A good number of people find their lawns to be a pain in the neck, even if they don’t come out and say so. A lawn has to be mowed, aerated, reseeded, weeded, fertilized and protected from diseases and pests. These things are often done with the use of chemicals that are not environmentally friendly. It is not surprising that some people are planting their yards with plants that don’t need as much TLC as red fescue.
One of the plants people are opting for is white clover, which is probably growing in their lawn anyway despite their best efforts. Consider five advantages that clover has over grass:
Clover grows quickly
White clover grows quickly and overwhelms broadleaf weeds even as it grows among grass. This is one reason why this perennial plant, which is native to Europe and thrives in climates that are cool and moist, is considered a weed when it’s not used as a forage plant. Clover does well when it’s grown alongside not just lawn grass but forage grasses such as timothy, rye grass and meadow brome.
Clover grows where grass won’t
Unlike grass, clover can be grown in areas that don’t get much sun and whose soil is poor. Clover does prefer clay and silty soil, but it will grow well in sandy soil in an area with a high water table. It will even do well in soil that’s subject to drought as long as the ground is watered fairly regularly. Clover is an excellent plant to use for erosion control, and the seeds are food for birds such as quail and grouse. The leaves are grazed by deer, voles, bears and moose.
Clover fixes nitrogen
Clover is a type of legume and is related to peas. Because of this, it pulls nitrogen from the air and with the aid of bacteria, gets it into the soil. This supports the growth of grass seedlings, and growing grass and white clover together increases the amount of calcium in the soil. There’s no need to add nitrogen to a clover lawn, though it does need phosphorus, sulfur and potassium.
Clover is resilient
A clover plant can have a root that’s two feet long, which is much longer than grass, whose roots tend to be shallow. The long roots make clover tough and drought resistant. It will stay green through a long spell of intense heat and no rain, and it is strongly resistant to powdery mildew and many other plant diseases.
A clover lawn doesn’t need to be mown, though it can be. If the clover is growing along with grass, it should be mown or even grazed to keep the grass from overwhelming the clover.
White clover grows from 4 to 8 inches and produces lovely white flower heads with a pink blush. The flower heads have from 40 to 100 florets. They attract pollinating insects such as honeybees and butterflies as well as insects that prey on insect pests. The leaves are separated into three leaflets with the diagnostic “water mark” on the tops. Now and then lucky people do find a leaf with four leaflets.
A homeowner can grow a lawn that’s completely made of clover, though experts claim it’s better to have a mix of half grass and half clover or a bit more grass than clover. To sow clover, mix the seed with sand to broadcast it. Use at least 2 ounces per 100 square feet of lawn. White clover is prolific, and there are about 776,000 seeds in a pound.