Cover Crops: Crimson Clover

My motivations for planting crimson clover included weed suppression, nitrogen fixation, and curiosity about the aesthetics of a crimson field.  The garden plan included a large area (about 50 x 25 feet) allocated to zucchini and vine crops including watermelon, canteloupe, pumpkin, cucumber, and squash, planted in rows spaced between 4 and 6 feet.  To avoid continual weed warfare until these crops could establish themselves in late summer, I sowed crimson clover after the first tilling in late March.  In about a months time it had established a solid cover, reaching about 12 inches high.  Those weeds that emerged within the clover were removed by hand.

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Vine crops were planted in mid May by tilling rows in the clover, and trimming back the clover with the mower to provide sufficient sunlight.  As a legume, crimson clover fixes (deposits) nitrogen from the atmosphere in small nodules on its roots.  My hope is this will fertilize the vine crops, which are heavy feeders.  Shown is a row of pumpkin plants in mid June.  These and the squash have grown well; the zucchini, canteloupe, and watermelon not so well.  Don’t know to what extent this is because of the clover, if at all.  The zucchini is a surprise, the canteloupe and watermelon not so much, as they are finicky.

The plan is to keep the clover trimmed until the vines establish a ground cover.  Then, as an annual, it will winter kill and (hopefully) protect the soil until Spring.  So far, the crimson clover appears to be working out.

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