Tuesday, December 29, 2009
Botanical name: Trifolium incarnatum (Fabaceae)
Other name: Scarlet Clover, Italian Clover, German Clover
Crimson clover is a species of clover in the family Fabaceae, native to most of Europe. This upright winter annual herb grows to 20-50 cm tall, unbranched or branched only at the base. The leaves are trifoliate with a long petiole, each leaflet hairy, 8-16 mm across, with a truncated or bilobed apex. The flowers are produced throughout the spring and summer, rich red or crimson, congested on an elongated spike inflorescence 3-5 cm tall and 1.5 cm broad; the individual flowers are up to 10-13 mm long and have five petals. The banner of each flower does not sit upright, but folds forward. It can typically be found in forest margins, fields and roadsides. Popular ornament plant in certain countries.
How to grow
Crimson clover is a cover crop--a plant grown over the winter to help suppress weeds, prevent erosion and build healthier soil. Cover crops are also known as "green manures" because they add valuable organic matter and nutrients to the soil. Crimson clover is an excellent cover crop because it helps fix nitrogen into the soil and its beautiful maroon flowers lure beneficial insects into the garden in spring.
When to sow: Plant crimson clover four weeks before your average first hard frost in fall.
Soil: Tolerance to all types of soil. Prefers loam soils with good drainage.
Light: Full sun
Height: 6-12 inches
Germination: 7-21 days
Optimum soil temperature for germination: 65F-68F
Sowing depth: 1/8"
Blooming period: March-May
Farmers have used this annual clover effectively as a cover crop in corn, soybeans and wheat due to rapid growth during cool weather, shade tolerance and a positive reseeding potential. It is widely used as a winter cover for soil protection or green manure crop for soil improvement. Crimson clover is widely grown as a protein-rich forage crop for cattle and other livestock.