Plant Clover to Improve Soil Health

a patch of white clovera patch of white clover
White Clover

 

Clover’s reputation has waxed and waned over the last century: clover was considered a sign of a well-managed lawn, but once broadleaft herbicides hit the market, clover came to be considered a weed. Today, gardeners are growing wise to the plant’s many benefits! Plant clover in your yard, meadow, or garden, and it will work hard to improve soil health, stabilize your soil, attract pollinators and beneficial insects, and promote a healthy lawn and garden. Not to mention,  cover is edible as well! Where will you plant clover in your landscape?

Plant Problem-Solving Clover Almost Anywhere

Clover is versatile!

With a number of species available, there is a clover for almost any planting situation. Some species thrive in full sun while others grow under shady conditions. One clover may prefer dry soils while others perform well in water-logged sites.

Try mixing clover into a wildflower mix or sowing as a cover crop in your fruit and vegetable gardens. You can plant clover as a component of wildflower meadows, or sow seed directly over your lawn. Many growers plant clover beneath fruit-bearing shrubs, vines, and trees to improve pollination and condition soil.

Clover is easy and affordable to grow from seed!

It's easy to add clover to your lawn, to take advantage of its many useful attributes. It's especially helpful for filling in bare patches of lawn or areas where it's difficult to grow grass. 

Sow in spring after the threat of frost has passed or in autumn, depending on plant species and your location. 

Seed can be sown directly over established turf grasses. Mow your grass at a low setting and gently raking out any built-up thatch. Then mix seed with sand, sawdust, fine compost, or soil, to make even distribution easier. Broadcast seeds over the planting area. After sowing, water the planting site deeply, and keep the soil surface moist until the clover germinates (about 4-6 weeks).

Clover looks great anywhere you plant it!

Clover grows very quickly, bringing with it unexpected beauty. In lawn areas, clover fills empty, brown patches and keeps lawns looking green and lush throughout the season. Plants bloom in a variety of colors, from pink and purple to deep crimson.

Flowers are produced over a long season and attract the beauty of butterflies to the landscape. Plant clover in large masses to cover bare soil or add ornamental interest in fields and weedy areas.

crimson clover and texas bluebonnet aka lupinecrimson clover and texas bluebonnet aka lupine
Soil-improving clovers can be planted with wildflowers to create a beautiful effect, as seen here with Crimson Clover.

Plant Clover to Improve Soil Health

There is so much that clover does to improve your soil health!

  • Clovers produce a combination of tap roots and fibrous roots that help aerate the soil and improve friability, or the loose texture of soils, while also keeping weeds at bay.
  • Clovers can protect soil from wind and water erosion.
  • When used as a cover crop or green manure, decomposing clover adds large amounts of organic matter to the soil.
  • Clover also adds nutrients to your soil, and reduces your need for fertilizers.
  • Clover acts as a natural mulch to protect your soil.

Clover is a legume crop, belonging to the bean and pea family of plants. Legumes perform a unique service among the plant world: nitrogen fixing. They transform nitrogen gas, found in air pockets of soil, into organic compounds that can be used to help fertilize plants. They do this by partnering with beneficial bacteria in the soil called Rhizobia, which grows in rounded nodules along the plant’s roots. Once legumes fix nitrogen, surrounding plants can use the nitrogen compounds to fuel growth. 

This process rejuvinates nutrient-poor soils and reduces the need for fertilizers. Planting clover therefore helps you save money on soil amendements, leads to healthier plant growth, and protects waterways from being polluted by fertilizer runoff. Farmers have long used clover as a rotation among their crops. Gardeners can use clover as a green manure or cover crop, too!

Another way to gain the benefits of nitrogen fixation is to plant clover among other plants. This can be done by incorporating clover into lawns, mixed plantings, or sowing clover as a living mulch or groundcover.

In addition to fixing nitrogen, a living clover mulch keeps soil moist and cool. Lush green cover intercepts the sun, which helps to moderate soil temperatures and reduce evaporation.

Clover's strong root system and dense groundcover will also suppresses the growth of weeds, reducing the need for herbicides.

A honeybee visits a patch of red clover.A honeybee visits a patch of red clover.
A honeybee visits a patch of Red Clover.

Plant Clover to Attract Pollinators & Beneficial Insects

Pollinators love clover!

Clover is one of honeybees’ favorite foods. If you’ve eaten honey, it was most likely clover honey! Providing food for honeybees reaches far beyond the production of nature’s sweetener -- feeding pollinators is critically important to crop production on any scale, from large farms to our own gardens. Around one in three foods we eat depends upon honeybees for pollination!

Unfortuantely, honeybee populations are in decline, and scientists link this loss to the eradication of clover, dandelions, and other flowering “weeds” from lawns across the country. Planting clover in your lawn and landscape is one way to help boost the honeybee population! You will also find many other types of native bees visiting clover blossoms, including bumblebees, which are also important pollinators.

You can feel good about planting clover to provide habitat for native bees and honeybees, and your garden will benefit from these winged visitors, too. Just like commercial crops, many fruit and vegetable garden plants require bees for pollination. By planting clover among our crops, we invite bees into the garden to pollinate our plants, which will help boost their productivity for more delicious food to harvest. 

Why do we love beneficial bugs?

In addition to pollinators, other beneficial insects are attracted to clover. Helpful garden predators such as ladybugs, minute pirate bugs, lacewings, and parasitoid wasps (specialized non-stinging predators), will feed on the nectar and pollen of clover. These bugs are beneficial because they feed on aphids, whiteflies, scales, cabbage worms, and other garden pests that can be harmful to your plants. When we plant clover and other flowers to attract these natural predators, we take a big step toward managing pest problems in the garden -- without the use of chemical herbicides, which are harmful to people, plants, and animals!

Purple Prairie CloverPurple Prairie Clover
Purple Prairie Clover
strawberry cloverstrawberry clover
Strawberry Clover
Crimson CloverCrimson Clover
Crimson Clover

Plant Clover for a Healthy, Beautiful Lawn & Garden

Who doesn’t want an easier-to-manage lawn?

When we intermix clover in our lawns, turf grasses gain the benefits of improved soil health. Clover fixes nitrogen that feeds grasses, reducing the need for fertilizer applications. Because clover helps maintain soil moisture and suppress weeds, clover lawns require less water and herbicide. 

To top it off, clover is immune to “dog patch” – those yellow rings left behind when dogs relieve themselves on turf.

And clover provides a lush green carpet that is soft and cool on bare feet.

Clover lawns also provide an indirect service to our flower and vegetable gardens. Deer and rabbits prefer clover over your garden treasures. Rather than sacrificing your lettuce crop or favorite hosta, plant a buffet of clover to satisfy hungry foragers. You’ll enjoy watching deer, rabbits, and even turkey, while protecting your garden.

Red CloverRed Clover
Red Clover

Plant Clover for Edible and Medicinal Use

In case you need one more reason to plant clovers, they are also edible and medicinal. Okay, that’s two reasons. Red and white clover in particular, are packed with vitamins, minerals, and a wide range of nutrients that support a healthy, heart, liver, and other important functions.

Clovers also have a long history as medicinal plants. They are used as an ingredient in topical salves for pain-relief and anti-inflammatory properties.

Clover is high in anti-oxidants and favored as a cleansing tea. Clover is a powerful herb, so be sure to thoroughly research specific clover species and their suggested uses before consuming.

How would you eat them? Clover flowers make a colorful addition to green salads and spruce up stir-fries. Steep fresh or dried blossoms in your tea for a sweet, anise-like flavor. Choose young, bright blooms for the best flavor.

Plant Clover Seeds!

  1. Soil Boost & Pollinator Seed Mix

    Our Pollinator Cover Crop Seed Mix features a varied mix of easy-to-grow legumes, including Clover, Alfalfa, Vetch, and Sainfoin. Small white, pink, purple, and gold flowers attract ...

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    Pollinator Cover Crop Seed Mix Balansa Clover, Berseem Clover, Yellow Sweet Clover, Sainfoin, Hairy Vetch & Alfalfa Trifolium michelianum Savi, Trifolium alexandrinum, Melilotus officinalis, Onobrychis vicifolia, Vicia villosa & Medicago sativa
    As low as $9.95
    Per 1 Pound
    Our Pollinator Cover Crop Seed Mix features a varied mix of easy-to-grow legumes, including Clover, Alfalfa, Vetch, and Sainfoin. Small white, pink, purple, and gold flowers attract and nourish pollinators. Hardworking legumes suppress weeds, fix nutrients into the soil, improve soil condition, and prevent erosion. This is an excellent choice for groundcover and covercrops, as well as lawn replacement, or adding to a wildflower meadow. All of the seed we carry at American Meadows is non-GMO, neonicotinoid-free and guaranteed to grow.
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  2. Yellow Blossom Clover Seeds, Melilotus officinalis, Yellow Blossom Sweet Clover Seeds

    Plant Yellow Blossom Clover as a cover crop to bring potassium, phosphorus and nitrogen to the surface of the soil. This drought-resistant clover is a vigorous grower, withstanding m...

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    Yellow Blossom Clover Seeds Yellow Blossom Sweet Clover Seeds Melilotus officinalis
    As low as $24.95
    Per 5 Pounds
    Plant Yellow Blossom Clover as a cover crop to bring potassium, phosphorus and nitrogen to the surface of the soil. This drought-resistant clover is a vigorous grower, withstanding many conditions.
    Learn More
  3. White Clover Seeds, Trifolium repens

    This legume is a vigorous, easy-to-grow clover that will produce large, white blooms. White Clover is perfect for using as a cover crop. Perennial. (Trifolium repens)...

    Learn More
    White Clover Seeds White Clover Trifolium repens
    As low as $9.95
    Per 1 Pound
    This legume is a vigorous, easy-to-grow clover that will produce large, white blooms. White Clover is perfect for using as a cover crop. Perennial. (Trifolium repens)
    Learn More
  4. White Dutch White Clover Seeds, Trifolium repens, Dutch White Clover Seeds

    Dutch White Clover is one of the most popular clovers used in lawns, but also has many other uses. Plant this perennial clover as a cover crop, groundcover, for erosion control or in...

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    Dutch White Clover Seeds Dutch White Clover Seeds Trifolium repens
    As low as $38.95
    Per 5 Pounds
    Dutch White Clover is one of the most popular clovers used in lawns, but also has many other uses. Plant this perennial clover as a cover crop, groundcover, for erosion control or in your pasture mixture. The elegant, white flowers create a sweeping carpet of white. (Trifolium repens)
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  5. Berseem Clover Close Up

    Berseem clover suppresses weeds, prevents erosion, and fixes nitrogen in the soil. Often called the “king of forage” Berseem germinates rapidly, grows quickly, and produces abund...

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    Berseem Clover Seeds Berseem Clover Trifolium alexandrinum
    As low as $4.95
    Per 1/4 Pound
    Berseem clover suppresses weeds, prevents erosion, and fixes nitrogen in the soil. Often called the “king of forage” Berseem germinates rapidly, grows quickly, and produces abundant biomass which breaks down to replenish organic matter. Attracts pollinators and other beneficial insects. A green manure crop that does not re-seed in the garden. (Trifolium alexandrinum)
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  6. Pink and White Alsike Clover Seeds, Trifolium hybridum, Alsike Clover

    Similar to Red Clover, this legume is more adaptable to a variety of soil types and is extremely easy to grow in almost any condition. Perennial. (Trifolium hybridum)...

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    Alsike Clover Seeds Alsike Clover Trifolium hybridum
    As low as $29.95
    Per 5 Pounds
    Similar to Red Clover, this legume is more adaptable to a variety of soil types and is extremely easy to grow in almost any condition. Perennial. (Trifolium hybridum)
    Learn More
  7. White Ladino Clover Seeds, Trifolium repens, White Ladino Clover

    This legume is a vigorous, easy-to-grow clover that will produce large, white blooms. White Ladino Clover is perfect for using as a cover crop. Perennial. (Trifolium repens)...

    Learn More
    White Ladino Clover Seeds White Ladino Clover Trifolium repens
    As low as $9.95
    Per 1 Pound
    This legume is a vigorous, easy-to-grow clover that will produce large, white blooms. White Ladino Clover is perfect for using as a cover crop. Perennial. (Trifolium repens)
    Learn More
  8. Strawberry Clover Seeds, Trifolium fragiferum Close Up Flowers

    Strawberry clover is a low-growing perennial used as a green manure and cover crop, particularly among perennials. Deep tap roots condition soil while stolons (horizontal roots) spre...

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    Strawberry Clover Seeds Strawberry Clover Trifolium fragiferum
    As low as $10.95
    Per 1/4 Pound
    Strawberry clover is a low-growing perennial used as a green manure and cover crop, particularly among perennials. Deep tap roots condition soil while stolons (horizontal roots) spread to form a dense mat of sod excellent for weed suppression. Pink flowers attract bumble bees, honey bees and other pollinators. Ideal groundcover beneath fruiting trees and vines. (Trifolium fragiferum)
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