Different Types Of Clover For Lawns
Almost all clover lawns are made using perennial clover. Annual clover is only used in areas with extremely hot summers.
White clover is the most popular species for lawns in Zones 3 to 10. Its also the most widely grown clover in North America. There is a wide range of cultivars to choose from with different sizes and growth habits, and even striking colors like black-leaved clover .
Black-leaved clover , Credit: Emma Forsberg
Other popular clovers include strawberry clover and red clover . Strawberry clover was bred for colder climates and is more robust and resistant to weeds than white clover. Red clover is a taller variety that is short lived in warm climates and does not do as well in wet soil.
Lately, microclover is getting more interest than regular white clover. One common variety recommended is white microclover . Microclover has a much shorter growth habit, so it blends in with turfgrass, making the lawn look uniformly green even if the grass turns brown. The dense, low growth habit makes it a great deterrent for weeds and it is more resistant to foot traffic. Plus, microclover is said to be less invasive than white clover as it tends to produce fewer seeds. It does not flower which is good news for people with pollen allergies.
There are cases of microclover reverting to the standard white clover size. This may be due to cross pollination with white clover or simply the plant returning to its original form.
Reasons Why A Clover Lawn Is Better Than A Grass Lawn
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Surprisingly, in the 1950s, clover was a valued component of lawn mixtures and was commonly found in patches in lawns. Years ago, it was desired because of its nitrogen-fixing ability, which improved soil quality and grass growth. But when herbicides were introduced in the late part of the decade, clover became eradicated from the traditional lawn along with dandelions, crab grass, and other broadleaf weeds.
For some people, the desire to have a pristine, well-kept, green lawn has remained strong, leading to the constant use of fertilizers and broadleaf herbicides.
However, some homeowners are becoming increasingly aware of their environmental footprint and are looking for eco-friendly, low-maintenance lawn alternatives. In turn, we are seeing clover find its way back into lawns as a companion to traditional grass in mixed-grass clover lawns or as a complete replacement for grass lawns.
Interested in learning more about growing a clover lawn and its benefits? If you are, you have come to the right place!
Clover Lawns Are Trending: Here Are The Pros And Cons Of This Landscaping Technique
Theres a new trend sweeping the country and its geared toward people who want to cut back on lawn maintenance but still enjoy a soft green landscape. Its called clover lawns, and the name pretty much explains it all. While clovers were once thought of as pesky weeds, they are now being looked at as a hassle-free alternative to grass.
Clovers are easily identified by their shamrock leaves and they are able to densely cover ground space in a hurry. Some varieties of clover even flower, like Dutch clover, which is also known as white clover. Keep reading for some ways to put this plant to work in your lawn or just to satisfy your curiosity about this new lawn care trend.
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Downsides Of Having Clover
Clover blossoms attract bees, which sting if threatened. If you have little children, teach them to look for bees before they walk or sit on the lawn. Also, if you are allergic to bee stings, it might be better to avoid clover on your lawn.
Clover is not as resistant to foot traffic as grass, so it will quickly look downtrodden if you have a lot of foot traffic around your home.
It spreads similarly to grass and will seed if not mowed. Take note if you are concerned that it will spread to your neighbors yards.
Advantage #: Itll Be Back
Clover spreads rapidly and grows prolifically in poor soil conditions. It is, in many instances, more drought resistant than grass. Even if you think youve gotten rid of it, if you havent addressed the conditions that gave clover the advantage over your grass, it will be back. Clover is a perennial, so eradicating clover isnt a once and done situation.
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If You Arent Into Bees It May Not Be For You
If you let your clover lawn flower, it will attract buzzing bees to your yard. This might be an issue for someone whoâs allergic to bees or has young children who might step on them. Keeping your clover lawn cut short will keep the bees awaybut itâll also reduce those nitrogen-fixing and biodiversity-promoting benefits, so itâs a trade-off.
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Honeybees are the primary pollinators for a third of all human food crops. Some, such as almonds, are 100% dependent on honeybees to produce. If honeybee populations continue their rapid decline, food prices are likely to increase dramatically. To learn more about this crisis, please visit The Pollinator Partnership or the Xerces Society.
Homeowners can help by ceasing their use of chemical pesticides and insecticides, and letting their clover bloom.
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Why Does My Lawn Have Clover
Traditional clover otherwise known as White Clover or Dutch clover in your lawn could be a signal that your grass is starving.
Grass needs nitrogen but must obtain that nutrient from the soil. Nitrogen from rainwater and granular fertilizer penetrates the soil and feeds your grass.
Clover, on the other hand, is a legume and it absorbs nitrogen from the air.
It can therefore thrive even if the soil is nitrogen deficient. If clover arrives in your lawn without an invitation, your lawns grass is probably ailing and you need to support your yards soil by top-dressing it with compost, and/or spreading organic fertilizer.
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How To Add The Right Clover To Your Lawn
Turfgrass is losing its status as the golden child of groundcovers as gardeners look towards greener pastures. Clover has been getting a lot of buzz as a low-maintenance and eco-friendly lawn alternative or additive. Keep reading to find out what to expect from clover as a lawn alternative and how to add the right clover to your lawn.
How To Add Clover To A Lawn
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Clover In Lawns Over Time
Clover was actually used widely in home lawns before the 1950s when broadleaf weed herbicides were introduced, according to Pennsylvania State Universitys Department of Plant Science. Generally, this was white clover . Although these herbicides were targeting broadleaf weeds such as dandelion, broadleaf plantain and buckhorn plantain, they killed off the clover as well. Homeowners were generally OK with this, however, because clover flowers attract bees, and no one wants a child running across the lawn to get stung. Further, the traditional white clover plant that appeared in lawns tends to form big clumps that suppress desirable grasses.
More recently, however, gardeners have sought out clover for use in lawns for several reasons: It fixes nitrogen into the soil, thus requiring less fertilizer it thrives in shady or poorly drained soil, unlike conventional lawns and its drought-resistant, remaining a nice, cool green in even the hottest climates. Commercial seed companies, including Pennington and Scotts, now offer clover lawn seed mixes.
To add clover to an existing lawn, first mow the lawn closely and remove thatch, which will help the seed reach the soil surface, recommends the Farmers Almanac.
Clover As A Lawn Grass
Clover is usually considered a weed and is fought with herbicides and other remedies by homeowners and landscape professionals in their quest for a perfect lawn containing nothing but turf grasses. A little reflection and botanical knowledge though can show you that white clover can be an ideal component within a blend of turf grasses. The fact that clover is a legume means that it actually makes its own nitrogen and fixes it in the soil. Not only does clover not require any nitrogen fertilizer, but it also supplies nitrogen for other nearby plants. Add this to the fact that clover is drought-tolerant, and we soon begin to wonder why we don’t want clover in our lawns.
In fact, clover actually was an intentional part of the typical American lawn prior to World War II. At that time, clover was a part of widely available seed blends, along with fescues, ryegrasses and Kentucky bluegrass. Because of its ability to thrive in poor soil, fix its own nitrogen and survive in drought conditions, clover was deliberately added to grass mixes in order to aid in the growth of the surrounding grasses.
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Whats Causing Clover In My Lawn
There are multiple reasons you could have clover sprouting up in your lawn, most of which have to do with your soil.
- Wrong Soil pH: The ideal soil pHhow alkaline or acidic the soil isfor most lawns is between 6.0 and 7.0. If your lawns soil is too acidic, it will be harder for grass to grow, and much easier for clover. Luckily, you can use soil amendments like lime to balance out the pH.
- Poor Nitrogen Levels: Clover thrives in soil with poor nitrogen levels. Grass needs nitrogen in the soil to grow well, while clover can obtain the nitrogen it needs from the air, effectively making its own fertilizer. Your soil may be low in nitrogen because youve used too much fast-acting fertilizer. While they promote rapid grass growth, they can ultimately lower your soil quality. Switching to organic fertilizer like manure or corn meal can help you avoid this.
- Compacted soil: Compacted soil prevents your grass from getting the nutrientsincluding nitrogenair, and water it needs. Luckily, you can break up compaction with a core or spike aerator.
How To Plant Seed Clover
- Clover seed should not be planted deeply. Sprinkling it on the surface or lightly raking it into the soil should suffice.
- It prefers full sun. It will grow in light shade, but less quickly. It won’t grow well in full shade.
- If you’re planting a shadier area, you may want to double the amount of seed.
- Keep newly-seeded areas moist until the new plants get a chance to establish.
Why Should I Grow a Clover Lawn?
A clover lawn is greener, healthier, easier, cheaper, and more ecological and environmentally-friendly than a traditional lawn. Some would argue that it’s more beautiful, too.
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Why Is There A Lot Of Clover In Your Lawn
Clover tends to proliferate most on lawns with depleted or otherwise inappropriately maintained soil.
This is because clover is able to create its own fertilizer, something Ill get into later in this article.
Other things that can cause your soil to be over-stressed and therefore more likely to grow clover include over-fertilization and excessive irrigation .
Water is great for lawns, but too much of a good thing can wash away the nutrients your lawn depends on.
Homeowners who decide that they want to have more clover in their lawn are able to plant it.
Examples of people who might do this are those who want to attract more bees onto their property, or those who want to naturally feed and support the soil so they dont have to fertilize their lawn as often.
Overseeding An Existing Lawn With Clover
- Remove any dead clover, weeds or moss by scarifying/raking the area
- Rake the area enough so that the soil is loose
- Sow the seed at our recommended rate of 35g per m2
- Rake the seed in after sowing so that the seed is in amongst the soil
- Firm down by foot or by using a roller to improve seed-to-soil contact
Sow between 5mm and 10mm beneath the surface. A good rule to follow is to have the seed covered in the soil with the thickness of three £1 coins stacked together.
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Away From The Herbicides
It may seem contrary to what youd think, but in fact, one of the most effective steps you can take towards making clover less likely to proliferate in your lawn is to fertilize your lawn properly.
Clover tends to grow especially well in yards that arent adequately fertilized.
I use Milorganite 4 times annually on my lawn with great results.
If you dont want to spend that much on fertilizer, at the very least you should fertilize your lawn properly in the fall and spring each and every year.
Dandelion As A Hated Lawn Weed
The number one most hated weed in America is the lowly dandelion. Where previous generations would make salads and wine with the dandelion, we now try our very best to eradicate it by all means necessary. The dandelion is hated by homeowners and gardeners precisely because of its genetic superiority: it is a prolific reproducer that can infest a lawn in very little time.
Years ago, lawns were usually a blend of grass species, clover, dandelion, and other plants but such practices are now long out of style, and a lawn with such diversity is usually frowned upon or even outlawed by local ordinances or homeowner association regulations. The chemical industry has also played a large part in promoting the idea that the only good lawn is one that consists of 100 percent turf grass. The dandelion is a casualty of that mentality. Yet who doesn’t smile in the spring when seeing a wild meadow brightened by the “wildflower” known as the dandelion?
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The Benefits Of Clover Dandelions And Lawn Weeds
Kelly Burke is a professional turf manager for a manicured corporate campus in New England. He is accredited in organic land care and is a licensed pesticide applicator. He formerly managed the turfgrass as a golf course superintendent and has held several senior management positions at private country clubs overseeing high maintenance lawns.
The Spruce / Valerie de León
The many plants we consider weeds are hated for the simple fact that they grow where we don’t want them to, and they do so with considerable vigor and tenacity. In many ways, the plants we call weeds are genetically superior to the landscape plants we find more desirable since they thrive so readily. But a great many of these so-called “weeds” have other uses that we overlook in our frenzy to eradicate them from our lawns and gardens. Two such plants are clover and dandelions.
Other Reasons To Make Peace With Clover
You may not have noticed if you only have a small patch in your lawn, but clover is a wonderfully smelling plant. Theres a reason pollinators always seem to find it the little blossoms have an incredible aroma.
Many people think clover looks rather pretty.
It can also be good to have clover in your lawn if you prefer to keep your lawn short. Thats because clover tends to prevent other types of weeds from taking hold in your lawn.
When you see lawns with a lot of clover, you will probably notice there werent many dandelions.
Clover also works symbiotically with beneficial bacteria.
These good bacteria attach to clover roots. This helps your lawn absorb nitrogen found in the environment, and of course if youve read any of my articles about lawn fertilizer then you know that nitrogen is what helps with green growth in lawns .
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Reasons To Use Clover In A Lawn
In recent years, clover has been reexamined, and many plant scientists and some homeowners are recognizing its virtues as a component in lawn grass mixturesor even as a replacement for turf grasses:
- Clover is among the first plants to green up and thrive in the spring, and it retains its green color even in drought conditions.
- The low growth habit of white clover means it can go without mowing all season long if desired. A clover lawn needs only to be mowed a couple of times a year to maintain its appearance.
- Clover is the ideal lawn surface for homes where there is little activity on the lawn and the desired result is more aesthetic than functional.
- For high activity lawns, clover blends are making a comeback and can once again be a part of the lawn mix along with grass seed. A lawn seed blend including clover is ideal for an all-purpose, low-maintenance lawn, especially in poor soil.
- People wanting a more natural lawn maintenance regimen or people in areas affected by pesticide bans benefit from adding clover to the lawn.
Let Your Clover Boom To Help Bee Colonies
However, if you are not allergic and have older children , consider letting your clover bloom. Bees are threatened around the world by a mysterious condition called colony collapse disorder . When a hive is struck by CCD, the worker bees spontaneously abandon the hive and disappear, leaving the queen, a few larvae, and the immature workers to starve. The cause of CCD is still unknown, but it is believed to affect hives stressed from habitat loss, parasites, and pesticide use most drastically.
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