Yes, you read that right. I want you to add clover to your grass this year whether you’re establishing a new lawn or already have an existing lawn. Now before you start sending me angry emails, let me explain. Prior to the 1950s, clover was a valued and accepted component of most grass seed mixes for lawns. It’s only been since the development of herbicides that society has thrown this beneficial legume under the bus. Somewhere along the way, we became convinced that clover was a weed worthy of eradication. This is unfortunate. There are numerous benefits to a grass/clover lawn, and it’s time we invited this little three (or four)-leaved helper back into our yards.
Natural Source of Fertilizer
Perhaps the biggest benefit of adding clover to your lawn is the fertility factor. Clover is a natural source of fertilizer and provides nutrients to the grass around it. In a process known as nitrogen fixation, clovers and other legumes are able to take unusable nitrogen from the atmosphere and convert it into a usable form of nitrogen called ammonium. As a result, grass intermixed with clover is healthier, greener and more vigorous than grass alone. This same process can also be applied to the pasture. White clover, red clover and alsike clover can fix hundreds of pounds of nitrogen per acre, significantly reducing fertilizer costs for farmers and ranchers.
Helps Keep Lawn Green
In many regions clover is fairly drought-tolerant when added to a traditional lawn. It has longer roots than most lawn grasses, enabling it to access water held deeper in the soil. Clover will also help your lawn look greener longer. It greens-up quicker than grass in the early spring, and stays greener longer into the fall and winter. In fact, I’ve seen areas where snow has been pushed off lawn in the winter and the clover is still green. In southern areas of the United States, clover will often remain green year-round. This is especially beneficial for homeowners looking to avoid the wintertime brown of their warm-season lawn grass.
Tolerates Poor Soil, Pests, Diseases and Dog Urine
Clover is not as picky as grass when it comes to soil types. It tolerates a wide variety of conditions including poor-draining soils and low quality soils exposed by new construction. Clover also tolerates compacted soil better than lawn grasses. When it comes to weeds, diseases and pests, clover/grass lawns have the advantage as well. Clover can help out-compete weeds and is resistant to most diseases and pests, especially chinch bugs and white grubs. Partially shaded areas are also not a problem for clover. Need any more reasons why you should mix clover into your lawn? Here’s one for pet owners—clover is unaffected by dog urine.
Helps Beneficial Pollinators
Another overlooked benefit of clover has to do with our pollinators, especially honey bees. With a growing concern over mass die-offs, colony collapse disorder and other problems plaguing honey bee populations lately, it’s important we do everything possible to make their lives a little easier. Clover blossoms are a major forage source for honey bees and other pollinators. If you’re allergic to bee stings or have children that spend a lot of time outdoors, simply mow the clover blossoms off to keep bees away.
It’s time we end the war on clover, one yard at a time. This year, consider adding clover to your lawn and see how many neighbors you can convert along the way.