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Cornell University

Cover Crop Guide for NY Growers

Dr. Thomas Björkman, Horticulture Section, Cornell AgriTech

White Clover

Dutch white clover is a slow-growing, nitrogen-fixing perennial. Once established, it provides long-term cover, either alone or with a turfgrass such as LoGro. It is often used in high traffic areas to minimize soil compaction and improve soil health. White clover tolerates wet conditions.

Land Preparation

Use conventional tillage, maintain a firm seedbed.

Seeding Rate

Drill 5-9 lb/ac. Broadcast 7-14 lb/ac. After seeding, roll the ground to improve seed-to-soil contact but do not break up soil aggregates.

Seed Cost

2007 price: $3.50-$4.00/lb.

Seeding Dates

Fall: August 15-September 10, alone or with annual grass cover. Spring: As early as possible, may be frost seeded like medium red clover.

Time Until Control

Perennial. One to five years.

Seed Suppliers

American Seed Co., Seedway. Specify Dutch white clover, which is a low-growing type used for cover crops. Avoid other white clovers.

Management Tricks

Frost seed into winter cover as early in spring as possible. With conventional tillage, maintain firm seed bed with fine surface at seeding. Mow the year of seeding to suppress weeds. Plant companion perennial ryegrass.

Unavoidable Problems

Slow to establish, use nurse crop.

Avoidable Problems

Sow in firm, fine seed bed.

Classic Uses

Ground cover for lanes and walkways, mixed with turfgrass.


Used in high traffic areas, including permanent walkways; sometimes mixed with turf grass. Mow close to the ground to prevent the plants from making seed and for appearance.


White clover propagates by seed or creeping stolons which root at the nodes. Uproot and incorporate to control. This cover crop is difficult to control with herbicides; glyphosate at 1 lb/ac will suppress but not kill white clover. To eliminate white clover when it is used as a turf (and adjacent vegetables are out of the field), consult turf herbicide recommendations.


Tolerates shade and can be used as a companion crop with alfalfa or perennial ryegrass. Frost seed into winter cover crop in the spring. White clover crop is very tolerant of wet growing conditions. Wait two years before planting a vegetable legume because white clover is a host for root rot diseases such as Pythium and Rhizoctonia.

All uses for White Clover
Management Goal Planting Time
Nitrogen Fixation Late Summer
Stabilize Soil Aggregates Late Summer
Winter Erosion Protection Late Summer
Erosion Protection Long Term Spring
Nitrogen Fixation Winter
Reduce Surface Hardness Winter
Reduce Weeds Winter
Stabilize Soil Aggregates Winter