sunflowers and underseeding clover

gardenlover(z5/6 OH)April 2, 2006

Has anyone ever planted sunflowers and underseeded them with clover? I know this is common with corn, but I would like to experiment with suns.

I would plant the sun seeds, then, after the 1st cultivation, when the suns are a few inches high, spread the clover seeds.

The benefits I see are:

1. Provide some nitrogen to the suns. (I know they need some, but would it be too much to prevent good flowering?)

2. Eliminate any more weeding between the suns.

3. Cover crop would already be in place after the harvest of all the suns. Which could be tilled in for a new crop, or left to overwinter.

The main concern I have is the underseeded cover crop competing with the suns for moisture, nutrients. I know that the very 1st sunflower bed I planted, I did not weed it at all. The result: Tiny, stunted suns. Every time thereafter I meticulously weeded the beds and the suns were tall, stocky and beautiful. Would the cover crop have the same negative effect on the suns as the grass/weeds did?

Thanks for any info. or comments!

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I always felt that the suns either shaded out weed growth beneath them or that they had an alleleopathic substance which discouraged other growth. I rarely even fertilize my suns and they grow to 5 feet tall. I plant them 6" by 6" and that shades out weeds.
I think that by the time clover started producing nitrogen (if it survived beneath the suns), it would already have been time to harvest the suns. Just my what I overheard at a conference about putting clover beneath a different crop.

    Bookmark   April 2, 2006 at 12:00PM
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Did you know (I borrowed this term from Martha) that clover adds carbon to the soil and brings it back into balance? I have heard of fruit farmers planting clover around their trees, and mowing several times during the season. I've never seen clover in the cornfields. I haven't seen anything in the cornfields except corn.

Apparently, my sunflowers did not read that section in the book on weeds regarding an allelopathic effect because we have weeds. For this reason, our sunflower crops are planted in rows and we run the rototiller between the rows at least twice while they are growing. Sunflowers don't do well with the competition from grass/weeds. I'm assuming they wouldn't do well with clover either.


    Bookmark   April 5, 2006 at 7:45PM
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Belgianpup(Wa/Zone 7b)

Most problems between closely-growing crops (weeds are just unwanted crops!) is that they compete for the same nutrients (mostly nitrogen, but also for the more minor nutrients).

Clover works the other way because it is a legume: clover CREATES nitrogen by pulling it out of the air and stashing it in the little nodules in its roots. Plant roots grow and die throughout the season, and the nitrogen in the parts that die can be used by nearby plants.

The clover also reduces water evaporation & helps to shade out weeds.


    Bookmark   April 12, 2006 at 12:57PM
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Ok....this may be a dumb question but....I'm thinking of planting an all clover lawn this you just go to a farm supply store and they sell clover there or do you get it through the mail? And is there any particular type a person would want? Thanks! Glenn

    Bookmark   April 13, 2006 at 7:46AM
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gardenlover(z5/6 OH)

Thanks for your opinions on the subject. I'm going to get a few lbs. of clover and experiment.

Flowerfarmer- I've never seen clover in a cornfield either. I had read about it recently, but I cannot site the source - I cannot remember where. I just assumed it must be a common practice in areas other than where I live.

Glenn, my local feed mill sells clover in 50 lb. bags. You can also get it online at or I'm sure there are other places, but these are the ones I am familiar with.

Just my opinion - I would assume you would want a lower growing clover for your lawn - New Zealand White Clover aka White Dutch Clover.

    Bookmark   April 13, 2006 at 11:39PM
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thanks so much for the clover advice....will go to check it out now!

    Bookmark   April 14, 2006 at 10:30AM
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I know this is an older thread but I am thinking of doing this next year. Any update on how this worked out?

I have read that Sunflowers have a good relationship with Mycorrhiza. I am hoping that I an plant these two as green manure next year, then mow them down, let them die over the winter and then plant in a very fungal rich environment in the following spring.

    Bookmark   October 8, 2013 at 9:34PM
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I just wanted to chime in b/c I read in a gardening book that sunflowers and Red Clover are a great combo to improve the soil, with them grown and tilled in. But sorry I don't remember the details as to how they should be grown.

    Bookmark   November 29, 2013 at 7:38PM
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