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Turnips & Clover

Back To "Ask The Biologist?"Can I mow my clover without harming the turnips?

QUESTION: Bob, in late spring, I planted turnips along with some Imperial Whitetail Clover. The clover needs to be mowed, but I don't want to harm the turnips. Is this possible? - dvillefocker

Turnips & CloverANSWER: You can, but why would you?


First let's address the theory behind mowing clover. The lush, green growth of young clover is more nutritious and palatable to deer. As plants mature, they become more fibrous and less leafy, reducing the amount of palatable vegetation each plant is producing. 

Eventually, they ripen and flower, then growth slows or ceases altogether.  Mowing stimulates new growth, as well as knocking back weeds, effectively keeping plants in a younger and theoretically more palatable state for a longer period. However, there are both short and long term side effects. 

In the short, term mowing removes a considerable amount of plant biomass (forage) from the area. It also prevents clover from producing seeds, which would otherwise germinate and produce more clover plants in successive years.

Imperial Whitetail clover is a perennial crop, and under optimum growing conditions can persist for three to five years. 

Mowing might be a more viable option had you planted an annual variety of clover.


Mowing might still be worth considering, if clover was the only crop. However, you've also planted turnips, which are annuals. They produce all their growth in one season and the leafy growth is every bit as important, attractive and nutritious as the root bulbs.

Mowing them only further reduces the amount of available forage - the reason you planted them in the first place. 

Furthermore, the mowed plants would probably stop growing, meaning they would not produce any additional leafy forage or roots, the latter of which can be an important late-season and winter forage.


I'm not sure of your intent, but planting both was a pretty good idea. 

Clover will provide an important and attractive source of protein when it is needed most by deer - during the growing season and into the early fall.

Imperial Whitetail Clover can reportedly provide 35 percent protein. It will also serve as a buffer for the growing turnips.

Deer might not give too much attention to the turnip greens until their dietary needs shift, which occurs in the fall. 

Once the first frosts hit and starches turn to sugar, they'll tear them up.  Then, when foliage dies and food becomes scarcer, the deer will turn their attention to the turnips. Come next spring, when protein demands are again high, your perennial clovers will still be there to address those dietary needs.

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