The onset of spring brings on a variety of new growth and changes to wildlife habitat. As soil temperatures rise from the cold of winter, we see all types of new vegetation growing. Fall food plots planted with annual grains such as wheat, oats and rye start to progressively mature, showing evidence grazing has come to an end. Areas where clover was planted may now have unwanted broadleaf plants and grasses that will start to compete with the clover you worked hard to establish the previous fall. Early spring maintenance, including fertilization and control of unwanted plants, is essential to maintain healthy clover throughout the year.
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Cleaning up your clover of any unwanted plant species will allow the clover to reach maturity. Wild rye grass (genus Elymus) is one the most common of the grasses that creep into clover plots whereas broadleaf plants may vary depending on the region of the country the plot is located. Some species such as Buckhorn Plantain (Plantago lanceolate) and Henbit deadnettle (Lamium amplexicaule) are some common broadleaf plants you may see.
While the fall plantings of wheat, oats and rye grain have served their purpose for fall and winter feeding, they can now be a competitor to your clover and should be removed with herbicide.
Herbicide can be applied at a rate of 22 ounces of glyphosate per acre and will not hurt clover at this rate during this particular time of year.
In addition, 2½ pints of Post or Clethodim with a quart of surfactant per acre and one quart of 24D – Buturac per acre for broadleaf control will control the rest of the unwanted vegetation.
Most plants have spent the winter months dormant or being heavily grazed by deer and other wildlife. Naturally it will need a boost to start growing. Fertilization of clover in the spring is essential to reach maximum growth.
Because clover is a legume that produces nitrogen, a low or no nitrogen type fertilizer would be required. Fertilizer rates of 0-20-20 or 5-15-15, at an application rate of 200 pounds per acre, should provide the clover with the nutrients it needs in early spring. In addition, fertilization of the clover plot should also be conducted in the fall. The same application rate works for both times of year.
Liming of your clover should be based on conducting a soil test. Soil should be conducted every four years and will help you monitor your clover plot’s nutrient levels. One of the results of a soil test is the soil PH, which is a measure of the acidity in the soil and most clover varieties require a soil PH of 7.5, so apply lime if necessary each spring.
Taking the time to conduct spring maintenance on your clover will help ensure your clover reaches it full potential and will provide a quality food source late spring through mid-summer.
Steps To Establish A New Clover Plot
- Choose areas that have loam, sandy loam or clay loam soil for best results for clover plots.
- Get a soil test.
- Spray area to be used as a plot at least three weeks before planting with Glyphosate at a rate of two quarts per acre.
- Seven to eight days after spraying, disc area to allow dead weeds and grasses to decompose.
- Disc or till plot to establish a smooth seed bed which is vital for a successful clover plot.
- In addition to clover, plant wheat and oats to help protect the clover until it can take hold and start growing. Plant two bushels per acre, or one bag of oats and one bag of wheat, which can either be broadcast or drilled. Cover with one inch of soil.
- Fertilize with 300 pounds of 17-17-17 fertilizer per acre, disking or tilling to incorporate into the soil.
- If possible, culti-pack the soil bed.
- Choose a good mixture of 50% Ladino and 50% Durana for your plot, making sure it is pre-inoculated. Spread using a hand spreader unless using a drill.
- Culti-pack again, leaving clover no more than ¼-inch deep in soil.
- Mowing of the plot should be conducted mid-summer sending dried heads into the soil to help reseed your plot.
- If needed, over seeding a plot in the fall or early spring can be done at a rate of 5 pounds per acre.