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Cornell University

Cover Crop Guide for NY Growers

Dr. Thomas Björkman, Cornell AgriTech

Red Clover

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Med Red Clover_2
Medium red clover is a short-lived perennial used to supply nitrogen. Unlike other legumes, it fixes a lot of nitrogen even in high-nitrogen soils. It has shade tolerance so it can be overseeded into small grains and incorporated in May of the following year. Since red clover seedlings tend to be slow growing, it benefits from a nurse crop. It forms tap roots and is useful for remediation of compacted soils. Red clover is also good for weed suppression.

Land preparation

Medium red clover prefers cool weather conditions. This crop is well-adapted a wide range of soil types and conditions. Medium red clover tolerates wet conditions better than vetch. It can be overseeded on small grains and if the soil is not crusted, it can be overseeded in vegetable crops with no additional preparation to the land.

Seeding rate

Drill or broadcast at 10 lb/ac.
For a nurse crop, mix 2/3 annual ryegrass with 1/3 medium red clover, sow 20-25 lb/ac. After seeding, roll the ground to improve seed-to-soil contact but do not break up soil aggregates.

Seeding date

February–March for frost seeding.
Clover can be seeded with turf grass or small grains.

Seed Sources

Local farm seed dealers, AgriCulver, Seedway, Lakeview Organic Grain. Good varieties of medium red clover include Redland III, Cinnamon Plus, and Bulldog. Do not substitute Mammoth red clover for cover crop use.


Mow medium red clover during the summer of the first year. It can be seeded between established rows, reducing soil compaction in well-traveled areas.


Control blossoms by May, incorporate when flowering.


Red clover supports aphid predators such as ladybeetles, green lacewing larvae. and hoverfly larvae.
Purchase a seed lot with high germination.
To use as a nurse crop, seed with annual rye in June-July, buckwheat in August, and oats in September.

Medium red clover is also discussed in the articles on late summer legumesand early spring cover crops.