Clover is a member of the Trifolium genus, which includes over 300 perennial legumes. One of the most commonly cultivated, generally as fodder for livestock, is white clover (Trifolium repens) which grows from 6 to 8 inches in height. Although clover will survive in dry soil, it thrives in moist, even poorly-drained, soils. While some consider clover in the home garden to be a weed, others plant it as an ornamental ground cover. Clover grows readily from seed.
The ideal time for clover seed germination is the spring, although fall sowing works as well. Early spring presents an opportunity for less competition for the seedlings as broadleaf weeds have yet to germinate. White clover seeds may be sown on frozen ground and will germinate when the soil warms. When temperatures are above 59 degrees Fahrenheit, clover seeds germinate in less than a week.
Many homeowners add clover to an existing lawn. Prepare the lawn before planting by power raking to loosen the soil and give the seeds something to adhere to. When planting in the soil, plow and compact the soil to make it firm. Water the bed deeply -- at least to 10 inches -- before sowing.
Clover seed is quite tiny, so sowing it is a bit more challenging than sowing grass seed. To ensure uniformity, mix the seed with sand or sawdust before adding it to the spreader. Use 2 to 8 oz. of seed per 1,000 square feet when planting in the lawn. The higher rate will ensure more clover than turfgrass. Walk the lawn, spreading the clover seed in a crisscross pattern. When grown in a pasture, sow 2 lbs. of clover seed per acre. Water well after planting, and keep the soil moist until the clover seeds germinate and establish -- at least for the first 10 days.
Clover requires no additional nitrogen fertilizer and, in fact, fails to thrive in heavily fertilized areas because the plant is a legume and obtains nitrogen from the air. Apply phosphate, if needed, in fall or spring, according to the results of a soil test. The clover may require additional nutrients, such as magnesium, depending upon soil type. The county cooperative extension offices offer low-cost, sometimes free, soil tests, and the agents offer suggestions on how to amend your soil.
- University of Minnesota Extension; Clover, How to Grow it/How to Eliminate it; Beth R. Jarvis; September 1998
- Mississippi State University; Clover Provides Nitrogen for Soil, Forage for Cattle; Laura Whelan; March 2004
- United States Department of Agriculture: White Clover
- Outsidepride.com: White Dutch Clover Seed
- Photo Credit Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images