Benefits of Fall-Planted Clover
Clover is a very versatile plant. The ability to plant clover during any season makes it a preferred crop of farmers and food plotters alike. Each planting season has its advantages. Fall plantings of clover with a cover crop of winter rye, oats or wheat are trouble free. Annual weeds will perish in cold weather leaving only the clover and grain in the spring. Many other weeds will not flourish because of allelochemicals present in the soil. Fall planted clover is already established by the following spring. Clover and grains will be actively growing before frost seeded or spring seeded clover germinates, giving you a head start on early high protein food sources.
Weed Control for Fall-Planted Clover
Fall planted crops allow for summer long soil preparation. You will have time to plant a short season crop such as buckwheat. This will allow you to build your soil with green manure and also allows time for soil additions such as lime and fertilizers recommended by your soil test. You may also choose to disturb the soil a few times through the summer allowing the weed seed bank to germinate between herbicide applications or tillage. This will dramatically decrease weeds for the following years.
The Role of Moisture for Fall Planting
Fall moisture tends to stay in the ground longer than midsummer. Cooler temps and fewer weeds leave soil moisture for the newly planted crop. If your area receives adequate fall moisture, your crop will germinate and establish before going dormant after frost. The established clover will quickly revive in the spring and have all the moisture it needs to flourish. Spring planted crops generally have excessive moisture, then drought while they are just becoming established. During the drought they are fighting dominant weeds for moisture and nutrients.
The Fall Season Draw from Fall Planted Clover
Newly established fall plots are a great draw for deer during hunting season. Tender clover will be available early season and if a cover crop of grain was included in the newly established fall plot, then the whitetail draw will last all winter right into spring and beyond. White clover planted in late summer/early fall should be planted early enough to become well established, because fall freezing and thawing can really heave the small, shallow-rooted plants. Seeding about 40 days before the first killing frost is usually enough time. Fall planting works awesome for annual plots of clover and cereal grains or perennial plots of clover with a nurse crop of cereal grain or fall planted brassicas. Fall plots create relatively weed free, care free crops for your food plot program.