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Dutch white clover as living mulch - do tell...  RSS feed

 
Lindsey Jane
Posts: 27
Location: Kitsap Penninsula, WA
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Who here has had experience using dutch white clover (not crimson or the other varieties) as a living mulch, soil enricher?

I have a couple friends that use it widely on their 20 acre farm and they jokingly say they are "clover farmers" - I think it looks gorgeous and soft.

I have sandy, rocky soil with low nutrient content. We bought this land from a family that pretty much used it as a giant breathing trash heap and I'm still pulling tires, alternators and screen doors out of the neglected pasture. My garden area struggles to provide adequate  food stuffs because the nutrient level is so low (we've only been on our land a year). Garden area has been tilled under several times and is rich in plantain, dandelion, and various other plants that like that soil and are working hard to restore it. I gave up sheet mulching/lasagna gardening a long time ago in my previous garden in the wake of a slug vs. veggies apocalypse and now just amend with organic fertilizer and side dress with compost. This is not a good long term solution for the sheer size of our food garden and i'm looking for something, well, something just BETTER.

Anyhow - I wanted to get some information from anyone else who has used it long term. I know I saw a thread here at one time, but upon going back, I can't seem to locate it, so I'm sorry if I'm posting redundantly.

In peace and hard at work - thanks friends!
 
William Bronson
Posts: 1321
Location: Cincinnati, Ohio,Price Hill 45205
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I'm eager to see some responses. I have tried to establish this clover in my garden paths and lawn,but the "weeds" out compete the clover.
I've had better results from alfalfa,but that ain't nice on the feet.
 
Travis Johnson
pollinator
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I am curious as to why you detest Red Clover?

On my farm it is a mainstay, not only for fodder for my sheep, but for nitrogen fixation. It amounts to 100 pounds of nitrogen per acre...that is HUGE. And it just cannot be killed off. It passes through the 4 stomachs of ruminant animals without breaking down so when you spread the manure on the fields, red clover comes right back. You can see it in ribbons of white clover where the trucks have passed. But it cannot be killed by mechanical means. Last year I crop rotated the field from corn to grass and never got it sown down in time, YET despite deep tillage and many passes of secondary tillage, it came back to thick red clover without any help.

This year I got a USDA grant to renew the field. I soil tested it and there is no need for nitrogen as it has plenty (thanks Red Clover), is high in organic matter, and pretty good on phosphate and potash as well. The silly thing is, I am tilling that red clover under just to replant it back to red clover as per USDA-NRCS rules!

I dislike white clover because it does not germinate well. It does okay, but it really takes 2 years for a field of it to really get established, and by that I mean, a lot of farmers have tilled their fields following sowing a field into white clover thinking the seed was bad. Nope, just takes 2 years for it too really germinate. You do not get that problem with red clover at all.
 
William Bronson
Posts: 1321
Location: Cincinnati, Ohio,Price Hill 45205
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Detest? Not I. But it is grows too tall for to use as a  lawn or as a living mulch.
As a green manure it sounds divine.
 
Gregg Carter
Posts: 24
Location: Alabama
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When I was a teen, I convinced my grandfather to let me plant white clover in the middles of a small patch of corn instead of using commercial fertilizer. I was responsible for mowing the middles of the test field. The corn in the test patch did almost as well as the corn in the conventional patch. I am convinced had he let me do it the next year it would have been as good if not better, but he didn't.
 
Bryant RedHawk
gardener
Posts: 2394
Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
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White clover (Dutch white) is a low growing (under 8 inches) nitrogen fixer that averages 10 nodes per main root. The nitrogen contained in the leaves will become available upon cutting and decomposition, the nitrogen in the nodes is only available once the plant dies.
If you are trying to increase friability of soil a mix of plants works best. For a low growing series of plants, Dutch white clover, creeping thyme, short fescues and radishes will add many nutrients to the soil profile as they are mowed to a 2 inch maintenance level over the growing season.
When used as a perennial set these plants will continue to increase nutrient and humus content.

I used these plants to improve several hundred acres of worn out horse pasture in California and I also used them to improve soil conditioning in New York Apple orchards.
They also work in vineyards.

Redhawk
 
Kyle Neath
Posts: 70
Location: High Sierras, CA 6400'
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I'll echo what Travis said about germination, but maybe germination is the wrong word. I often see plants so small they're easy to miss the first year. I've been spreading white clover all over my parents yard for two years now, especially in places where I've disturbed the soil and paths between garden beds. The first year, it seemed like nothing worked at all. But two years later, I've noticed quite a few large patches of it all over the places I scattered it.

I think it's a great passive soil enricher — possibly the best behaving living mulch for annual gardens I've ever worked with. Easy to rip up, hard to get established. But I think you might want to look into a more vigorous green manure crop if you're looking to make a large, quick step in fertility.
 
David Hernick
Posts: 61
Location: Oakland, CA
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Check out his thread & the Helen Atthowe video on planting in white clover. https://permies.com/t/6540/clover-Living-mulch
I had a quarter acre garden in the Kitsap Pennisula years ago and understand where you are coming from.  I miss sandy soil now that I garden on expansive clay.  I know you only want info on white clover, but strawberry clover is very similar and I find it just as useful.  Subterrain clover has a similar growth habit but is annual and therefore does not suck up water in the summer, it is also great at suffocating weeds once you get it going.
 
Wendy Wagner
Posts: 8
Location: Pacific NW
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I put New Zealand white clover into an empty bed last year--the bed is on a slope, and I forgot to mulch it the winter before, and it had eroded nastily. I chucked seeds out in late April or so, and the clover was established enough by August that I was able to start using it for chop and drop. I only had flowers in there last year, but they grew very well, and soil quality increased amazingly. At the beginning of the summer, water just ran right off the bed and everything in there required constant attention, but by the end of the summer, water vanished into the soil and I watered that bed about half as much as the rest of my annual beds.

In the fall, I ripped out some of the clover and transplanted strawberries into that bed. I use shears to cut the clover down to about three inches tall whenever I think about it, and I occasionally go through and rip out some aggressive runners that might crowd the berry plants. The strawberries in this bed are significantly taller than the ones I transplanted into a bed mulched with wood chips and are producing at the same rate as my third strawberry patch, which has been mulched with compost. The really nice thing about the clover-and-strawberry patch is that even in our last streak of warm weather, I didn't need to water at all.

Obviously not a scientific sort of study, but so far I am pretty pleased with the process. I added some of the NZ white clover to the annual bed where I've got my zucchini, and am eager to see what happens.
 
dirk maes
Posts: 70
Location: belgium
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White 'dutch' clover is a native plant where i live.
I have only used it in 2 successive years, a low growing species ( they do exist ) and then only in my cabbage-patch. Whit good results.
Its known that clover is a good  insect repellent for cabbages . Science proves it.
But its a pain the next year too get it worked under.
In permanent grassland its a excellent nitrogen fixer.
Its a bees paradise in summer .
But if you want to improve the quality of your soil you have to look at other options. Mulching, compost and adding clay derivatives if you're on sandy soils.
Sowing dutch clover is a plus for your patch but it is susceptible too droughts.
It will generate  enough biomass to use it as a biomass producer to use as a mulch or to let it overwinter.
 
m c nestor
Posts: 25
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Our lawn in the house where I grew up was largely white clover and lawn daisies. We lived in Ohio and so drought was seldom a problem. It held up to up to twenty children running on it over many years. We even rode our bikes on it. We live in Virginia now and, again, we have white clover in the lawn. I planted a patch to have a small lawn in the back last year but it was completely taken over by some grass (not Bermuda). I turned the later under and planted my garden there this year with a smaller patch on clover in a center circle. I need more room for vegetables so I turned it under and now have my cabbages planted there. The garden is doing spectacularly.  I planning on planting crimson and red clovers on new beds this fall. My niece, who has an organic farm, does this on a large scale and mows it down in late spring in time to plant more crops. It's a beautiful sight to see.
 
William Lee
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I have an acre lot with a couple of small gardens and I love white clover. I bag mow my lawn and take nutrient from areas where it is not be needed to areas where it is needed. White clover spreads by stolons and seed. I've noticed when I spread grass/clover clippings especially this month (june 7b) with good rain tons of clover bloom that I get white clover popping up from my grass clippings deposit as long as they are thickly dropped. So I try to strategically bomb white clover around my yard to propagate and like to do this before it rains. Works a charm for me. I keep strips unmowed for the bees and let the clover kinda lose color 10 days~. I think its great ground cover yard, farm, whatever, loves my blackberries. 1 problem is that I'm Buddhist and try to not take life and those bees all over my yard make mowing so slow lol bumblebees get out the way good but honey bees you almost have to go around.
 
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