We what to keep our orchard lawn near the house mown on the highest setting, but also want to increase its nutrition levels as it is grazed by chickens, and the mowings are fought over by the cow and pigs (they come bellow or oink at their respective fences as soon as they hear the mower going). There are is a few bald patches and I thought that I could seed them in with some alfalfa.
We are still clearing out the orchard grass that was left to seed when we bought the property almost two years ago, however, and even when we cut it at ground level with a Japanese hand sickle, there still remains hard sharp spikes. WE don't want the same problem with alfalfa. If we keep it mown regularly, is there in risk that alfalfa would develop a similar thick stalk at the base?
We planted our orchard in a neglected mixed grass/alfalfa field. The alfalfa comes back quicker than the mown grass (12" before the grass hits 6") and makes deep thick roots and stalks that are next to impossible to grub out. The only thing that kept it low was the chooks, when they grazed a couple individual units where we had them in their winter confinement area. We are doing chop and drop with a sicklebar mower, so the alfalfa is a plus in our situation. We also let some of it flower for the bee. Scything alfalfa (we've done some of that where we can't mow) is tough work if you let it get ahead of you. If I wanted to seed in something more manageable like you are describing, I'd look at a perennial clover. The white clover I started grows about 12" high, tolerates the occasional mow, and the bees like it too.
Location: Western Kentucky-Climate Unpredictable Zone 6b
posted 4 years ago
Alfalfa will form a thick wide crown over the years . It also needs to grow tall to be healthy and photosynthesize . It does not mind cutting or grazing but needs height like red clover does . I agree with Ann . White clover is an excellent option for mowable areas . Chickens love it too .
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Location: Greybull WY north central WY zone 4 bordering on 3
posted 4 years ago
They need to specify better. You want white dutch clover not straight white clover for lawn type applications. The one problem with it is if you have kids(or adults) who run in the grass bare foot as the blooms dry bees and that can get you stung for walking on them without shoes.
I have read that the white dutch clover mentioned... fixes at least 300lbs of nitrogen per acre per year according to the USDA.
White clover also is a good source of calcium... great for egg laying chickens.
The leaves and flowers are also edible for humans.
Then all of the pollinators and beneficial insects love the stuff too obviously.
So... with all that being said... I totally top seeded my entire lawn around my house with the stuff. I found a 9lb bag on Amazon for cheap. They were already inoculated with the nitrogen fixing bacteria too. It's beginning to come up now. I can wait to see how the nitrogen hog lawn reacts to natural fertilizer.
I have read that alfalfa fixes nitrogen as well... and has roots that grow up to 15ft long. Sounds like a hardy plant!
Every time you mow you will have root dieback... and the lawn will get fertilized.
Dutch white clover works quite well with regular mowing in my experience. I'll be experimenting with forage chicory this year also. But let's not forget the lowly dandelion, which is as nutritious for stock as nutritious gets. I make sure to broadcast as much dandelion seed as I can on my lawn. Once that root takes hold, it will tolerate darn near any frequency of mowing.
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