Legumes (ie. clover, alfalfa, vetches, peas)

The information listed on this page is for information purposes only and does not express or imply that we have these seeds available. Many of these grasses are very difficult to find and product therefore we do not always have them available.


ALFALFA (Medicago sativa

): Alfalfa is a major forage crop in the Pacific Northwest. When properly grown, harvested and stored, it produces more protein than any other forage crop and nearly equals corn silage in total digestible nutrients for livestock. It also contributes significantly to soil plant nitrogen supply and general soil improvements. Varieties have been developed for certain climatic and geographic areas. Their ability to adapt to w inter and summer climates is a major criterion for classification.


Alfalfa does best on deep, permeable soil with an adequate moisture supply during the growing season. Most varieties very sensitive to poor drainage and compacted soil conditions which restrict root growth. Most productive on loam or loamy soils, well drained, with good moisture holding capacity or with adequate irrigation. Performs best at pH levels of 6.5 or higher; liming necessary on acidic soils.


Alfalfa is a heavy user of plant nutrients. A complete fertilizer program is essential to a long lived productive stand. Fertilizer and lime applications should be based on soil tests. Fall applications of lime prior to seeding are est to provide time for soil reaction. Potassium, sulfur and boron, when indicated by soil tests , should not be banded with the seed, but should be worked into the soil before seeding. Phosphorus may be applied effectively by banding ½ to 1 inch to the side or below the seed, or by shallow incorporation just prior to seeding.


Determined by seasonal temperature and moisture conditions. Most seedings are made from April to early June to allow root systems to develop before high temperatures and low moisture conditions slow growth rate. Late summer and early fall seedings must be in time to allow enough growth to minimize loss from winter injury.


Seed bed should be finely pulverized, leveled, and firmed with soil moisture near the surface to help initiate germination. Low spots and dead furrows should be eliminated.


Effective root nodules formed by RHIZOBIA bacteria are able to fix nitrogen from the air for use by the alfalfa plants. This process may make available as much has 200 pounds of nitrogen per acre per year.


Generally 15 to 20 pounds of seed per acre; may be as low as 3 to 5 pounds for dryland seeding. Seed must be placed in contact with moist soil, but never deeper than ½ inch. For best survival, seed should be drilled to a depth of 1/4 inch. Seeding should be followed by cultipacking to firm the soil around the seed. Severe compaction should be avoided. Companion crops are not recommended except where wind erosion may be a problem. Alfalfa seedlings are relatively poor competitors and need favorable conditions for establishment and survival.

Seed count: 200,000 to 220,000 seeds per pound

Effective annual precipitation needed: 12 inches

CLOVER (Trifolium species

): Clovers may be annual, biennial or perennial; they have three part leaves. Flowers vary in color with species. Plants have deep, well defined taproots with numerous lateral roots which form a dense root system.

Like alfalfa and other legumes, clover have the ability , when properly inoculated with the correct strain of Rhizobia bacteria, to utilize free or atmospheric nitrogen by converting it into a form which can be used by plants. This conversion process takes place in the nodules which are formed on the roots just under the soil surface. When plowed under, the plants decay rapidly and are of great benefit in improving soil condition and fertility.

SMALL HOP CLOVER (Trifolium dubium

): A palatable pasture plant which can produce medium quantity of forage for a short period in the spring, small hop clover is adapted to infertile and eroded soils of the southern United States. The yellow flowers ore borne on small round heads which are similar to flowers of hops. Not considered a valuable forage plant in the Pacific Northwest.

ALSIKE CLOVER (Trifolium hybridum

): A short lived perennial plant, Alsike clover lacks persistence so is treated agriculturally as a biennial. It is grown widely in the eastern and northern mid western states, and in the Pacific Northwest. Similar in many ways to red clover, it matures a week to ten days earlier. It is especially well adapted to cool climates and wet soil, will tolerate flooding for considerable periods. Will also produce well on well drained soils. Does well on soils too acid for red clover, and will tolerate more alkalinity then most clovers, however it responds to lime application. May be readily established on poorly drained or overflow land. Usually produces only one hay crop a year. Fits well in pasture mixtures for wet lands. Alsike tends to lodge badly; a companion crop is desirable for hay production. Flowers are pink or white.

Seed count: 680,000 to 700,000 seeds per pound

Seeding rate: 6 to 8 pounds per acre

Seeding times: February 1 to June 1

Germination: 7 to 10 days

Mature height: 18 to 30 inches

ARROWLEAF CLOVER (Trifolium vesiculosum

): A relatively new winter annual legume successfully grown from eastern Texas to South Carolina and from Tennessee to the Gulf of Mexico, and in western Oregon. Arrowleaf clover thrives on well drained sandy and clay soils, but is less tolerant of acid soils and low fertility than crimson clover. It does not tolerate alkaline soils or poor drainage. Arrowleaf clover has a long productive season, six to eight weeks longer in the spring than crimson clover. Forage yield and quality are high, hard seed percentage is high, and there is a lower incidence of bloat. The thick, hallow stems are often purple. The flower head is initially white, later turning pink to purple. One cutting of excellent quality hay can be make in May if grazing is stopped by early April.

Seed count: 350,000 to 400,000 seeds per pound

Seeding rate: 5 to 8 pounds per acre

Seeding time: August 15 to November 1

Mature height: 24 to 60 inches

CRIMSON CLOVER (Trifolium incarntum):

A winter annual, crimson clover is grown in the Gulf Coast region (except Florida peninsula) to southern Ohio, and west of the Cascades along the Pacific Coast. It is tolerant of medium soil acidity and will grow readily on both sandy and clay type soils. Crimson clover does not tolerate poor drainage or alkaline soils. It is an important winter annual forage in the south, with growth continuing through the winter with the amount influenced by temperature. It provides excellent winter grazing, makes good hay. It is high in nutritive value when harvested for forage in the pre bloom stage. Flower heads are long, crimson, and very showy. Crimson clover and annual ryegrass make excellent cover crop mixture for improve the texture, organic matter and tilth of soils.

Seed count: 145,000 to 150,000 seeds per pound

Seeding rate: 20 to 30 pounds per acre

Seeding times: July 15 to November 1 and April 15 to June 1

Germination: 7 to 10 days

Mature height: 16 to 36 inches

MEDIUM RED CLOVER (Trifolium pratense

): Also known as double cut red clover. Most widely adapted of the true clovers. This short lived perennial is grown in Canada and most of the U.S. except the Great Plains states and the southwest. Mixes well with grass, used for hay, pasture, and soil improvement. Fertile, well drained loams, silt loams, even fairly heavy textured soils are preferred to light or gravelly soils. Red clover will grow on moderately acid soil, but yields are maximized when p H is 6.0 or higher. An early flowering type, it can produce two or three hay crops per year. Fits well into three and four year rotations. Red clover is used extensively in pasture mixtures and or renovating old pastures. Grass should be included in clover mixtures for grazing to reduce chances of bloat. Rotational rather than continuous grazing will help prolong the life of the stand. Considered an early flowering type, it produces two or three hay crops per year; it is biennial or short lived perennial. Most plants produce rose purple or magenta flowers in the seeding year.

Seed count: 270,000 to 280,000 seeds per pound

Seeding rate: 8 to 12 pounds per acre

Seeding times: February 1 to June 1

Germination: 7 to 10 days

Mature height: 24 to 45 inches

Effective annual precipitation needed: 25 inches

MAMMOTH RED CLOVER (Trifolium pratense):

Also known as single cut red clover, mammoth red is a late flowering type. No flowering stems are seen the first year, but a rosette type growth develops. Blooms 10 to 14 days later than medium red clover. Normally grown in cool, moist areas above 45 degrees latitude. Usually only one hay crop can be harvested, but if adequate moisture is available, some aftermath develops Mammoth red clover is tall growing, coarse and hairy. Produces heavier yield in a single cut crop than double cut red clover. Excellent 003366 manure crop.

STRAWBERRY CLOVER (Trifolium fragiferum):

Similar to white clover in growth habit, but lower production. Spreads by aboveground stolons, similar to strawberries. Adapted to wet saline and alkaline soils in the western U.S. Strawberry clover will tolerate flooding. It is principally a pasture plant. Somewhat drought resistant, it prefers continual moisture. It develops a good sod, and is very palatable.

Seed count: 290,000 to 310,000 seeds per pound

Seeding rate: 6 to 10 pounds per acre

For erosion control 3 pounds per 1000 square feet

Seeding time: April 1 to June 1

Germination: 7 to 10 days

Mature height: 6 to 18 inches

ROSE CLOVER (Trifolium hirtum):

Low growing winter annual legume adapted to a wide range of soils and most of the rangelands in California, including thin dry soils and mild climates. Not adapted to poorly drained soils, needs 10 inches annual rainfall, grows to 23000 feet elevation. Summer grazing of dry forage shatters seed, animals trample seed into soil. Palatable even when dry. Less productive than other annual legumes. Rose colored flower heads.

Seed count: 150,000 to 160,000 seeds per pound

Seeding rate: 15 to 20 pounds per acre

Seeding time: September 1 to November 1

Mature height: 4 to 24 inches

SUBTERRANEAN CLOVER (Trifolium subterraneum):

Well adapted to warm moist winters and dry summers. Flourishes in Australia, used as a rangeland legume in western Oregon and California. Suitable for foothills and non irrigated pastures. A portion of the seed head buries in the soil, giving this clover its name and causes a difficult seed harvest. Freely volunteers for many years when managed properly. This clover is considered a reseeding winter annual plant. Needs 15 inches of rainfall, grows to 3000 feet elevation. Tolerant to acid soils, requires well drained soil. Used for permanent pastures.

Seed count: 60,000 to 70,000 seeds per pound

Seeding rate: 20 to 25 pounds per acre

Seeding time: September 1 to November 1

Germination: 12 to 18 days

Mature height: 4 to 8 inches

BERSEEM CLOVER (Trifolium alexandrinum):

Least winter hardy of the cultivated clovers. Adaptation is limited to the warmest Gulf Coast and south western areas. Produces more winter forage than other legumes if not frozen out; however, it is not considered a major forage legume. Has an erect growth habit, hollow stems, narrow leaflets, and yellowish white flowers.

Seed count: 200,000 seeds per pound

Seeding rate: 15 to 20 pounds per acre

WHITE CLOVER (Trifolium repens):

Small, intermediate, and large white clover evolved on relatively infertile, medium fertile, and fertile soils respectively. White clover are found from the Arctic Circle throughout the temperate regions of the glove, and in some subtropical regions such as the Gulf Coast of the U.S. and Queensland, Australis. As a pasture plant, white clover yields are greatest in mild humid climates, such as New Zealand, the Pacific Northwest, the eastern half of the U.S., northern Europe, and along river valleys and in irrigated pastures of the intermountain region. White clover, a long lived stononiferous perennial, is bet adapted to well drained silt loam and clay soils with a pH range from 6.0 to 7.0 in humid and irrigated areas. With adequate soil moisture and fertility, it can be grown on sandy soils. It is not tolerant of saline or highly alkaline soils. The plant is shallow rooted, seldom goes deeper than 2 feet. White clover ranges from a perennial plant in the temperate zones to a winter annual in subtropical areas. Proper management of white clover grass pastures includes grazing or clipping to prevent excessive growth and competition from the grasses. The larger white clover require rotational or controlled continuous grazing. Over consumption of white clover by ruminants may result in either bloat or reproductive problems. For pastures, it is almost always seeded with grass. It has been seeded alone for swine and poultry pastures. The flower color is usually white, but may be slightly pinkish.

Seed count: 800,000 seeds per pound

Seeding rate: 6 to 8 pounds per acre

Seeding times: April 1 to June 15

Germination: 7 to 10 days

Effective annual precipitation needed: 18 inches

Large Types:


A large white clover which makes up about half the total white clover acreage in the U.S. Its high nutritive value and palatability make it a popular choice in pasture mixtures. It is not deep rooted, and will not tolerate drought. It is two to four times as large as common white clover. Requires a high soil phosphate level. Ryegrass and Orchardgrass work well with ladino clover in mixtures.

Mature height: 8 to 14 inches


Approximately 40% of the acreage of white clover in the U.S. is of this type. Other than size of the mature plants, the characteristics of the intermediate clovers are similar to those of the large types.


Highly palatable, prefers cool, moist conditions. Often used in pasture mixtures west of the Cascades.


Designates a strain of white clover which originated in Holland. Also is used in pasture mixtures.

SWEETCLOVER (Melilotus spp.):

Sweetclover thrives under a wide range of soil and climatic conditions. It will not tolerate acid soils, however. Drought resistant, winter hardy and productive throughout the Corn Belt south to the Gulf Coast. Quite alkali tolerant, likes limestone soils. Because of its deep, heavy taproot and dense root system it opens subsoil and increases aeration, making it a valuable conservation tool. Roots break down rapidly at maturity, adding organic matter to the soil.

The first season’s growth of these large biennials consists of one central, many ranched stem. The second year the crown buds start growth early, sending up many vigorous rapidly growing stems. Generally Sweetclover is seeded for hay or silage in the northern tier of states, for 003366 manure or pasture in the Corn Belt, and for pasture in the south. In the Palouse region of eastern Washington and Idaho Sweetclover grass mixtures are used in rotation with cereal grains and peas to aid in halting soil deterioration.

Most unimproved strains contain large amounts of bound coumarin which gives new mown Sweetclover its characteristics vanilla like aroma. When the plant tissues are chewed by animals, free coumarin is liberated, producing an unpalatable taste. Heating or spoilage of Sweetclover hay or silage converts coumarin to dicoumarol, a toxic substance which reduces blood clotting time. Low coumarin varieties have been developed.

Seed count: 250,000 to 260,000 seeds per pound

Seeding rate: 12 to 15 pounds per acre

Seeding times: May 1 to June 15

Germination: 7 to 10 days

Effective annual precipitation needed: 15 inches


A better species for hay and pasture than white blossom as the stems and leaves are finer. The three to five foot plants tend to be more bushy and are more desirable for these purposes.


A large, biennial, coarse growing type, often attaining height of six feet. Too coarse at maturity for hay. Best for 003366 manure crop because of amount of forage produced.

FIELD PEAS (Pisum sativum var arvense):

Field peas are used as a winter annual in the South and as a spring annual in the North for soil improvement and for forage. Generally grown with a small grain for pasture, hay or silage. Subject to winter kill and disease. Many cultivars have been available. Used for cover crop and 003366 manure crop, peas are good legumes for building tilth and adding humus to the soil. Likes well drained, fertile loam. Does not tolerate high water table or any substantial flooding.

Seed count: 3,000 seeds per pound

Seeding rate: 75 to 100 pounds per acre

Mature height: 30 to 54 inches

Germination: 8 to 10 days

DWARF ENGLISH TREFOIL (L. corniculatus arvensis):

Short rhizomes, good for ground cover or erosion control. Persists under moderate grazing. Seed difficult to locate.

BIG TREFOIL or LOTUS MAJOR – Also known as Deervetch (Lotus pedunculatus)or (Lotus uliginosus)


A fine stemmed long lived perennial legume with relatively large leaves and vigorous underground rhizomes, big trefoil is grown primarily on wet, poorly drained, acidic coastal soils of western Oregon and Washington and to a limited extent along the Atlantic and Gulf coast. Not winter hardy east of the Cascade Range. The general growth habits are similar to Birdsfoot trefoil. An excellent forage producer when established, big trefoil is a hardy underground creeper, withstands prolonged flooding and submergence performs well in mixtures.

Seed count: 900,000 to 1,000,000 seeds per pound

Seeding rate: 5 to 6 pounds per acre

Seeding depth: 1/4 to1/2 inch

Seeding time: April 15 to June 1

Germination: 10 to 14 days

Mature height: 15 to 36 inches

NOTE: Inoculation is a must.


Adapted to low, wet soil, very tolerant of saline soils. Shallow root system. Flowers turn red with age. Less erect than Empire. Narrow leaves. Otherwise, very close resemblance to Birdsfoot trefoil. Grows in Oregon, California and New York


, this long lived, deep rooted perennial forage legume is used for pasture, hay and silage. There are two types grown in the U.S., the European type and the Empire type. The Empire type is finer stemmed, more winter hardy, is 10 to 14 days later in flowering, and has slower growth recovery rate after harvest. Birdsfoot trefoil is adapted to the coastal areas west of the Cascade Range and from Minnesota and Iowa east to the New England states. It grows on many differing soil types, from sandy loams to clays.

It accepts poorly drained, droughty, infertile, acid or mildly alkaline soils. Most productive on fertile, well drained soils with a pH of 6.2 to 6.5 or higher. Under severe winter conditions of Canada and Minnesota, the Empire types are more winter hardy than the European types.

The nutritive value equals that of alfalfa, and there is no apparent problem from bloat, even when pure stands are grazed. The European types grow faster and can be harvested two and sometimes three times per year. Minimum cutting heights are from 3 to 4.5 inches to protect the buds from which new growth occurs.

Birdsfoot trefoil should be seeded with grasses for optimum forage production. These grasses include: timothy, smooth brome, Orchardgrass, tall fescue, reed canarygrass and perennial ryegrass. Inoculation with the correct Rhizobia bacteria is required for effective nodulation Seedling growth rate is slower than alfalfa. Seedbed preparation is very important, similar to alfalfa.

Seed count: 360,000 to 390,000 seeds per pound

Seeding rate: 5 to 8 pounds per acre

Seeding depth: Max ½ inch

Seeding time: April 15 to June 1

Germination: 10 to 14 days

Mature height: 12 to 30 inches

Minimum effective annual precipitation: 18 inches

VETCHES (Vicia spp.):

With few exceptions, vetches are annual vine type legumes with leaves ending in tendrils. In the southern U.S. and the Pacific Coast vetches are seeded in the fall, often following a cultivated crop. In the northen U.S. only hairy vetch is winter hardy enough to be a winter annual. Vetches are often seeded with small grains for hay, pasture or silage. They should be pastured on when dry to avoid soil compaction and to reduce the possibility of bloat in ruminants. As with other legumes, inoculation with the correct Rhizobium strain of bacteria aids in effective nodulation for nitrogen fixation.

HAIRY VETCH (Vicia villosa):

This is the most winter hardy of the cultivated vetches. It may be grown in most crop producing areas of the U.S. It is adapted to light sandy soils as well as heavier soils, but likes well drained areas for best production, does well on hill lands. The plants may be very hairy or nearly hairless; they have purple flowers. Seed shatters badly. Used for cover crop, also suited for silage, winter pasture and hay.

Seed count: 19,000 to 21,000 seeds per pound

Seeding rate: 40 to 45 pounds per acre

Seeding times: March 15 to May 1 or July 1 to November 1

Germination: 10 to 14 days

Mature height: 30 to 6o inches

COMMON VETCH (Vicia sativa):

Less winter hardy than hairy vetch. Vest adapted to well drained, fertile soils, used on highway cuts, seeded on steep banks for erosion control. Not tolerant of wet soils. Early growth not as palatable for grazing as after bloom. Similar to hairy vetch in usage. More acceptable for hay than hairy vetch.

Seed count: 7,000 to 8,000 seeds per pound

Seeding rate: 50 to 75 pounds per acre

Seeding time: September 15 to November 1 (in areas of mild winters)

Germination: 10 to 14 days

Mature height: 30 to 60 inches

Legume plants are unique in that they have the capability of fixing free nitrogen from the atmosphere into a form which benefits the plant. And which can be returned to the soil. For legumes to be able to perform this function, they must be inoculated with the correct strain of rhizobia bacteria. These bacteria are specific to certain kinds of legumes; the strain which is effective for alfalfa, for instance, has not effect on vetch. While any strain of rhizobia may infect a species by entering the root hairs, they will not cause nodule formation unless they are specific for that species.

When the legume seeds have been properly inoculated, the bacteria infect the root hairs and form nodules on the roots. The nodules are the site of the nitrogen fixation by the rhizobia bacteria. While the exact process of nitrogen fixation is complicated, the important fact is that nitrogen is absorbed, converted to ammonia, and the ammonia is then converted to several amino acids which are the building blocks of protein. These amino acids are the reason legumes have a higher crude protein content than grasses.

Any physiological shock to legume plants, either by forage removal, heavy insect infestation, or lack of nutrients, will result in the shedding of the nodules. These nodules are rich sources of soluble nitrogen, and consequently return considerable available nitrogen to the soil. The beneficial effect of nodule shedding is most obvious when grasses are mixed with the legumes. The plants are not harmed by this loss of nodules, as the root hairs are readily reinfected by the bacteria released by the decomposing nodules.

Inoculation of all legume seeds with the correct strain of Rhizobia bacteria is essential for nitrogen fixation, to increase the production of higher protein forage, and to return nitrogen to the soil.