The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Do I need to inoculate my clover?

Nodule on clover roots for nitrogen-fixing bacteriaSo let's return to Everett's comment --- should I buy an inoculant to get my clover patch off to a good start?  If you already have clover growing in your yard (which we do), chances are good that the proper bacteria are already present.  Go out and dig up a plant, and you should be able to see little white bumps on the roots --- the nodules.

However, even if the nodules are present, your plants may not be currently teamed up with nitrogen-fixing bacteria.  The way to be sure is to cut a nodule open and look at the color.  Nodes that are actively fixing nitrogen are pink or red inside, while inactive nodes are white, tan, or green.  My nodes were white --- why?

The clover I dug up was right in the middle of our muddy mess, an area which has been waterlogged for about a month due to heavy rains and snows.  When legumes are stressed, they stop feeding their bacteria and start paying attention to their own survival, so acidic or waterlogged soil, drought, lack of organic matter, or even high soil temperatures can kill off your nitrogen-fixing bacteria.  I'll dig up another plant in the part of the yard where I want to plant my clover (currently under snow), and if I find more white nodes, I'll need to inoculate.

Check out our homemade chicken waterer, great for chicken tractors.

This post is part of our Nitrogen Fixing lunchtime series.  Read all of the entries:

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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