Clover is a low-maintenance, eco-friendly alternative to regular grass. Clover has many benefits when grown on a lawn as it is more drought tolerant and does not need to be mowed as often. Although clover is usually considered a weed, it can actually improve the appearance and function of your lawn.
The two most common types of clover found in lawns are white clover and micro clover.
It is a low-growing, short-lived perennial herb. White clover, also called Dutch clover, shamrock, or Irish clover, is a low-growing, short-lived perennial herb. This broad leaf clover is a flowering creeping perennial plant in the pea family Fabaceae.
Microclover is a small clover with small leaves. Microclover can be mixed with grass to create a denser lawn that suppresses weeds.
White clover grows to between 3” and 6” (7 – 15 cm) tall. The mat-forming clover plant rapidly expands to cover sizable areas of ground. Clover is a plant that can tolerate cold weather and remain green year-round in zones 3 – 10.
Clover As a Lawn Alternative
Maintaining a lush green lawn is important for a home’s visual appeal. Green ground cover can make an area more visually appealing. Lawns help to keep away unwanted plants and weeds. But grass lawns can be expensive to maintain. They need lots of water, fertilizer, and a lot of hard work.
One potential solution for keeping a good-looking green lawn is to have a clover lawn. Clover used to be one of the most common plants in people’s backyards. The plant that covered the ground and spread was easy to take care of without using synthetic fertilizers and pesticides. It also tolerates drought better than turfgrass.
Benefits of planting clover
- Reduces erosion
Have a sloping section of your yard? Clover can help reduce soil erosion and prevent runoff pollution. The roots of clover plants are very fibrous and can extend deep into the ground, often up to 2 feet. The deep roots help to keep the soil and its nutrients in place during heavy winds, rain, and other natural disasters.
Clover’s deep roots help the plant absorb nutrients from deep in the soil.
- Reduces weeds
The clover plant is very sturdy and can withstand a lot of abuse because of its thick root system. The fast spread of clover makes it easy for it to smother other plants, including weeds. Clover’s competitive advantage against harmful weeds reduces the time, energy, and money needed to manage them in your yard. This also allows you to have an aesthetically pleasing backyard without having to worry about the ecological costs of using herbicides.
- Fixes nitrogen
Clover and other legumes are valuable as ground cover because they return nitrogen to the soil. This is known as nitrogen-fixing. The Rhizobium bacteria helps convert atmospheric nitrogen into a form that is available for plants to use.
Before you plant clover, get your soil tested to see what the nitrogen levels are. If your soil has a lot of nitrogen, adding more nitrogen can decrease plant growth and damage the plants. If the leaves on a plant are dark green, yellow, or brown and look burnt, that’s a sign there is too much nitrogen.
- Creates green manure
Clover can be used to create green manure by growing certain cover crops where you’d typically like to incorporate manure and fertilizer and turning them into the soil while they’re still green. Gardeners who have been growing crops in the same area for a while will often plant a cover crop in the spring. This will help the garden beds be ready for planting summer crops.
When clover breaks down, it releases a lot of nitrogen back into the soil, up to 200 pounds per acre. Clover can help heal soil that doesn’t have enough nitrogen and this reduces the amount of nitrogen-based fertilizers that are needed.
- Low maintenance
Here are a few tips: -Choose low-maintenance grasses -Mow high -Sharpen your mower blade If you want to spend less time on lawn care, you should choose low-maintenance grasses, mow high, and sharpen your mower blade. Clover checks the boxes for many of the characteristics of low-maintenance plants:
- Evergreen year-round
- Doesn’t need to be fertilized
- Usually doesn’t need to be mowed
- Adds nutrients to the soil
- Immune to pee patches from pets
If you plant four times as much clover as grass, you won’t need to add synthetic fertilizer to your grass. Additionally, most clover doesn’t need to be mowed. Some types of grass will grow taller than others, but they will not need to be cut as often as turfgrass.
- Good for the environment
While traditional grass lawns may be the norm, they are not always the best choice for the environment. Grass lawns require a lot of water and maintenance, which can be detrimental to local ecosystems. While many popular turfgrass species are not native to the region in which they are grown, this is not always the case. In fact, some turfgrass species are well-suited to the climate and soil of their new home, and these species can actually be quite easy to take care of. Clover is a great alternative to grass that is easy to take care of and also benefits the environment.
Some pollinators are under threat from habitat loss, but clover is attractive to them and provides them with a good environment. If you plant clover instead of grass, you will be providing a home for bees and other pollinators to buzz around in. Clover attracts insects that prey on other harmful insects, such as ladybugs, lacewings, and parasitoid wasps. This will reduce the amount of pesticides you need to use on your lawn.
If you are a farmer or have any livestock, clover is an excellent source of protein for your animals. This digestive aid is extremely beneficial for animals. This grain can also be used as part of a feed mix for birds, such as chickens and geese. If you like animals but don’t have any livestock, you can attract native wildlife like deer, rabbits, and foxes by planting clover.
Feeling hungry? If you have a clover yard, you can go outside and find fresh ingredients for a salad. You can eat both the leaves and flowers of a clover raw or cooked. Protein and vitamins are essential nutrients that can be found in high quantities in beans. You can prepare fenugreek seeds by brewing them into a tea, or adding them to a salad for extra flavor.
Clover can be used to help treat:
- Cardiovascular issues
- Can be used as a living mulch
To keep weeds out of your garden and invite pollinators, you may want to consider planting clover as a cover crop or living mulch. Clover is most effective when used as a living mulch around crops that grow in cool weather. You want to use a low-growing annual clover like Crimson clover so it won’t take up space that your fruits, flowers, and veggies need.
There are a few things to be careful of when using clover as a mulch:
- Competition: If it seems that the clover is overcrowding your garden bed, feel free to trim it or tear it out.
- Smothering: Don’t plant it as mulch near shallow-rooted plants, their dense roots will restrict the root growth of other plants.
- Disease: Clover is beneficial for maintaining moisture, but this can become a problem during wet seasons if the plant restricts airflow. This can lead to increased threats of disease.
What Is Clover and Why It Went Out of Style?
Years ago, clover wasn’t considered a weed. Lawn seed mixes used to contain a mixture of grass seed and white clover seed to grow healthy lawns, but the clover seed was removed because it was not aesthetically pleasing. At one point, clover was a popular choice for lawns because it is able to withstand difficult conditions and remain low-growing. Additionally, clover helped the grass grow without the need for fertilizers.
A white clover leaf has three to four ovular leaflets. Clover produces small white or pinkish flowers at the tips of its stems. Clover forms a lush mat of green foliage. This plant has a robust root system that covers a lot of ground.
Clover has always been a great addition to grass seed because it helps improve the quality of the soil, does well even in poor soil conditions, and can withstand droughts. Before the 1950s, lawns usually contained both grass and clover.
Although clover is generally considered an unwanted plant by gardeners because it doesn’t fit the manicured look of a lawn, some people see it as a valuable asset.
Clover became classed as a broadleaf weed in the 1950s. Herbicides were created to help homeowners have a well-groomed lawn. The chemicals that killed dandelions, crabgrass, chickweed, and other lawn “weeds” also killed clover. So, gradually clover went out of style.
But clover lawns are now experiencing a revival. There are many advantages to using clover in lawns, which is why many eco-conscious gardeners and lawn specialists recognize it. Some benefits of using clover include creating a green lawn without the need for much water, as well as not needing to use pesticides or herbicides.
Disadvantages of planting clover
Although Clover is a great choice for many homeowners, it may not be the best option for everyone. Before you go out and buy some clover seed, take into consideration the few disadvantages of the lucky ground cover:
- Not as durable: Homeowners with active kids or pets might want to consider mixing in clover with their regular grass seed so their lawn can remain hardy against foot traffic.
- Beware if you have bee allergies: Clover is a favorite of our friend the bumblebee, which might not be ideal if you or a family member has a serious bee allergy.
- Needs more frequent re-seeding: A pure clover yard will likely need more frequent re-seeding than grassy lawns. They are typically re-seeded once every three years.
- Might not suit your visual taste: Compared to a traditional grass lawn, clover can be more patchy, lumpy, and uneven.
- Invasive: Clover can be invasive to gardens, but this can be prevented by placing a barrier between your garden and the yard. Seed your clover in the early spring — if some clover creeps over into your garden, turn it into green manure.
Clover Vs. Grass
What are the differences between clover lawns and grass lawns if you are looking for a lush, green ground cover for your yard?
Here are some of the differences between grass and clover:
Clover is easier to care for than grass. Clover prevents weeds from growing, so you won’t have to spend as much time getting rid of them. Compared to turfgrass lawns, clover lawns rarely require mowing.
Clover tends to stay greener for longer. The sun doesn’t have the same effect on clover as it does on grass during hot and dry summers. Additionally, clover is not impacted by dog urine and doesn’t change color or die. Generally, clover lawns are less “patchy” than grass lawns.
Clover is cheaper to maintain than grass. Clover lawns are more drought-resistant than other types of grass, so you’ll need to water them less often. This can save you time and money. If you grow clover lawns, you don’t need to buy fertilizers or herbicides for lawn care.
The grass is neater than clover. Lawns with bluegrass or Bermuda grass tend to look neater. Sometimes, clover lawns can appear unkempt or untidy. The type of garden you want to create will determine whether you should grow clover or grass.
The grass is more durable than clover. When comparing grass to clover, it is clear that most grass types are more resistant to foot traffic than clover. However, some kinds of micro clover plants can withstand more foot traffic than other lawn alternatives. Heavy foot traffic affects grass and clover in the same way.
Clover can prosper in low-quality soil, whereas grass requires soil that can hold onto nutrients. Your grass will need soil that can hold a good amount of moisture, drains well, and allows air to flow freely.
How to Add Clover to Existing Lawn
Seed your lawn with clover in the spring so that it starts to grow. To seed your lawn with clover, mow the grass short first. Then rake out previous season’s thatch. Loosen turfgrass soil to allow clover to take root more easily.
Combine white clover seed or microclover seed with sand. Spread the clover over the lawn evenly by hand or use a lawn spreader on the finest setting.
After planting clover seed on your lawn, you should water it every day for two weeks. Watering your lawn regularly helps the clover seeds to germinate, take root, and establish themselves.
Clover is a plant that grows close to the ground and is good for covering lawns in areas that are partially shaded or full of sunlight. You can add this plant to lawns on gardens that face the south, east, or west. Clover can grow in the shade, but for shaded yards it’s better to seed a lawn with microclover.
How to Plant a Clover Lawn
To create a low-maintenance clover lawn, simply sow clover seeds onto bare soil. In early spring, turn your soil over to remove stones, weeds, and other debris. Water the ground, wait a few days, and check for any weed growth. Remove these as necessary.
Add clover seed to a mixture of fine soil, sand, or sawdust to make it easier to spread. You will need about 2 oz. To seed a clover lawn, you will need 57 grams of clover seed for every 1,000 square feet. Spread the clover seed evenly over the ground. Use a rake to flatten the soil and lightly cover the seeds.
Once the clover seeds are planted, water thoroughly. Watering newly-seeded ground helps the seeds to stick in the soil and encourages germination. Lightly water the soil daily to promote rapid growth.
How to Maintain a Clover Lawn
Clover lawns are easy to maintain once established. If you need to mow your lawn that is mostly white clover, set the mower’s blades to about 2 inches (5 cm). Clover clippings will decompose and return nutrients to the soil, so there is no need to collect them.
Clover lawns need very little care during the summer, just the occasional mowing to stop the flowers from coming up. If you want to discourage bees, that is only necessary.
If you want a lawn with bees and flowers, clover is a low-maintenance option.