I grew up thinking of clover as a weed I needed to pull. How wrong I was! Clover BUILDS soil, feeds bees, is drought tolerant, can be walked on... the list goes on an on!
Did you know lawns were made of clover years ago before someone decided that grass, regular watering, and weekly mowing sounded like a good idea. 🤷♀️ How on earth did we get sucked into that?!?
When I leveled my 'badminton and soccer lawn' in 2016 I put down sod. It looked gorgeous. By the end of that summer, I hated it. Weekly mowing, constantly pulling weeds, it was brown and crunchy by August due to water restrictions in our partial desert climate, it had brown pee spots from my dog. In 2018 we undertook a major retaining wall pond build which required the lawn by covered with mountains of dirt and driven on by equipment. I was excited the lawn would be at least 50% destroyed. Clover was the obvious choice for me & many of my friends and fellow gardeners followed the progress on fb. After so many requests for information, I took all my 'how to clover' posts & photos of my clover journey and put them into one Blog Post - everything in one place. Follow my gardening and cooking adventures on FB
Reasons to put in a clover lawn:
✅Low water needs once established & will stay green in drought
✅Doesn't have to be fertilized or chemically treated ✅Is always soft underfoot (no prickly crunchy dry Aug 'grass') ✅Doesn't form yellow spots from dog pee ✅Can be mowed when I want to play badminton, doesn't have to be!
✅Clover feeds the bees! ✅Clover chokes out weeds - check this out in the photos below ✅If you have chickens, they'll be in heaven ✅Songbirds love the seeds ✅If you decide to mow it, it makes an amazing compost addition
✅Holds moisture into the soil
✅Does NOT need good quality soil, it actually ADDS NUTRIENTS
Clover flowers are loved by bees. If you have young kids teach them to look before they step or sit. I walked through clover covered with my neighbor's honey bees & bumble bees regularly when in full bloom. Even stepping right beside a bee they ignore me, they'd only sting when endangered.
It isn't as tough as grass & isn't ideal for heavily used lawns
it spreads - similarly to grass AND by will spread by seed if you choose not to mow it. It pulls out easily when small.
WHAT to plant - Many options!
There are so many clover, including annual ones. For a lawn you want perennial clover that comes back year after year (like grass)
Dutch White Clover - My lawn. It can be done by a few dollars. A cup is about $5 from Buckerfields.
This is what I planted (actually heavily overplanted - see below, lol).
Spreads nicely & can happily grow only 3-4 few inches high
Can grow much taller when competing for light for a deep meadow effect
Flowers feeds the bees
Hardy to zone 4
Micro Clover - More expensive (but still cheap). One cup is approx $35
Grows only 2-4"
Much fewer flowers, so better people allergic to bees
FUN Clovers - West Coast seeds have 2 fun options blending clover, flowers, and grasses. Bee Turf and Easy Care Envirolawn. I did mix these seeds in too although I so heavily overseeded my clover the flowers didn't have a chance.
WHEN to plant
Clover needs continual moisture to germinate, so spring is best, fall works. If you're considering this for next year, I'll tell you what I wish I had done last fall. It's what I do when I'm turning a patch of weed-filled property into garden and have it done along my weedy lawn edge currently. Cover the lawn or any intensely weedy patches for the winter. When I have small patches I use cardboard, for big ones, construction wrap. This will kill some weeds, but the toughest can wait out anything! Grass is also also a weed and even when covered in plastic or cardboard mine has never fully died. Which is good, as you'll find out below.
I got my wrap from Home Depot, most lumber stores have it in a bin sitting out front for you to take. It's the stuff you see wrapped around stacks of lumber in transport
Any weeds with a long top root, I'd use a root pulling tool. For my heavy soil, I'd make sure the soil was moist down deep, ideally after 2-3 days of rain, followed by a dry day. I'd never get it all of a tap root, although it will be slowed down dramatically.
All the other weeds I simply chopped and dropped, unless they're prickly! Bin those
Layered on plastic folded in 3's and held in place with rocks or whatnot.
Leave in place for the winter.
HOW to plan
No need to supplement or add good quality soil, clover brings nutrients
Level your area if desired.
loosen your soil if it's heavily compacted. We had one area where we pulled out weeds, that area grows SO MUCH BETTER than the compacted area. The loosened area is healthier and doesn't wilt in drought. The compacted area wilts on hot days.
My first step was to pull off my sod & pull out my weeds! If you have bare patches you can seed those, although the clover won't root through lawn thatch.
Even though my sod was peeled up (yes, it peeled up even 2 years later) it left small grass tufts and roots, in some areas, none in others. All those were roots were left alone, because together grass and clover are stronger. I don't see the grass anymore, maybe it's growing there shaded by the clover.
Sprinkle the seeds on top of your loosened soil. Water
Clover needs to stay damp for proper germination and the seeds are super tiny and can dry out on hot days. I planted during a surprise heatwave so I put my sprinkler on a hose timer that came on for a few mins 4x a day, just enough to keep it damp. I reduced that as it grew and it's been off now for a long time
I put a hose down as a guideline for where I wanted my clover seed to stop, and the hose maintained the moisture in the soil under it, so that’s where the clover grew first. 😆
HOW MUCH to use!
Oh boy, so I didn't read the 'recommended amount' of clover before I put it down. I did know that if I more heavily seeded my clover it would choke out weeds, so I used the 3 cups I had. My plan was for the clover to get ahead of the weeds. It worked. But was WAY OVERKILL as far a having a low growing clover.
One clover seed spreads A LOT. I basically ended up with at least 3 seeds per inch, if not more. So instead of a 3" tall field, I had a 14" tall meadow. The clover fought each other for sunlight, climbing high and higher. That said, many many weeds died due to a lack of sunlight!
I'd actually check the recommended seed by weight for your space / clover variety, unless you like the meadow look like I have.
BELOW - Overseeding vs sparse seeding!
Photo 1! ONE lone clover seed that escaped and grew on its own with no competition to force it to search for light. It's mostly 1" high, flowers are 2 inches high. It's almost 2' long, that's a 3/4" garden host for comparison
My 14 & 20lb dogs in the clover July 29th, before it's first mow
Me walking in the lawn/meadow Mid Sept. Approx 8" Not mowed for 5 weeks
Choking out weeds
I planted to choke out weeds, having no idea how way overboard I went. Of course, the clover has no idea what's a weed and what isn't.
This first sunflower photo you can see they're being taken over by the clover. This is WITH me having pulled off the tops of the clover around the sunflowers twice weekly. The only weeds that are still alive are the taller ones that grew faster than the clover. You can see that these dwarf Music Box sunflowers are thriving now. Had I used less seed or had more sunflower height before planting, no clover haircut would have been needed. Each haircut though enriched the soil where I dropped it to rot away.
My Dogs also LOVE IT
It's cooler on a hot summer day due to retaining moisture in the soil, so my dogs find the deepest areas and lay down.
Mocha even takes her treats into the clover to eat them.
I use multiple clovers on my property to build soil & as living mulches. Blog post on those coming this fall. Subscribe or check back. I will link it to this post once completed. So, are you going to put in clover or at least stop fighting it? If you do I'd love for you to come share photos or tag me in your posts!
Happy Growing, Cooking & Eating!
💜 Dana K
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