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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I've been doing a bit of reading on planting clover and have a few questions.

I really don't want to use chemicals nor do I have the equipment to rid the ground of all the existing plant life. What kind of success do people have by simply mowing the existing grass/weeds to as low as possible and then slit seeding clover?

Also I've heard fall is the best time to plant. I'm in Northern Illinois and I'd guess there is some point at which you would no longer want to plant clover. Any idea on what the best date would be? Hopefully I haven't missed it.

How important would a soil test be or can I get away with just tossing some lime or doing nothing at all?

Any ideas, input or advice would be greatly appreciated as there seems to be "Strong opinion" out there on just about everything...as usual I guess :)

~Matt
 

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MJuric, What type of clover do you want to plant? If you are planting white dutch lawn clover in your existing lawn, just sow the seed by hand or use one of those hand crank spreaders. From now till the first snow is a great time to sow clover. John
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
MJuric, What type of clover do you want to plant? If you are planting white dutch lawn clover in your existing lawn, just sow the seed by hand or use one of those hand crank spreaders. From now till the first snow is a great time to sow clover. John
I have probably 1 1/2 acres of "Field" that the ground cover is mostly grass/weeds.

I have a small orchard planted, ~30 trees, with areas for some grape vines and putting in some beds for mellons/blueberries/strawberries asparagus.

I want to plant certain areas in Sweet yellow/White clover and just let it grow and other areas in White Dutch to mow as necessary for a path in between fruit trees, beds and trelleses.

The hopeful end result is to have much less to mow, some nice bee food and something more pleasant to look at than ratty grass, weeds etc :)

I hope, this fall, to put in a strip of wild flowers as well and eventually have an area for Borage and Hyssop as well.

If simply sowing the stuff will work I'd LOVE to go that way. I can pick up a spreader for cheap and just spread seed roughly where I want it and be done.

If that would work that would be perfect but I keep hearing people talking about Aerating, thatching, power racking, discing etc etc just to get the ground ready for clover.

The less work the better and I would be willing to accept mediocre results if it meant much less work :)

I'm certainly not worried about having a "Pristine space" but I also don't want to buy a hundred dollar in seeds and get nothing out of it.

~Matt
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Wont the grass over take it in the spring? I have that problem I think.?
Seems like there is very conflicting info on this. On one hand I read things like "Clover is very hardy and will choke out everything else". The I read things like "You better kill everything first or else the clover will be overtaken"

I'm not a fan of spraying 2 acres of roundup and not crazy about paying or renting equipment to disc it all up. Not to mention the work.

Slit seeding seemed like a decent alternative for seeding but won't help with the clover being overtaking.

If you can have some success with just sowing the seeds, well then I'd probably be good with that as the seeds are not terribly expensive and then just come back and reseed a couple years in a row.

~Matt
 

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The white clover in my yard has held it's own for years. Then i planted Zoysia grass. Boy is it great! It WAS, at least, until I got bees and realized that my beautiful zoysia was consuming my other grass, weeds and CLOVER! Now I am going to have to plant clover in another weedy area of my yard.

I am a gardener by trade and in my experience if you DON'T want clover there it will thrive! :rolleyes:

There is nothing like keeping bees to make you appreciate the most noxious of weeds! Kudzu is currently at the top of my list!:D
 

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MJuric,

Here's what I would do now that you explained your plan a little better. Mow the whole field down, you could do this anytime now, mark out where you want your paths to be either with stakes, or you could even mow the path areas down lower than the rest of the field. Sow your dutch clover seed on the paths. Dutch clover will germinate very well in existing grass, so long as the grass is cut short regularly. In all honesty, its better to sow the sweet clover seed on exposed dirt, rather than just sowing it among grass and existing weeds, less competition is much better for getting a stand of sweet clover going. However if you can't plow or rototill those areas up, it will still germinate pretty good among grass and weeds, just not as good as in dirt. Sweet clover takes two years to flower from seed. If the sweet clover is planted early enough this fall it may be able to germinate and grow a few inches tall, and more importantly establish a deep taproot before winter, then next year it will bloom. If it doesn't germinate till next spring, then you won't get flowers till the following year.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Well that sounds pretty much like what I wanted to do but was getting concerned that the Clover wouldn't take at all on anything other than tilled soil.

Thanks for the info.

~Matt
 

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If i was wanting to plant clover in a area i would atleast get a soil sample so i would know what i needed to add to the soil before i threw clover seed all over and then later on wondered why it didnt grow! IMO
 

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I own a vegetable farm and have a lot of experience using white, red and crimson clover in my fields. I don't have much experience with sweet clover.

First point- most big land grant universities do soil testing for home gardeners for very little cost. Here in SW Virginia, Virginia Tech I think charges $5-10 for a test ($0 if you're a commercial farmer). It's a few bucks well spent. Clovers will NOT tolerate acidic soil, so at the very least get a pH reading and adjust with lime if needed. You're local extension office can help you with all of that.

As for getting clover established in your field, the amount of work you need to do really depends on your goals. If all you're looking to do is get some more clover into your grass, then you definitely do no need to till anything up. I have had very good success "frost sowing" clover into fields in the late winter time- around here late February/early March works best. Basically, you just broadcast your seed when it's warm enough in the day to thaw the ground, but still cold enough at night to freeze the ground back up. The freeze/thaw cycle "heaves" the soil up and down and works your seed into the soil, where it will remain dormant until spring warms up the soil enough for the seed to germinate and take off. You can actually do this trick at any point in the winter as long as the ground is not completely frozen, but the closer to spring that you do it the less chance that the seed will rot before it germinates. It works extremely well- every February I actually keep a few handfuls of white clover seed in my coat pocket whenever I'm out walking my fields, and just casually scatter it as I go...I'm always amazed how well the clover takes off come spring time. Of course the field will not become all clover with this method- the clover just becomes established underneath the other grasses in the field- livestock and bees make good use of it throughout the summer.

If your goal, however, is to create paths of low-growing clover that do not need mowing, you really do need to clear the exisiting vegetation from the field. If you live in a rural area it wouldn't be hard to find somebody to do some custom tractor work. Put an ad up on craigslist. Paying somebody to plow, and then come back a few weeks later and disk a few acres shouldn't set you back much more then $100. Broadcast your clover seed after the first disking, then ask them to disk it one more time to get the seed in the soil. Besides for drilling seed into tilled ground, this is your best bet for getting a field of clover established. It is some work up front, but your field will need very little maintainence once established- the white clovers self-seed like crazy, so even if they die back in the heat of the summer, they'll come right back in the fall.

As Gene Lodgson points out in his book "All Flesh is Grass"- any field of mixed grass/weeds east of the Rockies will eventually become a field of white clover and bluegrass if regularly mowed. This would be the easiest method of all to get a field of "weeds" into clover.

Hope this helps!
 

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I keep most of my hives at a blueberry/truck farmer. He had an amazing stand of crimson clover this spring. All he did was cut the grass in and around his blueberry rows, then seed the fall before.
 
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