Planting and Growing Alfalfa: Tips for Sustainable Cultivation

alfalfa flower


  • Alfalfa (Medicago sativa) is a versatile and nutritious legume that is commonly used for livestock feed, soil improvement, and forage production.
  • This guide will provide detailed instructions for planting and growing Alfalfa using sustainable methods for successful cultivation.
  • Instructions will take into account variations in growing locations and conditions.

Planting Instructions

Choose the right time

  • Plant Alfalfa in the spring or fall when soil temperatures are between 50-85°F (10-29°C).
  • Optimal planting time is typically 4-6 weeks before the last frost date in the spring.

Select a suitable location

  • Alfalfa prefers well-draining soil with a pH between 6.5-7.5.
  • Plant in full sun to partial shade.

Prepare the soil

  • Remove weeds and grasses from the planting area.
  • Incorporate organic matter such as compost or aged manure into the soil to provide nutrients and improve soil structure.
  • Avoid over-fertilization with nitrogen as Alfalfa is a legume and can fix its own nitrogen.

Sow the seeds

  • Broadcast the seeds evenly over the planting area at a rate of 15-20 lbs/acre or 1/4-1/2 lb/1000 sq ft.
  • Cover the seeds with a thin layer of soil and pack the soil to ensure good seed-to-soil contact.

Maintain the seedlings

  • Keep the soil consistently moist until the seedlings establish.
  • Reduce watering frequency as the seedlings mature.

Growing Instructions

Incorporate permaculture and regenerative techniques

  • Plant Alfalfa in a polyculture setting to promote biodiversity and soil health.
  • Utilize swales, contour planting, and keyline design to maximize water retention and distribution.
  • Encourage beneficial insects and wildlife to create a balanced ecosystem and natural pest control.


  • Alfalfa prefers lean soil and does not require regular fertilization.
  • Incorporate a small amount of balanced, organic fertilizer into the soil before planting or use a top dressing of compost or aged manure.

Pest and disease management

  • Alfalfa is relatively pest and disease-resistant but monitor for signs of infestations or infections.
  • Practice proper sanitation and ensure good air circulation to reduce disease pressure.


  • Established Alfalfa is drought-tolerant but will benefit from supplemental irrigation during extended dry periods.
  • Utilize water-saving techniques like drip irrigation, rainwater catchment, or mulching to conserve water resources.

Weed control

  • Use mulching or hand weeding to suppress weed growth and minimize soil disturbance.

Harvesting and propagation

  • Harvest Alfalfa when the plants reach mid-bloom stage for optimal yield and quality.
  • Cut the Alfalfa stems 1-2 inches above the ground using a sickle bar mower or haybine.
  • Alfalfa can be propagated through seed or through division of the root crown.

By following these detailed planting and growing instructions for Alfalfa using sustainable methods, you can successfully cultivate this versatile and nutritious legume in various growing zones, providing numerous benefits such as livestock feed, soil improvement, and forage production.

In addition to these techniques, it's important to note that Alfalfa is a valuable source of nutrients and can be used to improve soil health and fertility. By incorporating Alfalfa into your farming or gardening practices, you can improve your overall productivity and contribute to a more sustainable agricultural system.

Alfalfa is a versatile and nutritious legume that can be successfully cultivated using sustainable methods. By following the instructions outlined in this guide, you can successfully grow Alfalfa in your own farm or garden, contributing to a more sustainable and resilient agricultural system. With its numerous benefits such as livestock feed, soil improvement, and forage production, Alfalfa is an excellent addition to any farming or gardening operation.