This post, New Zealand White Clover – Another Permaculture Wonder Plant, talks about the many aspects of this amazing plant. It has shallow roots to hold loose soil together, deep taproots to loosen soil down deep and create carbon pathways, fixes nitrogen, and spreads as a groundcover to keep weeds at bay.
I put some down in my lawn last spring and some of it reseeded into my driveway. As I was weeding the driveway I noticed how difficult it was to pull up because it had such a dense root system. I did have one plant, pictured below, that did come up with a good bit of the root system. As you can see from the picture the root system is quite extensive.
If you look close at the picture you can also see nodules on the roots. These are bacteria that are working in symbiosis with the clover. The clover gives the bacteria nitrogen and the bacteria gives the clover nutrients that it needs. Because of this process we call white clover a nitrogen fixing plant.
The nitrogen stays in the bacteria nodule for the most part unless we intervene. If we cut the clover with a lawn mower, it will self prune some of its roots. Any of the roots that it self prunes that has these bacteria nodules on them will be release into the soil and available to anything that wants it. So when we cut this clover it is like organically fertilizing the plants around it. This makes the case to plant this ground cover around plants that you want, like fruit bushes and trees.
The picture below shows the area that I was weeding.
Tread on Me
Once New Zealand white clover is established, it can handle a great deal of foot traffic and even some heavy machinery like tractors.
It has roots that generally stay in the top eight inches of soil but does have a few taproots that go down as far as forty inches.
It grows thick and acts as living mulch. It can grow so thick that it can choke out weeds trying to compete for space and sunlight.
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