What Is Clover?
When we talk about Clover as a weed in lawns, we’re generally referring to White Clover (Trifolium repens), which is sometimes called Dutch Clover. While there are many varieties of Clover, they all have similar tendencies. White Clover is not native to the United States, but is originally from Asia and Europe.
White Clover is a cool-season perennial that grows anywhere and everywhere, but prefers full sun. It’s a low-growing plant, and is therefore easily missed by lawnmowers. Individual stems produce trifoliate leaves or three oval-shaped leaflets that usually have a lighter green or white horizontal band, sometimes called a “watermark.” Edges of the leaves are minimally serrated and stems have tiny white hairs. White flowers bloom in the late Spring and into the Summer. The globe-shaped flowers actually contain 40 to 80 individual flowers in a cluster and are called “inflorescences.” White Clover reproduces both by seed and creeping stolons. All Clover varieties are in the legume family and take nitrogen from the air and “fix” it into the soil, strengthening the soil and fertilizing nearby plants. Because Clover can survive in soil with low nitrogen, it is sometimes an indicator of poor soil. And because Clover reproduced via stolons, it grows in patches or mats that sometimes form mounds.
Full disclosure here, we like Clover a lot and encourage our customers to add Microclover to their lawns. Clover stays green all year (unlike many varieties of grass) and we really like the passive fertilizing that it does by adding nitrogen to the soil (which is included in fertilizers). So all this talk about preventing and getting rid of Clover below is a bit uninspired on our end. We’d love for you to fully embrace and encourage Clover in your lawn! But if you have too much of it, or it’s really not your thing, we wrote this article for you.
What Causes Clover In Lawns?
Clover was added to turf grass seed in the 1950s. So if your neighborhood is older, your Clover may be the great great grandchildren of the original Clover planted when your house was built. Additionally, Clover spreads via seed, which can easily get stuck on shoes, dog’s fur and so forth.
How To Get Rid Of Clover In Your Lawn?
Hand-pulling Clover or using a weed-pulling tool like our favorite Speedy Weedy works well for smaller patches. But if you have a whole yard full of Clover, hand-pulling won’t work. We generally discourage harsh weed killers, but we have some organic favorites that will work to reduce the Clover in your lawn, including Burnout Organic Weed & Grass Killer, Bonide Captain Jack's Deadweed Brew, and Weed Beater Organic Dandelion & Weed Killer. These are all safe for kids, pets, pollinators and waterways. Be careful spraying Clover, as you don’t want to over spray the liquid onto your grass.
How To Prevent Clover In Your Lawn?
The best way to prevent White Clover in your lawn is to maintain a strong, healthy lawn with healthy soil. We encourage you to mow high (three inches or more) to encourage deep roots. Water deeply (one inch) and infrequently (weekly), which will also encourage strong roots. De-thatch if you need to. We offer Liquid Aeration service, best performed in the Spring and Core Aeration service in the Fall that will help reduce thatch. If you’re more into DIY lawn care, we recommend our in-house product Liquid Aerator. Additionally, fertilize your lawn a few times a year. We also offer Good Nature products specific to the Spring and Fall. We like to recommend a double dose in the Spring (one around Easter and the other around Memorial Day) and two more in the Fall (one around Labor Day and the second around Halloween). To build your soil, you might consider our Organic Compost Topdressing service in the Fall, which will add beneficial biology and keep your grass healthier and defend against weeds trying to push it out like White Clover. All of this work for your lawn will keep your soil active with good biota and your grass healthy.
Is Clover Beneficial?
Yes! We love Clover! Pollinators, deer, rabbits and livestock love it. It stays green year round, unlike grass. And (did we already mention this?) as a legume, Clover adds nitrogen into the soil, fertilizing the grass and building stronger soil. And if you’ve ever found a four-leaf clover, we bet you think Clover is beneficial too! It also makes a nice tea.