crimson clover (an annual) starts growing over the winter and the deer nibble it but by the time it goes to flower they are eatting other things. It does seem to take forever to mature seed but I wait until the seed heads are feathery and the seed brown. Right now I am really growing it just for seed to fill a larger area. My sweet yellow clover gets cut back once and then allowed to go to seed...At seed maturity I cut and spread it around. The ladino seems slow and hasn't bloomed yet this year. The red and dutch just grow where they want and I sometimes cut some for mulch but not more than twice a year. Our soil isn't very rich...I am hoping the clovers are helping along with many other dynamic accumulators.
Fall planting works well here because we get reliable rains and periods that are warm enough to germinate the clover seed.
I think perennial clovers probably need more time unmowed to establish a good root system to support a lot of top growth but I can't really back that up
 
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