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Cover Crops for Vegetable Growers

White CloverDutch White Clover

Dutch white clover PDF file

Dutch white clover is a slow-growing, nitrogen-fixing perennial. Once established, it provides long-term cover, either alone or with a turfgrass such as LoGro. It is often used in high traffic areas to minimize soil compaction and improve soil health. White clover tolerates wet conditions.

Land preparation
Use conventional tillage, maintain a firm seedbed.

Seeding rate
Drill 5-9 lb/ac.
Broadcast 7-14 lb/ac.
After seeding, roll the ground to improve seed-to-soil contact but do not break up soil aggregates.

Seeding date
Fall: August 15-September 10, alone or with annual grass cover.
Spring: As early as possible, may be frost seeded like medium red clover.

Seed Source
American Seed Co., Seedway. Specify Dutch white clover, which is a low-growing type used for cover crops. Avoid other white clovers.

Maintenance
Used in high traffic areas, including permanent walkways; sometimes mixed with turf grass.
Mow close to the ground to prevent the plants from making seed and for appearance.

Control
White clover propagates by seed or creeping stolons which root at the nodes. Uproot and incorporate to control. This cover crop is difficult to control with herbicides; glyphosate at 1 lb/ac will suppress but not kill white clover. To eliminate white clover when it is used as a turf (and adjacent vegetables are out of the field), consult turf herbicide recommendations.

Tips
Tolerates shade and can be used as a companion crop with alfalfa or perennial ryegrass.
Frost seed into winter cover crop in the spring.
White clover crop is very tolerant of wet growing conditions.
Wait two years before planting a vegetable legume because white clover is a host for root rot diseases such as Pythium and Rhizoctonia.