Clover (Trifolium repens), a legume, is widely grown as an animal forage and grass additive for lawns. It helps to improve the soil nutrients by fixing nitrogen which aids in producing a lush green lawn. The plant can prove invasive in weak, thin lawns and will often dominate. During the summer months clover produces small white or pink flower globes if not regularly mowed. Foliage is normally green, but a few varieties offer red leaves.
Planting Time and Location
Clover prefers a location that offers at least 35 inches of annual rainfall per year or abundant irrigation to maintain moist soil conditions. A soil pH between 6.0 to 7.0 ensures maximum growth of the plant. Clover grows well in a wide range of soils and will even tolerate silt or clay. Planting should occur in the summer or fall to ensure adequate seed germination. Clover grows best in full sunlight but will tolerate partial shade.
Clover Seed Care
Care of clover plants should begin prior to planting the seeds. The plant does best when planted 1/4 inch deep into an existing lawn or pastureland that has been raked. Clover seeds require a firm base to establish their root system, so rolling the seedbed after planting is important for strong root growth to occur.
Clover plants have a symbiotic relationship with a form of bacteria called "rhizobium." The clover provides nutrients to the rhizobium bacteria, and in exchange, the bacteria provides the clover plant with nitrogen. Many locations lack abundant rhizobium bacteria within the soil, and the clover plant will fail to grow or suffer weak growth.
Fertilizing and Grazing
Despite the clover plant's ability to fix nitrogen in its root system, it still requires fertilizing to thrive. Overfertilizing clover can often result in its death. Livestock can graze the clover when it reaches a height of 6 inches.
Clover requires frequent mowing to maintain a healthy height of 1 1/2 inches to 2 inches when first planted. This height allows clover plants to receive ample light for root growth to occur. Once the clover is fully established, it can be allowed to grow a height of 2 1/2-inches to 3 1/2-inches in height between mowings.