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.
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.
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.
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.
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 good 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.
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!
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.
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.
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.