Garden News Blog

Plant Crimson Clover for Better Soil

Cover crops can be a beautiful solution to many of your soil problems. Crimson clover (Trifolium incarnatum), for instance, can help concentrate nitrogen, a vital plant nutrient, in the top 12 inches of the soil where is it easy for plant roots to access it. This lovely plant can also break up compacted soil to improve drainage and allow more water to penetrate, crowd out thuggish weeds, prevent erosion during heavy rainfall or winds, and provide food for decomposers and other beneficial organisms in the soil ecosystem.

When planted in the early fall, crimson clover will flower in late spring. It can also be seeded in the spring alongside rows of your favorite vegetables or other annuals and later tilled into the soil for an all-natural nitrogen kick. Its bright red flowers can also be gathered for stunning wildflower bouquets.

Learn more about cover crops and other soil secrets at our fall workshop, Building Soil Health: Using Mulch, Leaves, and Cover Crops to Revitalize Your Soil.

Jenny Blackwell is curator of the Discovery Garden and plantings at the south end of Brooklyn Botanic Garden. Originally from Minnesota, Jenny didn’t really get bitten by the horticulture bug until she moved to New York City in 2005. After working as an intern at BBG and receiving a Certificate in Horticulture in 2008, she gardened with the compost tea masters at Battery Park City Parks Conservancy before serving as project manager for BBG’s NYC Compost Project for five years. She joined BBG’s Horticulture staff in 2014. Jenny is passionate about ecology and soil, and her favorite ecosystem in the Discovery Garden is the meadow.

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Trifolium incarnatum (crimson clover) blooming in BBG's Herb Garden. Photo by Elizabeth Peters.