How to Plant Clover
Like many things in life, planning and preparation are keys to success and the base from which to start. A food plot plan will give us direction. Do we want to have long term food plots that we simply maintain for several years or do we want to add annual plantings that add diversity to our food plot program? Whatever plan we decide to follow, we must start at the beginning in order to have consistent results. A basic soil test is the basis for food plot success. The results from such a test will give us the guidance we need, to establish a healthy and vigorous food plot.
Soil tests are an economical way to evaluate and understand your soil. Test results are like the instruction booklet on “how to grow food plots”, they will tell you exactly what nutrients and the amount of each your soil requires. By following the soil test’s recommendations the plants nutritional needs are met and the plants are allowed to flourish. A one acre plot that is maintained through proper nutrients and weed control will be more productive and economical than five acres of poor quality, expensive weeds.
Soil preparation begins with the soil test which details the lime and fertilization requirements of the planned crop. From there we can decide how and when to plant our clover crop. Clover is a very versatile plant. It can be planted nearly year-round, by frost seeding in the late winter, sown in early spring with oats, summer or even during the fall with a cover crop of grain for added late season nutrition. The latter being perhaps the most cost efficient in terms of weed control. Although planting equipment is helpful, some have had successful stands of clover with little more than hand tools.
Lime and fertilizer work best by being incorporated into the soil. This can be done at any time and many prefer to add them during initial tillage. Add lime and fertilizer according to the recommendations set forth by the soil test.
For ease of tillage, weeds may be eliminated by applying nonselective herbicides such as glyphosate. If applied several weeks in advance, the decomposing weeds are easily incorporated into the soil during tillage.
Till or disc the soil, lime and fertilizer together, follow with a cultipacker or other device to firmly pack the soil. A cultipacker is the best implement to use for packing the soil, if a cultipacker is unavailable then you can use the ATV or tractor tires, a heavy log or pallet. These other items tend to drag the soil and seed and may make the coverage uneven and the end result less than adequate. Sow the clover seed at the recommended amount and pack again. It is important to sow the seed on a firm seed bed. This will keep the tiny seed from being buried to deeply. No need to cover the seed. Firm seed to soil contact is all that is required.