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The Leprechaun's Secret
 by Richard Blaisdell              

     Folklore tells that Leprechauns live where shamrocks grow, the signature plant of Ireland. We know the shamrock as white Dutch clover.  It is called white Dutch clover because in Holland the white clovers were first recognized as a valuable agricultural crop. The flowers are bee enticers and the clover roots hold tiny sacs of nitrogen fixing bacteria, which replenish soil fertility. One little seedling can travel and cover 10 square feet in a summer helping to prevent erosion.  I went to my garden center and found a one-pound can of white Dutch clover seed.  I seeded a small area in the fall that was dry and barren after a very hot summer.   I wanted a cover crop that I would turn under in the spring and had hopes of planting corn, beans and squash in this area in six months. The clover seed grew quickly and covered the dirt preventing muddy areas when it rained.

       Everyday I would pass by my beautiful green clover patch and just for fun I'd look it over and see if I could spot a lucky four-leaf clover among the thousands of three leaf clovers. Try as I could, none were found.

     It was mid-February when the clover started to blossom, just in time for the bees to gather nectar and at the same time pollinate citrus and avocado trees nearby.  I walked by my clover patch and spotted a four-leaf clover out of the corner of my eye.  Whether you believe or not, it is believed that Leprechauns have control over who finds the lucky charm of a four leaf clover.  It seems the four-leafed clover can only be found when you are not looking for them. They seem to grow in more shade than in the sun, but to find more than one, I thought was rare in one day. I gathered the one prized clover and pressed it in my large wine connoisseurs book.  I did try looking for more, but none could be found. I was patient. In a few more days, when I least expected it, another shamrock appeared right next to the path where I stood. I picked that clover, then, I didn't look anymore. I thought of a warning I read somewhere, “beware, if you take all the four leaf clovers the Leprechauns will disappear”.  Several days of rain came which kept me out of the garden, but I could see rapid growth of the clover patch.  I scanned over the clovers in the early morning before going to work. Voila'. I found three at once.  I dried and pressed them in my large wine book again with the intention of giving them to friends on St. Patrick's Day. The Leprechauns apparently were friendly, granting me more four-leaf clovers, but I didn't see a rainbow and there was no pot of gold.

     My clover patch receives mainly rainwater, and thrives on my neglect. This is why it is used as a cover crop in between seasons. When you do till the clovers into the soil, you'll discover one of the Leprechaun's secrets. Underneath the clovers are many earthworms, which help break down the organic material, aerate the soil, and return to your garden riches of free fertilizer in the form of castings.  The clovers also reward you with beneficial insects that are attracted to the white flowers.

     The Dutch certainly knew what they were doing, as did the Irish, when they used clover to help rejuvenate their soil.   When you add some history, the clovers are the “clavers” of the Middle Ages derived from the Latin word clava, meaning club and refers to the plants three leaflets. These three leaflets represent the trinity and bring luck; but when clovers are found with four leaflets they bring still more luck and all the leaves are ancient charms against witches and any other evil. Every once in a while you can even find a five-leaf clover, which is very rare.    

     This past year I tilled the white clover into the ground and planted corn, and pumpkin along with chili peppers. I was rewarded with delicious golden sweet corn and several orange gulf fritillary butterflies that wandered among the corn and landed on small yellow purslane flowers. I transplanted a few white clover plants to a tomato growing in some used black plastic pots; it was an experiment that worked. I had inexpensive green manure and weed suppressant mulch.  The white Dutch clover also, kept the black plastic cans cooler and the clover flowers attracted bees to pollinate the crop of tomatoes.  Lastly, I found by chance, an extra lucky five-leaf clover, which I pressed and have to this day. Leave it to the Leprechauns, that all the four leaf clovers found and given away to friends were discovered before St Patrick's Day and lo' and behold after March 17th, I could find nary a one.    

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