The Beauty of Grass & Clover

August 13, 2018
Quail Hill Farm

Dear Farm Members,

When you enter the gate to Birch Hill, before you set off to search for lettuce, kale, or cucumbers, pause for a moment to view the field directly in your view. If you follow the glint of the sun you will detect a bright red haze among the thick “grass.” That grass is in fact millet, a field grain that we often plant this time of year, as a summer cover crop when a field is being “rested.” After years of alternating crops in this field—Birch Hill #1—we decided to give it a rest, to restore some fertility for the next growing season. Planted in the mix is a legume (pea and bean family)—the red haze is crimson clover, planted for an ability to “fix” nitrogen in soil. We prefer to sow a beautiful plant to nourish the soil, rather than to purchase packaged nitrogen, an element essential to plant growth


I mowed the field a few weeks back, to discourage some persistent weeds that rose within the cover crop—the clover actually seems to be invigorated by such a mowing. The purpose of the summer cover is to add fertility but also to suppress the host of plant life we would rather say goodbye to (weeds!). We will mow it again, and again the clover will be stimulated, and as the cool of autumn arrives the clover should thicken and take over the field, holding the silt loam in place for the winter. In early Spring we will turn in the first growth with our chisel plow and the vegetable crop to follow will enjoy what the clover has given the soil.

As I wrote in the Afterword to SEEDTIME: “Our culture, our habitation in this time on Earth, is in need of transformation, some say in the shape of a new story.” I like the story of clover…

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