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Crimson Clover for the bees?

 
Posts: 10
Location: Vashon Island, WA, zone 8
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I planted lots of crimson clover last fall as a cover crop. Then I neglected to cut it down while it was small and it has flowered. It's totally gorgeous. Or it was. I just pulled it all up to use it as slow-release nitrogen in vegetable beds. partly because I remember hearing not to let it go to seed because it will spread like mad. Is this true? (Zone 8b, Vashon Island, Washington)

Since they flowered, I noticed that the bees loved them so I was ambivalent about pulling them up. Even though it's after the fact I thought I might check for next year's purposes... Next year, can/should I plant some for the bees in a place I don't need to pull them up, or will I regret it?

Also, I didn't see root nodules like I see on my fava beans, and they were planted together, so I assume they don't make them. My (possibly incorrect) understanding about using beans for nitrogen fixation, is that you need to cut them at ground level and leave the roots in place, and that's how they'll release their fixed nitrogen. For crimson clover, do I likewise need to leave the roots in place? I didn't this time because I needed to clean some things up, and figured that chop/drop into various beds (or my compost pile) will ultimately accomplish the same goal.

Thanks for helping me understand!
Deborah
 
pollinator
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I can only comment on the bee aspect. They do love clover of all kinds. They also love sainfoin, alfalfa and vetch. I have planted about 10 different kinds of clovers as well as the other things mentioned. If I had to pick what to plant for the bees I'd pick sainfoin. Why? Because it grows so extremely easily for me and spreads so readily. The clover required more effort on my part and still has barely spread.
 
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I think planting more is a great idea. If clover isn't growing on unused portions of your farm, what will be? Grass? I think clover is much better. It's nutritious for livestock of many kinds, good for bees, fixes nitrogen, etc. I'm told that if you don't cut if before it seeds that it won't release nitrogen, but I personally don't care too much. The presence of the microbes that they work with to bring down nitrogen probably increases soil life in total, even if the bacteria they work with just become food for other microbes at the end of the cycle.
 
pollinator
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What would you do if you lived in a suburb?  Would clover or any others be a good cover and not invade the neighbors?  I just put down 8 to 10 inches of chips and want to plant a hot summer cover crop that can survive North Alabama heat.
 
pollinator
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My mother has crimson clover in her front yard in the suburbs. One neighbor doesn't like her meadow style, but there haven't been any problems with it spreading everywhere.
 
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Deborah Epstein wrote:I planted lots of crimson clover last fall as a cover crop. Then I neglected to cut it down while it was small and it has flowered. It's totally gorgeous. Or it was. I just pulled it all up to use it as slow-release nitrogen in vegetable beds. partly because I remember hearing not to let it go to seed because it will spread like mad. Is this true? (Zone 8b, Vashon Island, Washington)

Since they flowered, I noticed that the bees loved them so I was ambivalent about pulling them up. Even though it's after the fact I thought I might check for next year's purposes... Next year, can/should I plant some for the bees in a place I don't need to pull them up, or will I regret it?

Also, I didn't see root nodules like I see on my fava beans, and they were planted together, so I assume they don't make them. My (possibly incorrect) understanding about using beans for nitrogen fixation, is that you need to cut them at ground level and leave the roots in place, and that's how they'll release their fixed nitrogen. For crimson clover, do I likewise need to leave the roots in place? I didn't this time because I needed to clean some things up, and figured that chop/drop into various beds (or my compost pile) will ultimately accomplish the same goal.

Thanks for helping me understand!
Deborah



I use lots of crimson clover and always let it go to seed before cutting it down. (I don't pull it up since it will come back year after year and the dead, laid over plants work as a good seed bed mulch right where they are)

If you are planting several node producing plants in the same area (yes all the clovers will form nodules in the right conditions) the bacteria tend to migrate to those plants sending out the strongest signals to the bacteria.
That means that he who hollers loudest and for the longest period of time gets the treats (the bacteria that form and live in the nodules). Fava beans are really loud when they send exudates they send a lot of the secretions and they tend to keep it up until they receive what they want.
Clovers are a little more relaxed, they don't shout to the roof tops, they just have conversations at the coffee table.

Redhawk
 
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Dennis Bangham wrote:What would you do if you lived in a suburb?  Would clover or any others be a good cover and not invade the neighbors?  I just put down 8 to 10 inches of chips and want to plant a hot summer cover crop that can survive North Alabama heat.



If I want to plant something that spreads readily and I want to control that spread, I plant a staggered, double-row of comfrey as a border.  It works really well to contain things.
 
James Landreth
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Dennis Bangham wrote:What would you do if you lived in a suburb?  Would clover or any others be a good cover and not invade the neighbors?  I just put down 8 to 10 inches of chips and want to plant a hot summer cover crop that can survive North Alabama heat.




As far as suburban plants go, I think clover is fairly innocuous. I don't neighbors would get mad about it spreading, at least not in this region. If you were to plant something like mint though they'd probably notice and get angry. It could be different there though
 
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I think you got most of your questions answered but I love clover.  

I interplant a lot with white, red and crimson clover.  Last year I used a deer mix that had some Italian/ Crimson clover which is actually an annual and has more of a stalk flower than the typical round flower, red clover which is really pinkish and is a perennial.  Depending on your climate there are different uses for each type. Some clovers can act as biennials, some perennial clovers can act as annuals, etc. depending on your climate.    I would research what you want to do with it.    The flowers on the crimson clover are beautiful.  I would say eye-catching.  

I always laugh when I see a huge bumble choose a little clover flower over a huge perennial flower.  

When it comes to bumblebees clover is the first line of defense.  The first Bumbles of the season are queens.  Each individual queen is building an army of pollinators and she needs as much nectar as she can get.  Clover is often the first nectar source for the building the bumble army.  Bumblebees are so desperate for

nectar they may steal it.


I like to use clover in raised beds and hugelkultur because you get a very dense carpeted root mass.  In the photo below I plan on leaving the clover until next spring.
1.jpg
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Red Clover
Crimson-Clover-3.jpg
Crimson Clover
Crimson Clover
Over-seeding-a-hugelkultur-bed.jpg
Over-seeding a hugelkultur bed
Over-seeding a hugelkultur bed
 
Posts: 23
Location: Lake Whatcom and the Acme Valley Washington State
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Here in whatcom county we use clovers everywhere there adde fields and paths.
In the fields we use the red clovers and re seed every year as the red clover reseed itself marginally.
The white clover we use for walking paths.
They have a much higher impact from walking and cart use.  The white clover reseeds itself vigorously and will spread.
So I think your pretty safe using red clover in your area.
 
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Location: Cache Valley, zone 4b, Irrigated, 9" rain in badlands.
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Crimson clover doesn't spread aggressively at my place. It tends to die out quickly.

 
gardener
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Deborah,

I have to tell you that I have been following this thread closely today and you are giving me some pretty good ideas about how I can incorporate crimson clover into my garden.  I have an unused area directly adjacent to two of my garden beds that I may sow with crimson clover seeds.  I would do this specifically for the bees as the clover will be separated from the bed by about 5 feet.  I don’t think the nitrogen will spread that far underground, but maybe I am mistaken.  But I am certain that bees can cross the distance.

Thanks for the great ideas!

Eric
 
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Location: South Mississippi
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Deborah Epstein wrote:I planted lots of crimson clover last fall as a cover crop. Then I neglected to cut it down while it was small and it has flowered. It's totally gorgeous. Or it was. I just pulled it all up to use it as slow-release nitrogen in vegetable beds. partly because I remember hearing not to let it go to seed because it will spread like mad. Is this true? (Zone 8b, Vashon Island, Washington)

Since they flowered, I noticed that the bees loved them so I was ambivalent about pulling them up. Even though it's after the fact I thought I might check for next year's purposes... Next year, can/should I plant some for the bees in a place I don't need to pull them up, or will I regret it?

Also, I didn't see root nodules like I see on my fava beans, and they were planted together, so I assume they don't make them. My (possibly incorrect) understanding about using beans for nitrogen fixation, is that you need to cut them at ground level and leave the roots in place, and that's how they'll release their fixed nitrogen. For crimson clover, do I likewise need to leave the roots in place? I didn't this time because I needed to clean some things up, and figured that chop/drop into various beds (or my compost pile) will ultimately accomplish the same goal.

Thanks for helping me understand!
Deborah


Was your clover inoculated ??? Different legumes need different inoculants. If they were inoculated then it may mean that where you planted that clover had enough nitrogen for them as they only make nodules if then "NEED" more nitrogen. It actually is easier for the plant roots to absorb nitrogen than it is to absorb nitrogen from the air, put that nitrogen in the nodule along with plant sugars to feed the bacteria and for bacteria to change the gas nitrogen into something the roots can absorb. Also crimson clover is at least here in Mississippi (zone 8b) more expensive per acre to plant than Ladino or Fixation clover (they are white clovers). Also crimson clover is one of the lowest palatable clovers to wildlife, cows, sheep etc. vs white clover. Also both fixation and ladino clover makes way more biomass and fix almost 2 times the amount of nitrogen compared to crimson clover. I personally plant 4 acres of garden area each fall/winter  in ladino or fixation clovers and we have mild winters so it grows all winter and starts flowering here in February. I disk it under when 20% starts to flower as this is when it has the maximum biomass and nitrogen fixed. I'm not sure about crimson and what percent is hard seed but hard seed is when the seed has a thick coating on it and the seed can remain viable in the ground for years before it germinates. This is why you should remove, cut or till it in before it seeds especially when some clovers can have over 20% hard seed. If you want your clover to keep growing year after year I would recommend ladino as it is a perennial, where both fixation and crimson are both annuals and will need seed to be bought as the patch declines in population.

Yes all legumes need to have their roots left in the ground to rot and release any nitrogen they "FIXED" but as I said I disk both plant and roots under in my fields but you can chop n drop the tops in place to make a good mulch and they will rot rather quickly and soon worms and other insects will bring this mulch underground where it will add more nutrients too.

I also have another white clove I use but its a low growing type (white dutch clover) and I only plant it in my pathways in the garden. Both it and ladino are perennials the only difference is ladino can grow to 2-3 feet high while dutch grows 2-6 inches tall. Both are good to mix in grass too as they can handle high foot traffic and can take animal pressure (grazing) well. The only down side is it doesn't grow much and can even die in the hottest parts of June-Aug. here. Not sure if Washington gets as hot and humid as here but you may have the same problems there if you also have 90+ deg temps and 90% humidity LOL
 
Posts: 10
Location: Lakes Region, NH
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Deborah, this thread is very helpful.  I know I’m late to the discussion but if anyone sees this, wondering if there are any updates?  I’m considering clover as I tackle an existing blueberry field, 75+ bushes surrounded by grass and weeds needing some TLC.

Suggestions welcome, starting from scratch.  

Hope you’ve made some progress, Deborah!

Deej (NH 5a)
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