Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Crimson Clover as a Groundcover and Green Manure

We have very poor and hard soil. I ordered a big bulk bag of crimson clover in the fall of last year for the purpose of sowing any bare patches in our yard (mostly backyard) and on the vacant lot in certain areas as an experiment.

I don't have any seed distributing tools, so I just hand-sowed it in a lot of places that tend to wash out or remain bare. J had done some digging here and there, and after covering those areas back over with dirt, they were bare, too. So I sowed.

First, I sowed too thickly. Some of the ground was softer (where he had dug) and the rest was very solid and hard. I was determined to simply sow, to see which would grow and which would not. My hopes were that at least we'd have a nice green to fill in the bald patches, and at the best, I'd be adding some nutrients back into the bad soil. I had modest hopes that the hardpan might nurture just enough of the clover to reclaim some of it slowly to better tilth (is that the correct term for soil texture?) and fertility.

The seeds sown on the hardpan sat there...for at least a couple of weeks. Then when it rained, the rain washed the seeds into concentrated clusters wherever there was a crack or tuft of greenery, leaving the bare patches still bare but growing overpopulations of seeds in concentrated clusters. Call it Midget Clover...too tightly packed per square inch and not growing well because of being crowded. In the yard areas, however, because the bare patches were hemmed in by regular lawn grass, there was no run-off when it rained, and these areas sprouted very lovely drifts of green clover mounds. None have bloomed, but so far all have survived the initial growth and a couple of lawn-mowings. It also turned the backyard less into a sod farm and more into a soft meadow-type look, which I much prefer. My daughter remarked at one point how beautiful the clover was with its visual softening effect when mixed into the lawn that way. We also sowed it in places J had filled and raised, to help avoid erosion.

Now the clover green has faded a bit, and we'll see what happens as it matures. My hope was that it would produce the crimson blossoms. I'm always wanting to see honey bees, and I'm not sure if this is their favorite type of clover, but it is MY favorite color of clover bloom. Here's hoping we might see some.

Would I plant this again? I'd scratch the surface of the hardpan areas, or it's just a waste of seed. I'm not sure clover is going to be the answer to large areas in the same way buckwheat or alfalfa would be, as far as getting far down and bringing up nutrients as a green manure. But I will consider it as a row cover between rows, and in erosion areas. Let's see how it weathers the very hot summers here. If it thrives, it's a Yes. If it doesnt, well let's see.

This is just an update. More later as the seasons progress :)

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