Planting an alternative to a traditional lawn has become a popular choice over the last few years. A well-manicured lawn can offer some benefits as a ground cover; it prevents the encroachment of unwanted weeds, generates oxygen, provides a soft area for play, picnics, and bare feet. On the other hand, a grass lawn is a monoculture crop that demands a lot of maintenance, water and offers minimal benefits to nature.
Before the 1950s, grass seed mixes included clover- for very good reason! Clover fixes nitrogen in the soil that releases slowly into the lawn and to other plants, it stays green longer, requires less water, and can withstand the abuse from high traffic, pets, and drought.
Benefits of a Clover Lawn
- Clover is affordable and easy to grow.
- Clover brings Nitrogen and other nutrients to your soil and requires no fertilization. When mixed with other grasses, clover can reduce or eliminate the need for regular fertilizing.
- A drought-tolerant plant- once established it will grow even when there is a lack of water. Traditional lawn grasses are not at all drought tolerant and usually need watering all season long.
- Flourishes in full sun or partial shade. Clover is tolerant of many conditions and outcompetes other weeds.
- Clover is adaptable. Add to a regular lawn to help invigorate tired turf, fill in bare patches or plant a full clover lawn on its own for lush, year-round greenery.
- Wildlife such as bees love clover. To prevent bees from visiting, simply mow your clover before it blooms.
- No more burn patches! Clover will not turn yellow as quickly as a regular lawn when pets are around.
Dutch White Clover
Though there are many varieties of clover; Dutch White Clover is the best all-around clover for your alternative lawn.
· Stays green spring through to fall.
· Blooms when mature, providing food for bees.
· Does best with 4-6 hours of sun daily.
· Can be mowed as you would your lawn, or left to grow (4 – 8”)
· Resistant to chafer beetles
· Overwinters well even in Zone 4
· Seeds at a rate of about 1lb per 1000 square feet
· May need reseeding after 2-3 years.
Our lawn experts recommend using both clover and grass seed to establish the healthiest lawn possible. However, do not spread these different types of seeds together. Since clover seed is so small and dense, and usually clumps together at the bottom of the spreader or seed bag, spreading with grass seed usually results in uneven coverage. Instead, determine your desired ratio of clover to grass and spread separately.
Overseeding a Clover Lawn
To add clover to an already established lawn, begin by mowing close to the ground and raking it. If your lawn needs aerating, now is the time. Clover seed will benefit if sown after thorough aeration. Mix your clover seed with fine sand, sawdust, or soil, and broadcast over the desired area. Next, water your clover seeds every day for a couple of weeks. This will give the seeds enough moisture for sprouting and help them get a good start in the new location.
Planting a New Clover Lawn
To establish a new lawn, prepare your soil several weeks in advance by removing weeds, stones, and other debris. Rake or till the top layer of soil to loosen the substrate and then water the area to encourage any remaining weeds to sprout. A day or two before seeding your lawn, remove any newly sprouted weeds and rake to a smooth, even texture.
Mix your clover seed with sand, sawdust, or fine soil to make spreading easier. Use a spreader (if you can find one that accommodates clover) for large areas to ensure even distribution. Do not fertilize. Follow with grass seed if using.
Rake the planted area to lightly cover the seeds. They won’t sprout if buried too deeply. You may compress with a roller or by walking over the area. Water regularly until established.
Before trimming your lawn for the first time, wait until the clover drops its seeds, and then mow closely, about 2″ from the ground. This will also favor the clover over the grass and help the clover plants establish their roots. Leave the clippings on the lawn (they are a valuable mulch). Once the clover begins to thrive, you can reduce the mowing by letting your lawn grow to 3″. You can always overseed with clover if the grass starts taking over. Never use herbicides on a clover lawn- your clover won’t survive!
Planting a new lawn with clover or adding it to a lawn will help reduce the impacts of your patch of green. With fewer requirements and care, and more time for enjoyment, a clover lawn is a natural choice for sustainability.