(Trifolium repens 'Ladino')
Ladino Clover is a mat-forming perennial flower that is native to Italy but can be commonly found growing throughout the United States. At maturity, this plant reaches the height of 8-12” and features hairless stems, smooth leaves which are marked with a v, and clustered white flower heads. This plant attracts bees and butterflies, tolerates light frost, and provides livestock forage!
Variety: Ladino Clover
Native To: Italy
Ease of Growing: Easy
Grown as: Perennial
Maturity: 90-120 (Spring/Summer), 90-180 (Fall/Winter)
Growth Habit: Stoloniferous
Hardiness: Fairly hardy, designed to keep growing right through mild winters.
Crops: Spring, Fall
Growing Conditions: Cold. These cover crops generally require cooler temperatures and adequate water.
Outdoor Growing Temp: 40°F - 85°F
Min Outdoor Soil Temp: 30°F. Most cool weather cover crop should be started when temperatures are still in the 60's to allow the plants to establish before winter, which also prevents Winterkill.
Start Indoors: No
Start Outdoors: Yes
Small Gardens: No
Light: Sun: min. 6 hours daily (Cold, Cool). Cover crops need full sun when growing in winter, as days are shorter and the sun is lower in the sky. If grown in summer many will tolerate light shade (though they grow best in full sun).
Water: Most of these crops are not particularly drought tolerant and will need regular watering in dry climates (especially when germinating and getting established). However they are mostly grown during the winter when the soil is fairly moist, so don't usually require much irrigation.
Feeder: Light. You do not need to fertilize cover crop in established gardens, as there will be plenty of nutrients in the garden to meet their needs. Since you will be incorporating them back in to the soil, growing them doesn't remove any nutrients from the soil. The leguminous cover crops also fix nitrogen and eventually add it to the soil.
Attracts beneficial insects?: Yes. Bees and Earthworms love it and is also a low fiber, protein-rich forage crop for cattle and livestock.
Sow Depth: Below soil surface.
Produces: non hairy stems, smooth leaves that are marked with a V, and clustered white flower heads.
USDA Grow Zone: 4-8
Most cover crops are not too fussy about soil, as they have been selected for vigorous growth almost anywhere. If your soil is unusually acidic you may want to add lime.
Before sowing, 1 time: Cover crops don't usually receive much soil preparation - you simply scatter the seed onto the bed at the required density and mix it into the top 2" of soil with a rake.
Lime (Calcium), before sowing, 1 time: Optional: This depends on the pH of your soil. If your soil is too acidic, amend it with some ground lime.
When outdoor temp: 40°F to 85°F, optimal temp 65°F to 75°F
When min soil temp: 30°F. Most cool weather cover crop should be started when temperatures are still in the 60's to allow the plants to establish before winter, which also prevents Winterkill.
Seed Depth: 0.5" to 2.0". Cover Crops include many plant families and each seed has it's own requirements, so please read the packet before planting. If the soil is warm and dry you will normally plant deeper than if it is cold and wet.
Spacing: 1 plants per sq. ft.. Because broadcast seeding does not spread the seed uniformly, you must use more seed to make up for the likelihood of poorer germination. Seed at 3-5 lb./1000 sq. ft, or 70-120 lb./acre.
After last frost date.
6-8 weeks before first frost date. The seed is usually broadcast on to the bed and incorporated into the top 2" of soil with a rake. You can also simply scatter the seed on the soil and cover with an inch of garden soil. Seed shouldn't be left exposed on the soil surface as it will be very prone to drying out, or getting eaten by birds (you may have to net or use row covers to prevent this). It is essential to keep the soil moist until all of the seedlings have germinated and are growing well. You don't have to have a completely clear bed to plant. If you have productive crops growing there, you can simply sow the seed around them. If you haven't grown a leguminous cover cop within the last three years you may want to inoculate the seed to improve the rate of nitrogen fixation. This requires the proper strain of bacteria for the crop and is applied to the seed prior to planting. Requires Pea Vetch or Garden Combination Inoculant
If you find that birds are eating the seeds you've planted, trying covering the beds with row covers.
Generally you will incorporate the plants into the soil before they flower.
Water Needs: Low. Most of these crops are not particularly drought tolerant and will need regular watering in dry climates (especially when germinating and getting established). However they are mostly grown during the winter when the soil is fairly moist, so don't usually require much irrigation.
Fertilizer Needs: Light. You do not need to fertilize cover crop in established gardens, as there will be plenty of nutrients in the garden to meet their needs. Since you will be incorporating them back in to the soil, growing them doesn't remove any nutrients from the soil.
The leguminous cover crops also fix nitrogen and eventually add it to the soil.
Watering, regularly: Water, 0.5 inch regularly, 2 times a week. Most cover crops need moist soil for best growth. This is normally supplied by mother nature, but if it isn't you will have to irrigate.
Protecting, after sowing: Netting, after sowing, 1 time. In many areas birds will look upon your newly sown cover crop as a fall treat. They will actively search for the seed in the soil and eat the newly emerging shoots. In this case you may have to net the beds or use row covers.
Watering, after sowing: Water, 1 inch, after sowing, 5 times a week. It is essential that the germinating seeds receive adequate water, so if it doesn't rain you will have to irrigate regularly.
The optimal time to till in your cover crop is when 50% of the flowers are in bloom. At this time there is the maximum amount of biomass and a good proportion of carbon. The biomass will be rapidly decomposed by soil microbes, who will then return nitrogen and other elements to the soil for the next crop. The length of time required to reach this stage will vary hugely, depending on the climate and the crop.