Garden News Blog

Plant Crimson Clover for Better Soil

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

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 an assistant gardener at BBG and the former project manager for the NYC Compost Project hosted by Brooklyn Botanic Garden. She is a graduate of BBG’s Horticulture Certificate Program.
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