Sick of all the maintenance your grass lawn requires? Looking for a solution to pouring expensive fertilizers and pesticides down the drain?
A clover lawn may be what you need!
I’m going to introduce you to the some of the surprising clover lawn benefits that might just have you running to your local garden store for a pack of seed before you’ve even reached the end of this article!
There are actually far more pros than cons, but just to give a fair representation, I’ll list the cons too, and then explain how to make the easy switch.
But first, a little background…
- Why did Clover Go Out of Fashion?
- Why is Clover Becoming Popular Again?
- What are the Benefits of a Clover Lawn?
- Save Money
- Save Water
- Avoid the Use of Fertilizers
- Protect Your Local Waterways from Nitrogen Run-off
- Avoid the Use of Pesticides
- Reduce the Presence of Other Broadleaves
- Enjoy a Naturally Disease Resistant Lawn
- Do Away with Dead Spots from Pet Urine
- Support Your Local Pollinators
- Enjoy the Benefits of Clover Tea
- Mow Your Lawn Less Often
- Doesn’t Require Rich Soil
- Cons of Clover Lawn
- How to Get Started
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Why did Clover Go Out of Fashion?
There was a time, until shortly after World War 2, when clover was a standard component of all lawn seed mixes. Gardeners knew the benefits of having multiple species present in a lawn and having clover as one of those species.
After the war, however, things changed.
The same chemical companies that had been manufacturing chemical weapons, switched their focus to herbicides and pesticides. In order for their products to be successful and accepted by the population, marketing campaigns were created.
One of these set out to convince lawn owners that the perfect lawn consisted of just grass, and that certain species, such as clover, were a weed and needed eradicating.
There was no ecological or practical need for eliminating clover from the standard backyard, it was purely driven by a marketing campaign that wanted people to spend money on pesticides when they chose to use different lawn seeds.
Why is Clover Becoming Popular Again?
As the world becomes more environmentally aware, many people are choosing to live more sustainably. This means finding alternatives to chemical pesticides and fertilizers, and working with nature and its ecosystems rather than against it.
Grass lawns are an excellent example of an unsustainable use of land.
That’s a lot of land being used in an unsustainable way!
Why are Grass Lawns Unsustainable?
Grass never grows by itself in nature. In fact, no species grows by itself in nature.
Monocrops are unnatural, and as a result, unsustainable:
- Grass lawns are prone to disease and pests.
- They need increasing amounts of fertilizers and pesticides to maintain them over time.
- These fertilizers and pesticides have negative impacts on the surrounding environment and possibly you and your pet’s health too.
- Grass lawns require a lot of water to keep them green, and the water used in urban areas is often drinking water which is a precious resource.
- Grass lawns also need mowing often to keep them lush and healthy, which usually means the use of petrol in a lawnmower.
That’s a lot of cons against the standard grass lawn, hey?
So let’s get into the benefits of a clover lawn and see how it stacks up!
What are the Benefits of a Clover Lawn?
Clover lawn benefits may surprise you. There are far more than many people realize!
I’ve chosen 12 to keep it simple, but I’m sure there are more!
Clover seed itself is cheap. But you also save on the all the maintenance costs of a grass lawn as clover is pretty self-sufficient and doesn’t need looking after the way grass does.
Clover is drought resistant. That means that while your neighbors are using your town’s precious drinking water supply to keep their back yard green, your clover lawn will happily survive the driest of summers while staying green and soft underfoot.
And, if you have to pay for your water, this is going to save you money too!
Avoid the Use of Fertilizers
Clover doesn’t need fertilizer because in a way, it fertilizes itself.
It is a legume which means it uses nodules on its roots, in partnership with beneficial bacteria, to take nitrogen from the air and return it to the soil.
Clover also accumulates other trace minerals which it holds on to and then releases back into the soil as it dies. This means that as the clover in your lawn goes through its natural life cycle, your lawn is continuously being fertilized without the need for you to add anything! Genius!
Protect Your Local Waterways from Nitrogen Run-off
Not only does clover not require fertilization the way grass does, but the kind of nitrogen that the clover fixes back into the soil is actually better for the environment.
Synthetic nitrogen, the kind found in most store-bought fertilizers, actually degrades the quality of the soil over time resulting in more nitrogen run-off and soil erosion.
Organic nitrogen on the other hand, improves soil quality and helps the soil to hold on to its nutrients and reduce erosion.
This means that having clover in your lawn protects your local streams and rivers from an unhealthy build-up of nitrates.
Avoid the Use of Pesticides
It stands to reason that if you’re not trying to get rid of clover, then you’ll be reducing the amount of pesticides that you need to apply to your lawn, which can only be a good thing!
You’ll save money while also reducing you, your pets’ and your local environment’s exposure to harmful chemicals.
Reduce the Presence of Other Broadleaves
I’m hesitant to label anything as a weed. It all depends on how you look at things and while some people see dandelions and daisies as weeds, I see them as herbs.
But hey, if you’d rather not have other broadleaves growing in your lawn, then clover is once again your friend!
The root systems of clover species naturally crowd out other broadleaves, while living in harmony with grasses. This means that clover essentially does your weeding for you, and in doing so also reduces your dependency on pesticides.
Enjoy a Naturally Disease Resistant Lawn
Fungus, mildew and blight are just a few examples of diseases that regularly plague grass lawns that don’t enjoy the health promoting benefit of clover.
Having clover present keeps your lawn so healthy that it is naturally able to fight off these diseases by itself.
Do Away with Dead Spots from Pet Urine
Pet urine doesn’t kill clover. So, regardless of where your pets choose to urinate, your clover lawn will stay green!
Support Your Local Pollinators
Honeybees love clover flowers! And the bees need all the help they can get to find pesticide-free food sources in today’s increasingly polluted world.
Having flowering clover in your lawn will provide some much needed food for your local pollinator population, which may include native bees as well!
Clover will also attract tiny parasitic wasps which are a gardener’s ally as they naturally prey on other insect pests that you don’t want in your garden like aphids and scale.
Enjoy the Benefits of Clover Tea
If you’re interested in the health benefits of herbs and the infusions you can make from them, red clover flower is an excellent one. It has many health benefits including providing relief from respiratory ailments, skin conditions and supporting women’s health.
If you have red clover growing in your lawn, you can easily make the tea by picking the flowers while they are young and fresh. Simply leave the flower heads in a warm place to dry out, this way they can be stored long term in a sealed jar.
When you want to make an infusion, simply steep in a tea pot or a mug with boiling water for around 5 minutes. Drink when cooled, and add a touch of honey to taste. Voila!
Mow Your Lawn Less Often
Clover doesn’t grow in height and then lose its lushness when it’s left un-mowed the way grass does. So having clover in your lawn will reduce the frequency that you need to mow it.
Of course, for a tidy lawn, there will always be some maintenance required, like trimming the edges (check out our guide to lawn care tools for the best tools for this!). But ultimately, a clover lawn will reduce the work required.
Doesn’t Require Rich Soil
Last but not least, clover will happily set up residence anywhere, including in poor quality, degraded soil. This means you don’t need to worry about starting with a healthy lawn before you add clover.
It will do the work of improving soil quality for you!
Cons of Clover Lawn
There are one or two cons to having a clover lawn.
The main one, especially if you have a family with small children, is the presence of bees who have been attracted to the clover flowers. Walking barefoot on a clover lawn in the height of summer requires some care to avoid stepping on a bee and getting stung!
But there is an easy fix to this problem – simply mow the lawn before you let the kids play on it to remove the flowers, and the bees will stay away.
You can also choose a microclover variety which doesn’t flower but will still provide all the same benefits.
Another con is that clover stains light clothing more easily than grass does, so if your kids are heading out for some rough and tumble, maybe dress them in dark colors instead!
How to Get Started
Establishing a clover lawn is incredibly easy.
It’s simply a case of purchasing a packet of clover seed, mixing it with another medium like some potting mix and sand, sprinkling it evenly over your lawn and then waiting for it to reap its magic.
The best time of year to sew clover seeds is in spring but you can also sew them in fall. Avoid the height of summer and the depths of winter.
Pure Clover vs Mixed Clover and Grass Lawn
While there are benefits to having a pure clover lawn, such as almost never needing to mow or water it and having a soft green surface to walk on all year round, a mixed grass-clover lawn actually makes more sense for a lot of people:
- The mixture of grass and clover species are more sustainable environmentally as they support each other.
- The clover will reseed itself in a mixed lawn, so you don’t need to intervene with extra seed every few years.
- The clover will keep the grass healthy so reap all of the benefit listed above.
- A mixture of clover and grass is more durable and hardy for heavy foot traffic, while clover by itself doesn’t love being walked on a lot.
- A mix of clover and grass is the ultimate low maintenance lawn, so you won’t have to worry about neglecting it or making any lawn care mistakes.
Still not Keen?
That’s ok. If you’re not convinced that a clover lawn is for you, there are ways to get rid of it naturally without having to resort to chemicals.
Check out our guide to ridding your lawn of clover naturally for everything you need to know.
That brings us to the end of this quick guide to clover lawns.
The benefits abound from environmental benefits, to reducing the cost and labor involved in maintaining a grass lawn, to enjoying a green lawn without doggy pee patches!
Save time and money and help the environment at the same time!
What are your thoughts on a clover lawn? Are you keen to convert or do you already have one?