July 5, 2024 at 3:01 p.m.

Outdoors - Trefoil


By Walter Scott | Comments: 0 | Leave a comment

   When we originally bought the farms, the soil was poor quality clay on rolling hills. The land was highly erodible and not very productive. I tried frost seeding and fertilizing among other attempts to improve the land for grazing cattle. One day I read about the benefits of trefoil, a legume similar to alfalfa in nutritional value and produced nitrogen from its deep and spreading roots. The only problem I could see was the difficulty in getting it started. It does not sprout and grow with much competition around. The seed bed needs to be tilled and the seed lightly covered after broadcasting in the prepared area. If I were to plow or disc my pastures before seeding, what little topsoil I had would was to the bottom of the hill during the first rain.

   I heard of another means of started trefoil, not as fast but more efficiently. Every time I fed the cow’s minerals, I mixed in some trefoil seed. The seed passed through the cow and would be deposited at random places about the pasture. The trefoil seed would sprout and take root in the manure while the grass would be held at bay for a year or so. During dry years, when the grass does not grow as well, the trefoil flourishes from lack of competition.

   The lawn between the cabin and the lake used to be part of the larger pasture. Cows tended to hang around the water and plant more trefoil in that area. Last year, during the drought, the gras grew very little and the trefoil spread over the area making a very picturesque yellow carpet of flowers for a lawn.

   This year I learned of another trait of trefoil. As well as improving the soil, preventing erosion, and making excellent cattle feed, it provides a great source of pollen for honeybees. My bees were coming along nicely early this year, much as I would expect. When the trefoil began blooming, the hive started growing and making honey at an amazing rate. My frames in the hive were filling up so I added a super on top to give them more room to store honey. The queen then picked up her rate of laying eggs to where she was running out of space to lay them. This is a dangerous situation in the world of beekeepers. If the bees start to get crowded, they will swarm and look for larger facilities.

   I contacted my beekeeping coach and asked what to do. He came over and helped me split the hive, making two separate hives from the one. We removed some full frames of brood (eggs, larva, and babies) to an empty hive box and put some empty frames in the original box. The bees in the first box will build comb for the queen to lay eggs and the new hive will soon get to work raising a new queen. In the meantime, the trefoil continues to bloom.

   I decided to tidy up the lawn by the cabin over the weekend. Some of the trefoil had gone to seed and was starting to look a little shaggy. If I mowed it, it would bloom again and stay fresh for the bees. I mowed about half of the lawn seeing an occasional bee gathering pollen until I got closer to the cabin where the flowers seemed fresher. Bees were buzzing around everywhere. I stopped the mower and looked down at the carpet of bright yellow flowers. There were six to eight bees per square foot working away. I decided to leave them alone to do their work. The lawn could look shaggy until they got done.


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