Clover: Friend or Foe?

Clover used to grow on most lawns until synthetic weed control products were developed. Since then, it has largely disappeared from lawns that routinely use broadleaf weed control. This is because there are no weed killers that kill weeds while saving plants like clover. And because clover is killed by common weed killers, many people tend to view them as a weed. However, in many cases, it can actually be a great addition to the yard.

What is Clover?

A member of the legume-pea family, clover is a natural proponent of nitrogen, an element needed in the soil for healthy grass growth. 

Clover is also a flowering plant. The flower of clover contains thin, white petals that are sometimes tinged with pink or purple at the tips. They form a small, sphere-like form atop thin stalks. Being a broadleaf plant, they are easily killed by weed killers, as they do not resemble grass though not necessarily weeds either.

Clover can attract bees, as they provide an important source of food. Bees pollinate the plant, allowing it to grow. Since bees are on a decline in many regions, this poses a problem for human food production. Allowing clover to grow around your lawn can help sustain the bee population in your region. 

Clover may also be grown as part of a hay mixture or fodder for grazing animals, such as cows and horses. 

Characteristics of Clover

Some of the distinguished characteristics of clover include:

  • Pollinating flowers
  • Evergreen quality
  • Tolerance for drought
  • Vigorous growth during the winter

Benefits to Clover

There are many benefits of having clover on your lawn. 

For one, clover fixes nitrogen. This is an important feature, because plants use nitrogen found naturally in the soil. Not only does the grass receive more nitrogen, you also end up using less fertilizer for your lawn, as it no longer needs an outside source. 

The evergreen quality of clover is also a helpful feature. Because they do not dry out or change colors from a lack of water or from intense heat, clover can actually help your lawn maintain a greener shade for a longer length of time. 

Clover is also disease-resistant, meaning they are able to stay green without withering under the normal afflictions of lawns. Dog spot problems are also not a problem, as clover is able to resist them. 

Drawbacks of Clover

Despite the many benefits of clover on lawns, they can also have their drawbacks.

Depending on the amount and spread of clover, they can make the grass look uneven due to their leaves. Since there is virtually no way to control how the leaves of clover grow, many property owners may decide to get rid of them altogether. 

And despite what they do to help nurture the population of bees, some may simply not want them around their home. Homes with children or pets, or those who host outdoor events will likely try to keep pests away from these areas, including bees. This may mean getting rid of clover. 

Controlling and Nurturing Clover

To keep the spread of clover under control, a broadleaf weed killer must be applied to remove some of the clover. Because weed killers are unable to distinguish clover from weeds, there is little way of getting rid of them except to uproot them. 

Nevertheless, clover can still be cultivated for the benefit of the lawn’s growth and appearance. Overseeding the lawn with clover is one way to encourage growth. Although clover is difficult to find in grass seed mixes, it may still be available for purchase at farm supply stores or online. 

If you wish to aim for a 5% coverage of clover on your lawn, spread 1 ounce of clover seed per 1,000 square feet to get the right balance of clover and grass. With any luck, you’ll have just enough clover to enhance your lawn’s growth without compromising its appearance.

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