Anyone use white clover for a living vegie garden mulch?

diana63(8/Portland, OR)June 2, 2008

I have a new very large garden and a new compost pile- the compost pile is not ready for use as mulch and won't work for the lasagna method because it has hot horse manure in it.

So I'm looking at buying something for mulch. I've read a little about using 'new zealand white clover" as a living mulch and wonder if anyone has experience with this and can offer advice or thoughts.


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fertilizersalesman(z6 PA)

In the past I left white clover when I was weeding the garden. Eventually it was all over the place and was effectively a living mulch. If it started getting out of hand I would mow it down a bit and spread the clipping where I thought they would do the most good. I thought it worked really well, but it was pretty labor intensive so I stoped doing it when the garden got bigger.

    Bookmark   June 2, 2008 at 5:23PM
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davidandkasie(Z8 MS)

around here clover is the spawn of SATAN! in less than 7 days time it can easily grow 6"+!

    Bookmark   June 2, 2008 at 5:30PM
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diana63(8/Portland, OR)

Thanks for your thoughts and warnings! Silly me, I've always enjoyed flirting with Satan's spawn :) :)
I'm thinking that some kind of living mulch would be cheaper (buying seed) than buying something else already made. It looks like the clover does get around 6 inches, but that would be fine if it was in between rows and under larger plants- broccoli kale corn tomatoes, etc...then it has the added benefit of giving nitrogen.
Around here, clover has shallow roots, but makes a good mat, so I'd think it would keep other weeds at bay...?
Anyone have experience or thoughts about other living mulches?

    Bookmark   June 3, 2008 at 9:59AM
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davidandkasie(Z8 MS)

i can tell you that clover will suffocate the other weeds and keep them at bay. in your area it may work just fine. in mine it grows and grows, i had some a few weeks ago that was over the front tires on my riding mower! i could not get to the area to cut it for 3-4 weeks due to standing water,, and the clover jsut kept growing.

luckily for me it has now started to hit the mid 90's for highs, so the clover is stunted and dying off. by the end of the month you won't find clover anywhere here other than small patches under some shade. so it would not do good here in a garden either.

    Bookmark   June 3, 2008 at 10:08AM
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I use green wandering jew as a "place holder". I guess that might qualify as a mulch. It grows fairly rapidly (more rapidly than the purple wandering jew), looks rather nice, keeps weeds from popping up, and is easy to pull up when I finally make up my mind and decide what I really want to plant.

It is more than 6 inches (maybe 8) and does expand beyond where you've planted it but that is what I like. Seems to do okay if it isn't watered regularly but it loves water too. Seems to work okay in sun or shade.

It even has tiny pink flowers periodically. I haven't figured out if there is something that encourages flowering. I haven't fertilized it and have it growing in several of my beds until I make up my mind or have time to do the planting that I want.

I haven't found another plant that would serve the same purpose that I like as well though I have looked. My yard is a little boring with this growing in most of my beds, LOL.

Let us know if you come up with something you like. Inquiring minds want to know.

    Bookmark   June 3, 2008 at 10:23AM
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diana63(8/Portland, OR)

Thanks davidandkasie and elphaba!

I've seen ads for underseeding/living mulch in Johnny's seed catalog and wonder about the pro's and con's of planting right into the rows and spaces between vegetables.

Does anyone out here in gardenweb have any other experiences with living mulch?

I really appreciate your input!

    Bookmark   June 4, 2008 at 10:41AM
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Clover gets mixed reviews from me. I too try to promote volunteers, which aren't too invasive, but too sporadic to comprise a plan.
Sowing for the purpose has had some success, but only if water and temperature cooperate. As noted above, high and dry tend to stunt it.
Although not a living mulch in the true sense, buckwheat has proven effective.Sown thickly, it chokes other growth. When desired plant growth would be impeded (say,melons spreading) it's easily uprooted and laid as cover.Seed is very cheap, and can be harvested if allowed to mature.

    Bookmark   June 6, 2008 at 6:33AM
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shebear(z8 NCentralTex)

We've used red clover in the community down here in Texas. It seemed to work fine and pretty much died off in the heat so make sure the clover you pick can take your temps. It worked fine for us since we only wanted it for winter coverage.

    Bookmark   June 6, 2008 at 8:19AM
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diana: I once planted tomatoes into a cover crop of white clover. It was a failure because the clover out-competed the tomatoes for nutrients. So now I bury my white clover covers and the soil tilth is marvelous. I also planted white clove in a path alongside my end vegetable bed. It is lush after 3 years; it keeps weeds down -- somewhat -- but it does creep into the vegetable bed. Regards, Peter.

    Bookmark   June 6, 2008 at 3:16PM
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diana63(8/Portland, OR)

Thanks for your information. I've bagged the idea of living mulch because of the nutrient competition info and have used what I had of the cut down cover crop- wasn't enough, but then got a good deal on a straw bale from the horse person-neighbor. Put all that over newspaper and it was very cheap.
Again, I appreciate everyone's input!

    Bookmark   June 29, 2008 at 9:32AM
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We decided to use white clover as a living mulch this year. There were too many pros to not try it. Cons are the clover out competing the primary crop. For the most part, I think I'll be able to pull it back by hand pretty easily since it's just a home garden. I don't know if I'd use it for a larger farm scale living mulch unless I was doing a Fukuoka-style grain production.

Here is a link that might be useful: Clover as Living Mulch

    Bookmark   May 25, 2011 at 2:10AM
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