The Whitetail Institute’s Imperial Clover is a clover blend that was produced from cross-breeding over 100 different clover varieties, eliminating the least desirable clover and keeping the best. After years of this research and development, Imperial Clover was born, and has since been the standard by which all clover blends have been measured over the last couple of decades.
Imperial Clover is a perennial, and can be planted in spring or fall. If taken care of, in addition to fairly good weather, you can expect to get strong results for 3-5 years before having to plant again.
Check out our new Food Plot Search to get you started with the right plot!
As always, the first thing to do for any food plot is to perform a soil test. This will let you know exactly what your soil needs (fertilizer, lime) for optimal growth, saving you time, money and frustration.
The next thing to figure out is the recommended planting date range for your area. On our properties in Virginia, we have had better luck planting Imperial Clover in fall rather than spring. It just seems to come up better and last longer once it gets a good winter under its belt. This also keeps us from having to fight summer drought and weeds in a new planting. That said, every area is different, so we recommend growing a small plot and testing yourself to see what works best for your property’s soil conditions.
Here are the recommended planting dates:
First, we will kill everything off with 41% glyphosate and wait 10-14 days until all vegetation is dead. We will then till the area to loosen everything up. You can use a disk, but it will take you much longer. After the ground has been worked once, disking is much easier.
You can then wait a couple of more weeks and let the weeds start to form again, then eliminate everything with the 41% glyphosate. This is recommended to ensure a weed-free bed, but the only problem is that you have to wait another 10-14 days before planting, and not everyone has that kind of window (or patience).
The optimal pH for Imperial Clover is 6.5-7.5. If your soil test says you need fertilizer or lime, apply the recommended amount. If a soil test was not performed, remember that clover creates its own nitrogen, so 5-20-20 (or similar ratio) is what you should use. The Whitetail Institute recommends 400 lbs. (Eight 50 lb. bags) per acre.
Disk the plot well, and then create a firm seed bed by using a cultipacker. If a cultipacker is not available, run your plot over and over with your four wheeler or tractor. The firm, level bed creates soil contact for the seed, maximizing the chance of growth.
How We Planted It
After this is complete, we usually check the forecast for a decent rain, and then broadcast the seed with a hand-seeder the day before. Once we have dispersed all seed, we usually drag an old piece of heavy fence or a cut-down pine to lightly cover the seed. The Whitetail Institute recommends using a cultipacker here (again), but we have not tried that.
One of the plots was planted in Spring 2010, and we fought the weeds (mostly yellow rocket) early on, and then an extended drought really hurt it. There really isn’t anything you can do when the weather isn’t in your favor, but as you can see in the image below, the plot came back strong in 2011.
You can see where the 2010 drought spots remain. We raked the abundant weeds into piles and the clover didn’t come up in those areas.
As for the rest, the following images speak for themselves. The clover has come up and is about eight inches tall. The deer are already feeding in it heavy, but we expect them to fully utilize its nutritional value once summer comes and there is less to eat.
We are very pleased with this year’s results. We have had an abundant amount of rain, so that has definitely helped.
If you must plant in the spring in areas where a drought may occur, you may want to check out the Whitetail Institute’s Imperial Chicory Plus, which mixes chicory with Imperial Clover. We did this on a 2-acre plot on another property this spring, and will be doing a review on that later this year.
We definitely recommend planting at least one plot of Imperial Clover on your property. If you follow all of the recommendations, you will not be disappointed.