Crimson Clover very well could be the most popular annual clover planted for deer in the United States. Originating from the Mediterranean region it is like red clover though not to be confused with perennial red clover. Crimson clover leaves have a more rounded tip and both stem and leaves have more hair than red clover. Crimson plants have dark green leaves and grow to a height of 1 – 3 feet. It is a semi-upright legume that prefers well-drained soil. Crimson tends to remain actively growing in cooler temperatures when warmer season clovers have gone dormant.
Crimson is more acid tolerant than other clovers, handling a soil pH of 5.7 – 6.4, but it will still require liming on many sites and soil types throughout the United States. Crimson should be inoculated with the proper strain of Rhizobium bacteria (strain R) just before planting. This is a different strain than that required by other clovers or alfalfa. Carefully follow instructions for inoculating seed; poor inoculation is one of the greatest causes of crimson clover failure in new plantings.
For quick plantings in the fall, seed on a well-prepared seedbed by broadcasting, cultipacking or drilling. Cover seed no more than ¼ inch deep. Typically seeding rate is 20 lbs./acre in pure stand and 12 to 15 lbs. / acre in mixture with cool-season grasses. August – October in the south and April in the North. Crimson does not shine in extreme heat or cold temps.
Phosphorus and potassium are the most important fertilizer elements, but macronutrients and sulfur can also be limiting. Nitrogen is beneficial in early production especially when crimson is grown in association with small grains. In lieu of a soil test you may apply fertilizer at planting at an estimation of 300 lbs. / acre of 8-24-24 for pure stand or 300 lbs. / acre of 19-19-19 for a mixture.
Small grains for mixture include rye, wheat or oats keeping the rate of grains at about 50 lbs. / acre.
Plant Crimson Clover in April in the north for the Spring. It will produce will April through June. Though it is a short lived annual it can be plowed under before planting a summer crop of grain sorghum, corn, pearl millet or any grass which can use the nitrogen fixed by the clover. The crimson left as mulch for a summer crop provides up to 70 lbs. / acre nitrogen for use by grain sorghum or corn.
Plant Crimson Clover 6 – 8 weeks before the first frost if you’re looking for a late summer / fall food plot.
Bottomline: Crimson Clover is a cheap, easy, high-quality, productive, palatable cool-season forage for deer. It starts fast, withstands heavy continuous grazing and produces a consistent, heavy seed crop with good reseeding potential.
Dixie Crimson Clover
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A 13-13-13 fertilizer type, or similar 200 - 300 lbs / acre and 1 - 2 times per year.