Trifolium incarnatum Tender biennial legume. Up to 18". Vigorous clover for cover cropping and bee forage. Rapid growth in cool weather makes this an excellent spring or fall green manure. Stunning crimson spikes make good cutflowers. Flowers produce a lot of nectar and attract several species of bees. More disease-resistant than other annual clovers. Will grow in most well-drained soils. Easy to mow. Survives a 28° frost, dies at hard frost. Seed at 25-50#/acre, 1½#/1000 sq ft.
As cover crop: Good orchard cover crop because it tolerates shade and its fast germination and thick growth provide good weed control. Good between garden rows making a thick dark green carpet. Biennial, often—but not always—winter-killed in Maine, forms a thick mat that can be easily raked off garden beds in spring.
The Trifolium genus is home to more than 300 species, most of which are native to the northern hemisphere (a few pop up in Africa and South America). Clover is versatile, performs well in Maine’s cool humid climate and acidic soils, fixes atmospheric nitrogen, and attracts pollinators—what more could you ask for? The taller red clovers are better hay plants, as they have a more erect habit and greater biomass, and they dry more easily. Red clover blossoms, fresh or dried, make one of our favorite teas. White clovers perform better in pastures and lawns, as they tolerate close mowing (or nibbling) and heavy traffic. No matter what kind of clover you choose, be sure to plant plenty to increase your chances of finding those lucky four-lobed specimens: a survey of approximately 7 million clovers found that 1 in 5,000 clover leaves exhibit this trait!
Clover may be planted from late winter through early fall. Seedlings are slow to establish and will benefit from a nurse crop of oats. If a crop of annual weeds comes up with your clover, all is not lost: keep the plot regularly mowed and by midseason the clover will have outcompeted the weeds. Most clovers are pre-inoculated and clay-coated with an OMRI-approved coating.