Alfalfa, snail clover - sowing and care

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The snail clover, better known as alfalfa, is a fairly undemanding plant. As it improves soil quality and attracts bees and bumblebees, it is an asset to the garden. Especially in natural beds it fits very well. In addition, the sprouts, leaves and flowers can be used in many ways in the kitchen. While not much is needed for successful culture, conditions must be right. Especially at the beginning should be paid to the proper care, because the effort later becomes smaller.


The alfalfa a sunny location that can heat up quickly and is dry. North sides, overshadowed areas and cold damp corners are therefore conceivably unfavorable.
Tip: Also suitable are beds that did not lay fallow for too long before sowing.


Dry, loose soils are preferred by the snail clover. However, it can also thrive in heavy soil if it is not prone to compaction and is profound. Normal garden soil is therefore enough for him completely. If this is very firm, adding sand to loosen it up can make sense. As well as the mixing in of compost. Ideal is also a pH between 6 and 7.5.


Snail clover plant

For alfalfa to gain a foothold and thrive for years, it needs plenty of space down. Its roots can reach several meters into the ground, ensuring that the plant can feed itself even in dry phases. A profound digging and loosening up at the planned location makes sense. As well as enriching the soil with compost or manure.
Tip: The more thorough this procedure, the lower the subsequent care effort. It's well worth the effort in the long run.


For the sowing of alfalfa hobby gardeners can take plenty of time. It is possible from March to August. Those who would like to harvest early in the first year should, of course, sow early accordingly. Apart from the unusually large time window, there are also special features when sowing the snail clover. First, the form of sowing. This should be done even in a large-scale cultivation not in rows, but wide-ranging. This can reduce the weed pressure.
On the other hand, the low sowing depth. The seeds should not be deeper than an inch below the surface. In the case of a higher substrate cover, germinal problems quickly arise in the otherwise so vigorous plant. However, she also makes it more susceptible to avian and wild feeding. Covering the seedbed is therefore recommended during the first time. After sowing, the bed should be well watered but not washed.

to water

Alfalfa casting is usually only possible during the first sprouting. The plants have reached a height of 80 cm to 100 cm, the roots are usually already many times longer. The plants can then provide themselves with water and survive dry periods. Additional watering is only necessary if the snail clover shows deficiency symptoms and the leaves become limp or collapse during the day.


Another special feature of alfalfa lies in its ability to independently produce nitrogen and store it in Wurzelknöllchen.
If the soil has been enriched with compost before sowing, it can therefore do without further nitrogen fertilization, as it supplies itself as well as with water itself. However, it can benefit from magnesium, potash and phosphorus. It is therefore beneficial to use a nitrogen-free agent, such as the GreenGrass lawn fertilizer. However, should not be rashly resorted to. If the snail cudgel thrives without additional nutrients, it is of course not necessary.


Alfalfa can be radically blended or harvested up to four times a year. A special time is not to wait here. However, there is one point to keep in mind. If alfalfa is to be cultivated as a perennial plant, it must be allowed to flower at least once a year.



Although alfalfa is mainly known as nutrient-rich cattle feed, it has long since found its way into healthy eating under a different name. When alfalfa is handled, the sprouts can be eaten raw or dried. But other parts of alfalfa are also suitable for consumption. The young leaves can be enjoyed raw in soup, sauce and salad. The flowers are suitable for teas.


The alfalfa is hardy and needs no protection against frost.

Typical diseases, care mistakes and pests

Alfalfa is vigorous, but quite vulnerable to some diseases and pests. The most dangerous threats are downy mildew and leaf-borer beetles or their larvae. The downy mildew is characterized by whitish to yellowish spots on the leaves.In order to combat it effectively and quickly, it is usually sufficient to radically cut alfalfa. The cut plant parts are to be destroyed, because on the compost the pathogens would spread only further.
The leaf beetle is more difficult to recognize and combat. The adult pests feed on the leaves of alfalfa, but usually do not cause too much damage. In contrast, the larvae of the beetle, which he drops after eating the leaves, are dangerous. These are found in the soil and feed on the nitrogen deposits of the plants. This is recognizable except for decreasing vigor only when digging the roots. Here are the nodules hollowed out at the roots. If the alfalfa grows poorly, then some plants should be dug out as a check. It is best to fight the beetles while they are still eating the leaves. With few plants, the collection is favorable. For larger areas insecticides must be used.

Frequently asked questions

  • Why do the leaves of alfalfa fold together? - If the leaves of the snail clover close overnight, that's no cause for concern. The plant uses this mechanism to reduce evaporation. If the leaves also close during the day, this is due to lack of water in the soil. Pouring solves the problem.
  • Does the alfalfa have to observe a crop rotation? - No, the snail clover is self-compatible and can grow easily over several years in the same location. Other plants in the preculture do not affect the growth. Incidentally, beds on which alfalfa has grown are optimally supplied with nitrogen and are therefore ideal for heavy drinkers.

Worth knowing about Lucerne soon

  • Alfalfa has been used for many centuries as a forage for livestock.
  • She is originally from Persia, where she was mainly fed horses.
  • It came to Germany in 1700 and has since been successfully cultivated there as a plant for feed and hay.
  • It is also referred to as the "Queen of Forage Plants".
  • Alfalfa seeds can be sown from early April to late July.
  • Alfalfa is not very demanding in terms of soil conditions and thrives on more difficult soil. However, for a good harvest a loose soil is required so that no waterlogging forms. Not so well suited, this plant for very heavy or dense soils.
  • Alfalfa does not have any great demands on the supply of water either, and it grows well even in light rainfall if it had the opportunity to grow enough roots before.
  • The plant itself grows up to a meter high, but forms root systems to a depth of five meters.
  • However, it grows best in a warm and dry climate with lots of sunshine.
  • The alfalfa is perennial, hardy and also survives frosts easily.
  • It is also suitable for green manuring because it absorbs nitrogen from the air with the help of bacteria and binds it.

Food and hay from Lucerne

The alfalfa can be mown several times a year and then dried to use as hay. It is especially fed to dairy cows, horses, sheep and small cattle and contains a lot of protein as well as some vitamins and nutrients. Alfalfa is sold in the form of bales or as pellets.
  • In Germany, alfalfa is cultivated on an area usually only two to three years, because then the yields fall.
  • Here, however, only the Bastardluzerne are sown, which are a cross between the Saatluzerne and the Sichelluzerne.
  • The seed lucerne is indeed very productive, but hardly hardy, the Sichelluzerne, however, is very robust.
  • From the Bastardluzerne there are different varieties, which were bred in each case for special situations.

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