If you’re like many other people in the United States, you might not realize that clover wasn’t always considered a weed and a nuisance. In fact, many years ago, it was almost always included in grass seed mixes. Clover actually has lots of benefits, and today I’ll take a look at those (as well as its downsides) in this article all about the pros and cons of clover lawns.
How Clover has Historically Been Used in Lawns
The type of clover most often used on and in place of lawns today is white clover.
More specifically, this is Dutch white clover or just Dutch clover. Its Latin name is Trifolium repens.
When looking at the history of lawns you’ll learn that up until as late the 1950s, it was common to include clover in your lawn because it was considered a way of promoting healthy grass through natural fertilization (clover is Leguminous – more on that in a minute).
All of this ended when it became common to apply broadleaf herbicide.
These herbicides weren’t developed to treat clover, but when it was discovered that they killed clover in addition to other broadleaf weeds (and because it was so common in lawns), the companies producing lawn herbicides decided marketing it as a clover killer would be good for business.
Produce a product that says it kills clover in lawns and market it and people will soon believe that clover needs to be eliminated from their lawn.
The plan worked.
Your Clover Lawn Options
You can include clover in a lawn that is mostly grass, or you can start over and sow a pure clover lawn.
A mix of grass and clover is appropriate in areas with more foot traffic. A pure clover lawn is really best for places that have moderate foot traffic at most, or large fields where you want to mow infrequently while enjoying moderate plant height and flowers that support pollinating insects.
Best Clover Blend for Overseeding
The Clover Seed Mix I Recommend
Ready to overseed your lawn with clover? I recommend Sunday’s Lucky Lawn clover and grass seed blend. It is a great quality micro clover seed mixed with fescue that blends seamlessly with most lawns.
A single 5 pound bag will overseed 2,500 square feet!
Clover Lawns Pros and Cons Analyzed
Now let’s take a closer look at both the advantages and disadvantages of sowing clover in your yard.
Pros of Clover in Your Lawn
Clover has many benefits when used in or as a lawn.
For instance, it will stay green all summer because it’s resistant to drought. It takes on its characteristic green shade in the early part of spring and stays green until the first frost later in the year.
In southern states, your clover will stay green even in the winter.
Clover is also inexpensive to buy and can help your lawn care budget. You can cover as many as 4,000 square feet of space with just $4. If you already have some on your lawn, you won’t have to spend anything. Just let it grow and spread.
Additionally, clover can thrive in poor soil. It’s a nitrogen fixer as a legume, meaning it adds nitrogen to the soil as it grows instead of taking it out. This allows clover to fertilize itself and other plants around it.
You won’t have to worry about how your clover will do if you have soil that’s not the best quality. If you have a new home, this may be very helpful. The grounds of many new builds have low-quality subsoil.
Let’s take a look at more of the many pros of including clover on your lawn.
- Clover helps your lawn get through a drought.
- It attracts beneficial insects to your lawn, such as bees, which are necessary for plant pollination.
- Clover needs no fertilization and will help to fertilize your lawn in itself because it adds nitrogen to the soil.
- Clover is a great choice for dog owners who have trouble with their lawn. Dog urine won’t discolor it.
- It crowds out weeds that you don’t want. Its roots have a dense structure that prevents them from growing.
- Clover grows more slowly than grass and doesn’t get as tall. This means that you might not have to mow as often.
Cons of Clover on Your Lawn
Clover is not without some drawbacks, however.
You will probably have to re-seed clover every few years in order to keep it even. This is because it is a short-lived perennial. If you have a mixed clover and grass lawn instead of a pure clover lawn, however, you will probably find that the plant re-seeds itself adequately.
Clover simply isn’t strong enough to use it alone on areas that take a lot of traffic, such as sports fields. You can mix a tiny bit of it into your grass in these cases, but it will quickly get worn down as stand-alone turf.
Below are more potential disadvantages of having clover on your lawn:
- Clover’s roots can spread out quite rapidly. Be aware of this, as the clover roots can end up getting into your flower gardens.
- The bees that will be attracted to your lawn by the clover can be a problem if anyone in your household is allergic to bee stings.
- Trying to overseed your lawn using clover will probably end up causing a patchy and unattractive look.
- You’ll have to be careful if you want to sit on your clover, as it tends to stain clothing more readily than grass.
How to Take Care of Clover
Clover requires different care techniques than regular grass. It’s fairly simple to learn how to maintain it and take care of it properly.
It’s usually a good idea to plant clover in the early part of the spring, between mid-March and mid-April. If you don’t get around to it in the spring, you can do it in the fall instead, but summer is a tough time to start a lawn from seed.
One of the difficulties of planting clover seed comes form how tiny the seeds are. This is why many people will mix it with something like sand, sawdust, or soil. This will help you spread it more evenly than you would be able to otherwise.
Once you’ve planted clover in your lawn, water it daily until germination, and then for 2-3 weeks after your seedlings sprout.
While that is the basics of planting clover, other care tips are:
- Don’t use herbicides if you have a significant amount of clover in your lawn. Many will harm it.
- You can encourage patches of clover already on your lawn by setting your mower blades to between 1.5 and 2 inches. Do this for your whole lawn if you have a pure clover lawn.
- Clover requires a great deal of sunlight. Expect it to grow more slowly if you’ve planted it in an area with a lot of shade. In these cases, you should also use more seed, even doubling it.
How to Deal with Bees in a Clover Lawn
As mentioned earlier, bees are attracted to clover because of its white flowers.
Depending upon your viewpoint, bees can be both pro and con of clover lawns.
They’re a benefit to your property (and humanity) because they are pollinators. With lots of bees on your property, however, you will need to keep in mind the higher likelihood of bee stings.
This is especially true if you spend a lot of time outside or have kids that play on the lawn. It’s of special concern to parents whose kids have an allergy to bee stings.
You can cut down on the number of bees that come to your property by mowing the clover low. Doing so will keep it from flowering. This is especially true in the blooming season of the summer.
As long as you don’t have anyone allergic to bees in your household or among people who spend time on your property on a regular basis, it’s a great idea to let the white flowers on your clover flourish. This is because bee populations are under dire threat in every part of the world as a result of something called colony collapse disorder (CCD).
This is a serious situation for humankind. Bees are the most important pollinator for one-third of all food crops used by humans.
Weighing the Advantages and Disadvantages of Clover Lawns
For many homeowners including clover as part of your lawn is a great option that you may not have considered before.
The key is to understand all the pros and cons of clover. Understand your situation, and figure out what will work best for you and your family.
The area you live in and how you use your property play a significant role in determining if clover will be right for your property.
There are many potential benefits of having clover on your lawn. Still, some homeowners who prefer the aesthetic of a 100% grass lawn probably won’t want it in their yard.
Keep in mind the negatives, too, so you can decide how significant these are to you for your lifestyle and preferences.