10 Benefits of Using Alfalfa in Your Garden

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10 Benefits of Using Alfalfa in Your Garden @learningandyearning

Here Are 10 Great Benefits of Using Alfalfa in Your Garden

Alfalfa, a perennial flowering legume, is mainly known as an animal feed. But I love it for its many uses in the garden. It can be used in any of its forms:

    • freshly chopped alfalfa – lightly dig into the soil
    • alfalfa hay – use as mulch, or in layers as you build a lasagna garden
    • alfalfa meal – this is dried, ground alfalfa and can be sprinkled around the garden
    • alfalfa pellets – alfalfa meal formed into pellets – check to be sure there are no other ingredients – sprinkle around the garden
    • alfalfa tea – brewed by putting a cup of meal into a 5 gallon bucket and filling with water. Let this sit for several days. It will get stronger and more odiferous the larger you brew it. Strain the tea and water plants with it, or use it as a foliar spray.

Benefits of Using Alfalfa 

This plant is just one of those all around good guys! I don’t garden without it. Here are 10 great benefits to using alfalfa in your garden:

1. Good Source of Minerals

Alfalfa is a good source of nitrogen, along with several other minerals including:

  • phosphorus
  • potassium
  • calcium
  • sulfur
  • magnesium
  • boron
  • iron
  • zinc

The N-P-K ratio for alfalfa is approximately 3 – 1 – 3, depending on its source.

2. Builds Organic Matter

Alfalfa builds organic matter in your soil providing nutrients to plant roots. Its high nitrogen content helps other organic material to decompose. Organic matter also helps to prevent compaction, acts like a sponge and holds moisture in the soil, improves soil structure, and helps to prevent erosion.

3. Feeds Microorganisms

The microorganisms in your soil love alfalfa because of the protein, amino acids, fiber and sugars in its stalk – items they need to thrive. Alfalfa hay has an almost perfect balance of carbon to nitrogen (24:1) which soil organisms require.

4. Stimulates Growth

Alfalfa contains triacontanol, a hormone which stimulates the growth of plant roots, enhances photosynthesis, and increases beneficial microbes which help to suppress many soil-borne diseases.

5. Fixes Nitrogen

Alfalfa actually takes nitrogen from the air and holds it as nodules on its roots, a process called “nitrogen fixing”.  This nitrogen becomes available in the soil for other plants to use when the alfalfa plant is cut down and its roots are left in the soil, or when the plant is turned into the soil.

6. Stimulates Compost

When added to your compost pile, alfalfa acts as a stimulator. It decomposes rapidly, creating heat which helps the rest of your compost to decompose. And your finished compost will have higher nutrient levels when alfalfa is used. Higher nutrient levels in your compost and soil means more nutrient-dense produce in your garden.

7. Controls Harmful Nematodes

A study in Italy showed that alfalfa pellets significantly reduced infestation of root-knot nematode on tomato plants, and cyst nematode on carrots. As an added bonus, yields for both tomatoes and carrots were increased in comparison to the control groups.

8. Provides Drought Resistance

Because of alfalfa’s sponge-like ability to absorb and hold moisture, it helps plants grown in that soil to be more resistant to periods of low rain.

9. Is a Dynamic Accumulator

Alfalfa roots reach down into the sub-soil up to 8 feet, bringing valuable hard-to-reach nutrients up to the soil surface where they are stored in the leaves of the plant. Using the cut alfalfa in your garden and compost adds these nutrients to the upper layers of your soil where other garden plants can use them. Alfalfa is particularly good at bringing iron to the surface, a micro-nutrient needed for chlorophyll synthesis.

10. Is a Great Cover Crop

Leaving garden beds bare in the winter leaves them exposed to the harsh elements of weather. They should always be mulched, or a cover crop should be planted. Also known as “green manure”, cover crops are generally planted in the fall and then dug into the soil in the spring to improve soil. The crop may also be cut down at the soil level and used as a mulch, rather than digging it in. All of the above benefits (with the exception of #9) would apply.

Where to Buy Alfalfa

Bales of alfalfa and pellets can generally be found at feed supply stores such as Tractor Supply. At this point, I haven’t been able to find it at garden centers, at least not in my area. Organic alfalfa meal may be found here.

What ways have you used alfalfa in your garden? Did you find it beneficial?

300 x 250To learn how to build a garden that builds healthy soil, be sure to check out my eBook The Art of Gardening: Building Your SoilYou really can become a better gardener, and you really can grow healthy, nourishing produce. It’s all about the soil! Click here to buy now.



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  1. says

    Love this post! Adding it to my Gardening Pinterest board. I am starting a new garden (just moved into a new house) and I am always looking for highly beneficial plants!!

    Be Well,

    • Susan says

      Hi Amber! Glad you stopped by. I hope you do add alfalfa in some form to your garden; it will really make a difference.

    • Susan says

      Hi Joyce, Thanks for the invitation – I linked up!! I always use baled alfalfa hay. I hope to grow alfalfa sometime, but I haven’t up to now, so I can’t really advise. So sorry.

    • says

      Joyce, growing alfalfa in the southeast is not as easy or productive than in more northern climates. I have even heard that Kentucky is as far south you can go and get a long standing, productive crop. The heat and humidity make it shorter lived and harder to establish here (I am in TN). If you still want to try check out this linkhttp://www.lsuagcenter.com/en/crops_livestock/livestock/pasture_forage/publications/alfalfa+production+in+louisiana.htm
      Good Luck!

  2. says

    Wow that’s great info – our yard and garden could definitely use some of that magic alfalfa touch…. after all the snow melts! Where oh where are you spring? :)

    • Susan says

      Thanks, Chris. It seems that spring is a long time coming everywhere this year. At least we don’t have snow here in PA.

      I checked out your page and scheduled to share your elderberry post on fb later today. We just planted 2 bushes.

  3. K.V.Srihari says

    It’s not of Indian origin, so no
    Indian name.
    It is a very good fodder for milching cattle.The tincture made from it is used by homeopaths as a energising tonic.

  4. Jared says

    If you spread out Alfalfa hay from bales, do you not end up with alfalfa sprouts all over your garden? I am about to truck in some fresh compost and till it up with my standing soil and was thinking of mixing in a few bales of alfalfa but I just got all of the grass out of the area and I don’t particularly want alfalfa growing like crazy in the garden either.

    • Susan Vinskofski says

      I build my gardens in layers, Jared, and the hay is a lower layer which keeps weeds from sprouting. I never dig my garden. So, I would spread a thin layer of alfalfa, then perhaps a layer of leaves, and the compost would be the top layer. Another strategy I use is to age the hay, allowing it to sprout and begin to decompose before using it. My new eBook The Art of Gardening: Building Your Soil teaches this method of gardening: http://learningandyearning.com/building.your.soil.

  5. Reagan Dobler says

    I have used alfalfa pellets in my garden for over 30 years. I hand toss them into all of my garden areas in the Spring. Roses love alfalfa pellets and I incorporate them into the soil gently around each rose in the Spring too. Doesn’t take a lot but the difference in my plants growth and “show” is very noticeable . My Grandfather clued me into the benefits of alfalfa when I was a little girl. I never forgot his wise teachings and his practices have always served me well.

  6. says

    I give alfalfa hay to my Ladies (chickens), I toss a wedge or two to them in the pen. It is nice especially in the winter as that way they get some greens while snow is on the ground and when I go to rake up what is left after they have scratched, pecked and pooped on it, it makes the BEST compost.

  7. CTY says

    Very good post! I have 2 questions about using alfalfa pellets.
    1. I would prefer to scatter pellets in the raised beds and then cover lightly soil. What kind of odor can I expect?
    2. I understand that using a GMO alfalfa supports the GMO farming industry, but are there any “side affects” to my plants? Ideally, I will buy organic, GMO-free brand–but I am not sure if it is available in my area. Also–does the bag have to say GMO product?

    • Susan Vinskofski says

      I wouldn’t expect any negative odor from the alfalfa pellets. Alfalfa has a lovely smell. If the alfalfa doesn’t say organic, or GMO-free, you can assume that it is genetically modified. You can expect GMO alfalfa to contain pesticides and herbicides. Adding it to your garden in the fall should allow those to break down over the winter. Beyond that, I don’t really know what dangers it would pose. I’m not saying that it won’t, just that I don’t really know.

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