Clover means nothing to the average person, except for its association with the 17th of March when it becomes a symbol of partying like an Irishman. To farmers, however, they matter each and every one of the other 364 days of the year. They favor the hundreds of variations other than the iconic green clover with 4 leaves. But why do these variants matter to farmers so much?
They ensure we all have bellies full of our favorite produce every season. Clovers are a type of cover crop, which are planted in early spring after soil is depleted of all its nutrients from the winter harvest of fruits and vegetables like beans, lettuce, garlic, and onions. But unlike other cover crops, clovers are gentle and resilient. They can survive any end season cold temperatures and keep the soil from frosting. These lucky plants also give the soil rest, nutrition, and aeration to reinvigorate the soil for summer crops like cucumbers, tomatoes, and berries.
Keeping your belly full not enough? Clovers are also beautiful when they bloom by the hundreds. Once clover reaches maturity and is ready to die off, it produces thousands of flowers ranging from white wispy petals to purple and pink tufts. If you take a drive in the country in early summer before farmers plant our favorite picnic treat, you can experience a real-life Sound of Music moment, feeling the hills come alive thanks to clovers.
When people are sipping their green beers on St Patrick’s Day, they should be making sure to toast the farmers who care about those other clover variants. Without them, our caprice salads in the summer would be just cheese and our winter soups would be just broth.
For more in-depth information, visit https://joegardener.com/podcast/100-understanding-cover-crops-the-basics-and-beyond-with-jack-algiere/!