Red Clover has a few purposes: to plant in pastures for cattle grazing, to use as a ground cover in gardens and lawns, as an herbal remedy in humans and eaten in salads as sprouts. It has abundant nutritional value for both humans and livestock, and helps the soil replenish nitrogen, adding nutrients without using chemical fertilizer. Red clover can thrive in a variety of climates, growing zones 5 to 9.
How to Plant in the Yard
Since red clover is considered a weed by some, it is relatively easy to grow. When planted as a ground cover, the following conditions are preferred.
- Soil drainage should be fair to good.
- Slightly acid pH levels are preferred with 6.0 to 6.5 producing the greatest yields.
- Moderate levels of phosphorous and potassium are required in the soil.
- Plant in areas that will receive sunlight, though red clover will grow in partial shade as well.
- Sow seed ¼ inch deep.
- Weed your red clover bed regularly.
If you choose to enjoy the many edible uses and benefits of red clover, avoid using chemicals or pesticides.
Flowers can be eaten fresh or dried for tea. Leaves are also edible and used in herbal remedies, and are best used when fresh and young. Red clover may be harvested up to three times in a typical growing season.
How to Plant for Grazing Livestock
Growing red clover by the acre demands conditions as described above, and a bit more.
- Clover seed should be inoculated with "Rhizobium trifolii" bacterium, which helps the plant’s root system to release nitrogen.
- Use 10 to 12 pounds of seed per acre.
- Optionally combine with companion crops: wheat, oats or barley, in which case use 6 to 8 pounds per acre.
- Clover crops used for grazing should be rotated so that the crop is grazed 3 times over the growing season.
How to Sprout Red Clover Seeds for Human Consumption
If you wish to eat red clover sprouts, they are easy to grow right in your kitchen. You will yield about 4 cups of sprouts out of 2 tbsp. of seed.
Follow these steps to grow your own red clover sprouts.
- Soak your seeds in warm water for 6 to 8 hours.
- Drain and spread evenly in a seed-sprouter or shallow bowl.
- Place in a dark area for 3 days, rinsing and draining the seeds at least twice each day. You can also cover the container and keep it in a bright location.
- By day 4, the seeds will have sprouted long root tails, and should be exposed to sunlight for a day to develop chlorophyll.
Eat red clover sprouts on salads or sandwiches, and store in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.