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clover as nitrogen fixing living mulch


Joined: Feb 13, 2011
Posts: 8
Location: Driftless Region
So I have just been getting my garden going, after moving on to this old soy field. Lots of weeds to combat. I put raspberries and asparagus in last spring and laid down a thick layer of white clover seeds around the plants. so far so good, growing in thick and holding the weeds at bay as best as possible, but allowing for intended plants to grow well. My question is- Is the nitrogen being held by the clover since they are living, and not being released to the plants? or are they sharing? I am hoping they create a beneficial environment for each other, but now Im begging to question my self. Thanks for any thing. J

William James

Joined: Sep 22, 2010
Posts: 951
Location: Northern Italy
Welcome to the debate of the year.

From what I have heard, there is some sharing going on between still-living nitrogen-fixing plants and other plants that need nitrogen.

I have also heard that Fukuoka "stressed" his clover by cutting it back. The clover drops it's root nodules, there's a general boost of free nitrogen in the area, and other plants gobble that up. The clover grows back and can be stressed again later on.

Casey Halone

Joined: Feb 09, 2011
Posts: 192
I observed the grass in my lawn was much less dead and more green next to the clover. Grass likes N so by my observations it does help and would chop and drop so it is composting back into your soils as well as root pruning the good stuff.

William James

Joined: Sep 22, 2010
Posts: 951
Location: Northern Italy
Clover is also just a beautiful plant. Nice to have around. Covers things, keeps things fertile, looks good as an edge.

I would suggest it's other friends -- especially if you have a field to cover, you might want to vary your nitrogen fixing plants and throw some nitrogen scavenger like oats (10-40% compared to the clover) or other annual cereal crops to balance the nitrogen and create more biomass.

Bird's Foot Trefoil

Yellow Sweet Clover

I've seen seed mixes that do this mixing for you (but you are more limited in your choice of N-fixers) and is sold as field grass for pretty cheap. I found this out after having made my own mix spending a small fortune.
Eric Thompson

Joined: Apr 23, 2011
Posts: 319
Location: Bothell, WA - USA
I keep white clover as a living mulch for brassicas, burdock, jerusalem artichoke, and other things that are mostly above 6"... I don't think it's so important to worry if nitrogen is released in summer or winter - just treat it as a long term gain..

Asparagus seems like a great fit for living clover mulch! I had a question on raspberries if you've seen it: are new sprouts able to come through pretty easily? I've been using wood chips to mulch raspberries, but maybe I should consider living clover mulch?

Dan alan

Joined: Feb 16, 2012
Posts: 40
I think it does share nitrogen if the right fungus is in the soil. There is a lot of debate, seems like this was discussed in one of the podcast..


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