Micro Clover Lawn

Why You Should Consider a Micro Clover Lawn

It’s a contentious debate. Is the presence of micro clover in your lawn a gardening delight or a gardening fail? While some hardcore lawn aficionados might say clover is a weed, others have embraced its presence or even transitioned from a traditional grass lawn to a micro clover lawn.

The first step to forgiving yourself for having clover in your yard is understanding why it is there and then deciding if its benefits outweigh your pride.

You may also want to examine the history of lawns to better understand why today’s homeowner considers clover a weed at all. Years ago, it was a desirable part of lawns.

Today, for everyone who says that clover is a weed, you will hear another homeowner explain why they’re turning to a micro clover lawn or a blend of micro clover with more traditional turf grasses.

The decision to embrace clover includes many factors that each person must consider.

Let’s take a look at the details surrounding clover lawns so you can decide where you stand on the issue, and I’ll look specifically at the pros and cons of micro-clover in residential lawns.

Why Does My Lawn Have Clover?

Traditional clover – otherwise known as White Clover or Dutch clover – in your lawn could be a signal that your grass is starving.

Clover in Lawn

Grass needs nitrogen but must obtain that nutrient from the soil. Nitrogen from rainwater and granular fertilizer penetrates the soil and feeds your grass. 

Clover, on the other hand, is a legume and it absorbs nitrogen from the air.

It can therefore thrive even if the soil is nitrogen deficient. If clover arrives in your lawn without an invitation, your lawn’s grass is probably ailing and you need to support your yard’s soil by top-dressing it with compost, and/or spreading organic fertilizer.

What is Micro Clover?

Micro clover is a smaller variety of White Clover. It has tiny leaves and fewer white flowers. Being smaller, micro clover grows lower to the ground and does not have the clumping tendency of its larger relative.

All clover is considered a legume capable of turning atmospheric nitrogen gas into an organic form of nitrogen.

The natural fertilizer clover produces is capable of feeding other surrounding plants, like grass.

This health benefit is one of the main reasons people are adding micro clover to their lawns.

Why Would I Choose to Include Micro Clover in my Lawn?

As I mentioned above, micro clover is capable of producing its own nitrogen. This nitrogen can enrich the surrounding soil and improve grass growth naturally.

Is Micro Clover Good for Lawns?

Naturally-produced nitrogen from clover and other legumes in your yard limits the need to apply fertilizer. This will cut down on your annual lawn maintenance costs, but there are other benefits to clover as well.

We all know that chemical fertilizers can run off during a heavy rain and end up in local water sources. Keeping dangerous chemicals out of our fresh water streams and lakes is an important task. If having micro clover as part of your lawn helps achieve this objective, then it’s worth considering for many environmentally conscious homeowners.

Micro clover is also a low maintenance lawn filler that adds dimension to a lawn. When mixed with the right grass seed, micro clover can fill gaps, enhance the green hue of your yard, and create unique and inviting texture in your lawn.

The hardy nature of micro clover also limits the growth of weeds. It spreads out to fill holes in your turfgrass and creates a dense canopy which prevents weeds from germinating.

This can help keep your lawn healthy and beautiful.

What’s the Catch?

Micro clover is not right for everyone.

Some experts say it grows best in zones without extremely high temperatures and extended periods of drought. However, others claim micro clover is more drought tolerant than most grasses due to its root structure.

A good plan would be to contact your local extension office to see if micro clover is right for your area.

In some zones, the lush green foliage goes dormant and turns brown in the winter. When this top growth dies, it can leave bare spots in your lawn.

Again, checking to see if micro clover is recommended in your area is smart, so that you don’t end up with disappointing surprises.

One area with a poor track record for growing micro clover is the extreme Southern United States. In this area, Southern blight disease caused by prolonged periods of high heat and humidity is deadly to micro clover.

Converting a Whole Yard to Micro Clover

Some people do kill their lawn and start over, sowing their entire lawn in micro clover.

New Lawn of Just Micro Clover

However, a purely Micro Clover lawn is not that popular for one main reason.

Planting a whole yard with micro clover would be pretty pricey. 

A full-blown stand of micro clover will require at least two pounds of seed per 1000 square feet. Ten-pound bags that will cover 5,000 square feet are close to $300.

Sowing the same size area with a premium grass seed will cost about $100 or less, depending on the brand and the store.

So you have to ask yourself if paying three times as much up-front is worth spending less in annual maintenance costs.

How to Plant a Micro Clover Lawn

If you want to sow an entire space with micro clover, here are a few tips for success:

  • Buy 100% micro clover seed with no fillers (this is the seed I recommend)
  • Prepare about 5” of topsoil by tilling and adding screened, organic compost.
  • The ideal pH for micro clover is 6 – 7. Perform a soil test (I use this kit from Amazon), and add lime if necessary after testing the soil.
  • Spread the seed with a good broadcast spreader.
  • Gently rake in the seed for an even distribution and good soil contact. I recommend using the back of a leaf rake for this.
  • Water the seed regularly.
  • Wait one week after sowing before adding organic chicken manure pellets as a fertilizer. I use Coop Poop, which I buy from Amazon.

Transitioning to a Partial Micro Clover Yard

Micro clover probably works best when overseeded into an existing lawn. The lush green hues and added texture will make your lawn both beautiful and comfortable to walk on barefoot.

Micro Clover in Lawn - Overseeding an Existing Lawn with Micro Clover

But another great reason to seed micro clover into your grass is to make your existing lawn healthier.

The nitrogen micro clover produces is a huge benefit for your turf. Also, the hearty clover keeps other weeds from creeping in. 

How to Overseed a Lawn with Micro Clover

If you decide to add some micro clover to your lawn, here are a few tips to ensure success:

  • Before adding the seed, mow your lawn extra close to the soil surface.
  • Aerate your yard. This process introduces water, air, and nutrients into the ground, which gives your micro clover seed a better chance of germinating.
  • Micro clover seeds are extra fine in texture. You will need to sow 25% more of these seeds compared to grass seed into an existing lawn. Some of the delicate seeds will get caught in the grass blades and never make it to the ground.
  • Try to plant your seed before a gentle rain. If this is too unpredictable, watering the space lightly after broadcasting the seed is recommended. Don’t water too heavily or your seeds will run off and pool in low areas.

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!

Sunday Lucky Lawn Clover Grass Seed Blend

Save 12% on your order with promo code LAWNCHICK2023

What Growing Conditions Work Well?

As mentioned previously, micro clover is not right for everyone.

The following are its best growing conditions:

  • Regions with less humidity and fewer periods of excessive heat
  • Areas in direct sunlight (limited shade)
  • Areas with adequate rainfall, not prone to drought

What Types of Grasses Blend well with Micro Clover in a Lawn?

If you live in a more northern region, then your lawn is most likely Kentucky Bluegrass. This kind of grass is perfect for including micro clover.

Other grasses that pair well with micro clover and create a gorgeous lawn are Dwarf Perennial Ryegrass and several types of Fescue grasses, such as Dwarf Fescue varieties, Fine Fescues, and even Tall Fescue.

Just remember that many weed and feed products will kill clover, so be careful when buying and applying fertilizer to your lawn.

What’s the Difference Between Coated and Non-Coated Seeds?

Deciding between coated and non-coated seeds will depend on the condition of your soil.

If good bacteria are present in the soil, then there is sufficient nitrogen to give your grass and clover a good start. In this case, you would not need to buy seeds coated with nitrogen.

This is my top recommendation for raw or uncoated micro clover seeds

Nitrogen-coated seeds are necessary for sterile or otherwise unhealthy soil.

Coated seeds are more expensive, but they are easier to apply and see in your lawn to understand the coverage you’re getting when spreading your seed. I feel that laying down a good organic fertilizer with un-coated seed is the best approach, but if you’d like to buy pelletized or coated seed, try this one from West Coast Seeds.

Final Thoughts About Micro Clover in Lawns

Having a micro clover lawn (whether purely micro clover or through incorporating micro clover in an existing lawn) is a matter of preference.

Clover in Sunlight

The advantages include having a naturally healthy lawn without having to use much, if any, nitrogen fertilizer.

People concerned about fertilizer run-off into water sources will be particularly interested in the ecological advantages a micro clover lawn can provide.

Not only will your lawn be healthy from naturally-produced nitrogen, but a beautiful yard of grass and micro clover will also work in harmony to crowd out pesky weeds and keep your yard looking beautiful for years to come.

While micro clover seed might be more expensive than plain grass seed, it also requires less fertilizer and maintenance. For most people the elevated up-front cost will provide savings in the long run.

If you live in an appropriate climate region, you might consider adding micro clover to your existing grass for a lush and healthy lawn all season.

by

Sarah’s blog, Lawn Chick, is read by over 2 million homeowners each year and she is regularly cited as an expert source of lawn care knowledge by major publications. Her goal is to meet you where you are, and help you achieve a yard you’ll be proud of. Ready to take the next step toward improving your lawn? Grab her free lawn care cheat-sheet: What to Do When - Take the Guesswork Out of Lawn Care, or upgrade your garage by browsing her favorite DIY lawn care products.

12 thoughts on “Why You Should Consider a Micro Clover Lawn

  1. David Kane

    I planted what I though was micro clover as a lawn cover. The second summer the clover has shot up over 6 – 8 inches in some parts with leaves 3 x regular clover. Do you know what is causing that?

    • Hey, David!

      It’s tough to say for sure since I’m not looking at it, but my best guess would be that the clover seed you bought is a newer hybrid variety and when it sets seed at least some of that seed reverts back to an earlier version of (larger) clover plant … one of the parent plants that was used to create the hybrid micro clover you purchased.

      This happens with some beautiful hybrid perennials in my garden that have been recently developed by breeders – if I don’t cut off the seed-head they’ll self-sow and revert back to a less-attractive version of the same plant … either a different size, color, or growth habit … often obscuring the nice foliage or flowers I loved on the original plant I purchased.

      Again, I don’t know for sure what’s causing this in your yard, but since you said this happened in the second season, that’s my best guess.

  2. Sanford Carson

    Where can I get true “Microclover”? There seems to be some confusion about what is “Microclover”. From what I have read, it is only supposed to grow 1-3″ high. But various websites, and comments from purchasers of a “microclover” on Amazon, say that their product can be much taller…3-6″ or more, as per David’s comment above.

    • I agree it can be tricky to know exactly what you’re getting, Sanford.

      I recommend looking for Trifolium repens var. Pipolina as it should stay 3″ tall or shorter. West Coast Seeds has it (here’s the link) if you want to buy directly from a company and can’t find what you’re looking for on Amazon.

      Good Luck!

    • Hey, Carole!

      Yes, definitely. Mowing (especially early on once it reaches its mature height) will actually help thicken up your stand of clover. It won’t harm it at all and the more you thicken it up early on the less you’ll have to mow in the future. If you’re simply wanting to thicken up an established lawn with micro clover then you can treat it the same way you would with regular grass – mow it when it looks like it needs it. Clover is resilient and doesn’t need any pampering.

      Good luck!

  3. Adam C

    Dear Sarah,
    I reside in NJ down the shore about 2 blocks from the beach and we had a major drought this past summer, so my lawn along with most other lawns in the area turned to straw. I did not water at all this summer(too many other things to do). My lawn had alot of naturally growing Dutch clover the past few years but that too dried up and died. I have loamy soil with a neutral pH between 6 and 7. I love having the clover on my lawn, but apparently it is not as drought tolerant as I thought. I basically just want a really low maintenance thick green lawn that’s dense with SOMETHING perennial and highly drought resistant, but I don’t know what to plant. Should I rip up the lawn next year and start over with a blend of grass seed and microclover? Should I plant a ground cover such as Creeping thyme or Snow in summer? What should I do?

    • Hey, Adam! Thanks for visiting.

      Yes, the heat and drought this summer was brutal. I’m in New England with very sandy soil on my lot, so periods of drought can be tough on my yard too.

      If you’re not 100% tied to the idea of clover and are open to a drought-tolerant grass I’d consider Jonathan Green Black Beauty Ultra. It’s an excellent grass blend that does really well in NJ and up into New England (it’s what I use to overseed my lawn every other year). It has a great color, and JG claims that roots grow up to 4 feet deep, making this grass VERY drought tolerant (as the surface dries out, your turf’s roots are still accessing moisture deeper in the ground). I believe that claim – I tested some out in a 5 gallon bucket once and when I turned the bucket over you wouldn’t believe the root mass! It put the other grasses I was trialing to shame. If you’re looking for something low-maintenance, beautiful, and drought tolerant, that would be my top recommendation (if you’re open to grass – I know a lot of readers on this page are specifically looking for grass lawn alternatives).

      Creeping Thyme is a beast once established, and will do fine for you if you’re patient in the early going. But you have to be 100% sure you want it (because if you don’t, I’m not sure you’ll ever get rid of it). If your lawn abuts neighbors, make sure they want it too, because it will spread like crazy. 🙂

      This is a great time to plant Black Beauty Ultra – I’m going to be doing an overseeding project next weekend with it, and if you act now it’ll be well established for next spring.

      Hope this helps!

      • Peter O

        Hi Sarah,
        Thanks for this article. I have relied on Jonathan Green products for about a decade now and have strictly adhered to their regimen and one of my neighbors has done the same, but just started their lawn a couple years ago. Both of us use Black Beauty Ultra and I’ve been overseeding every other year. I recently expanded a vegetable garden and turning over my grass with a shovel was made much more difficult with the long roots, but I figured that’s the price you pay for a good lawn. I’ve had a great lawn for years and get complimented on it. However, I live 20 minutes North of Boston and this year my BBU grass was turned into straw. I’d be willing to try micro clover in my backyard, but I’m honestly gun-shy at this point given how badly BBU did this year if what you’re saying is that what I have should be drought tolerant. So this does raise some questions: Given your reply above, are you saying my BBU lawn should be more drought tolerant than micro-clover? I have an underground sprinkler system, but our town only allowed us to water once a week. Would that have been enough for micro-clover in my sunny spots? Once we grow clover, does that mean we should only use fertilizer (i.e, no weed or crabgrass killer)? Do you still have to treat for grubs with a clover lawn?

        • Hey, Peter!

          Great questions – I’ll try to respond to each below:

          In my experience micro clover tends to be about 25% more drought tolerant than traditional grass. I’m not sure I can exactly quantify the difference BBU and other high-quality fescue-based grasses compare to “traditional” lawn grass, but my gut feeling is that the drought tolerance improvement may be similar (about 25%). I think factors like soil type (heavy clay vs sandy), and the light conditions of your yard play a very significant role as well, so it’s tough to generalize.

          This summer was unusually tough in terms of how dry it was. I’m in New England as well and have predominantly BBU for my lawn in sandy soil. My next-door neighbor seeded micro-clover in his front lawn this spring with great results, and across the street from him I have a neighbor that laid bluegrass sod a few years ago. The guy with bluegrass had his sprinklers going every day, I watered my lawn deeply about once per week, and so did the neighbor with micro-clover. The KBG lawn still looked more crispy than either of ours despite his daily waterings.

          So I don’t really think that Black Beauty Ultra will be more drought tolerant than micro clover, but the drought tolerance may be comparable based on what I saw in my neighborhood this summer. That’s anecdotal, but it’s a very specific observation I had looking at three different cool-season options in my neighborhood (though it’s worth pointing out that the micro-clover wasn’t fully established yet, and was in its first year – still performed very well). The neighbor with micro clover loves it and won’t go back – his primary reason for switching was because he has had such a bad grub problem in the past (grubs shouldn’t bother your micro clover).

          If you do go with Micro Clover you’ll definitely need to be careful about what you use for products because many weed killers kill clover, as do many weed and feed products.

          Hope this info helps!

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