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Crown Vetch For Food PlotsCrown Vetch

Crown Vetch is used in food plots as it makes excellent cover for quail and good grazing forage for deer. In fact deer love to graze on crown vetch which has crude protein and fiber content similar to other forage legumes. The mounded type growth pattern provides good ground cover for ground nesting birds, rabbits and other small mammals as well as providing forage for deer and elk. Deer are known to paw away a winter snow layer in order to get to the crown vetch to feed. Crown Vetch will shed seeds through the summer for quail and other game birds. Crown Vetch makes an excellent food plot for Deer, Quail, Dove, Turkey, Pheasant, and Rabbit..

There are three varieties of crown vetch available. They are Emerald, Penngift and Chemung. Seedland sells the more desirable Penngift variety which is pre-inoculated.

Crown Vetch Facts and Uses

Crown Vetch is a perennial, herbaceous legume although the name implies that it is a vetch. It is slow to establish and thus is usually planted with buckwheat, creeping red fescue or annual ryegrass as companion crops to provide initial cover. When Crown Vetch establishes it will spread quickly from it's prolific rhizomes. Well adapted to most soils in the U.S., but not adapted to the Deep South, it will provide a permanent ground cover with good erosion control. As an erosion control plant, Crown vetch is well suited for hillside or slope erosion plantings in areas where mowing is difficult or impossible. Crown vetch provides an excellent, almost maintenance-free, ground cover for soil stabilization and slope beautification. Read more about crown vetch use as erosion control plants.

This creeping plant with semi-vine growth habit has nitrogen fixing capabilities for poor soils. Produces a ground cover that can grow to a height of 18-24 inches and appears to look a little like clover. It is very competitive and will crowd out most weeds. It has an extensive root system making it fairly drought tolerant and hard to eliminate from fields etc. It is also used for wildlife foraging (Deer, etc.).

Crown Vetch produces attractive flowers during the seasonal blooming period. It blooms in various colors of white-pink to purple-pink color. Crown Vetch is primarily used in North Eastern areas of the USA states.

Crown Vetch Is An Invasive Plant Species

Due to it's aggressive and creeping type of growth, crown vetch is considered to be an invasive plant. Crown Vetch has rhizomes that can grow up to ten feet long from a single plant within one year. One crown vetch plant can cover an area of 75 to 100 feet within 3 to 4 years. Crown vetch can be a serious management threat to natural areas due to rapid vegetative spreading by creeping roots. Crown Vetch can be considered non-invasive if properly maintained by mowing, tilling or the use of herbicides to control growth areas. Flowers will appear from May to August and produce seeds that can remain dormant and viable for over fifteen years.

Use caution when considering an area to be planted with crown vetch. Because of its invasive nature, if not properly maintained, you should not plant near areas where other grasses or crops will be grown. Crown Vetch is a beneficial plant when used in the right areas. Besides use as a food plot crop, crown vetch is planted in cool, humid regions on steep hillsides or slopes for erosion control where mowing may be impractical or impossible. Like many plants, when used in the wrong area crown vetch can be harmful and invasive. For more information on the invasive properties of crown vetch see this article from IPSAWG (PDF document).

We advise that you consult with your local Cooperative Extension agent on the advisability of using this plant for your particular location. We have provided a list of extension agents at: www.turfhelp.com/info/extension.html. If you are unfamiliar with this plant do not plant before consulting with an agricultural expert.


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Planting & Growing Crown Vetch

It is recommended that crown vetch seed, as is the case with other legumes, is inoculated before planting. The variety of Crown Vetch seed, Penngift, sold by Seedland is pre-inoculated. Also lime may need to be applied to soil in the area before planting as crown vetch prefers a soil pH of 5.5 - 7.0.

Type: Perennial legume

Soils: Grows well on acidic, infertile soils. Prefers a pH of 5.5-7.0. It is NOT recommended for wet, poorly drained soils. Crown Vetch like many legumes, is a nitrogen "fixer" for soils lacking in nitrogen.

Establishment: Crown Vetch is a slow establisher. Because of its slow establishment, it is usually seeded in combination with buckwheat, ryegrass or creeping red fescue. These companion crops will provide faster cover and erosion control until the Crown Vetch fills in. Full establishment of crown vetch generally takes about 2 years.

Planting rate: Seed at a rate of 20 lbs per acre. Inoculation of the seeds may help growth of this legume by helping the root system obtain nitrogen from the soil. For smaller plots plant 1 lb. per 1000 sq. ft. Broadcast rates should be higher than drilled rates. Fertilization on an annual basis will keep the forage and seed rate higher.

Planting Depth: 1/4"

Planting Dates: Best planting time is in the spring (March - Mid-May). Crown Vetch may also be planted in the fall, usually in September.

Additional planting and establishment of crown vetch information from the University of Missouri.

   

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Crown Vetch is a perennial legume that can provide forage for deer, seeds that other wildlife eat and cover for game birds such as quail. Crown vetch is grown in most of the United States and takes two to three years to fully establish a full stand but develops excellent coverage in the first year and is a heavy seeding legume after maturity. Make sure your location is suitable for planting Crown Vetch.

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