Up until the 1950s, white clover was included in every lawn seed mixture and having a lush, clover-infused lawn was thing of pride—especially for farmers. These days, with the heavy usage of lawn weed killers, clover is seen as an enemy of turf grass. It shouldn’t be, though, and there are lots of reasons why.
1. Free Fertilizer
White clover (Trifolium repens) is a member of the pea and bean family—a legume. Legumes have the very unique ability to take nitrogen from the air and convert it into a form that other plants can use. Folks that have lawns woven with clover have a source of built-in fertilizer. Seeding clover into a lawn was once a way to provide nitrogen to turf without ever needing to add fertilizers. A lawn consisting of a mere 5 percent clover is provided with all the nitrogen the turf grass needs. Granted, you have to let the clippings lie and not collect them or rake them up, but mulching mowers are very good at doing this without leaving anything noticeable behind. Not only does clover provide nitrogen through the breakdown of these clippings, but also through the natural decomposition of its roots.
2. Weed Enemy
Clover is also great at crowding out undesirable weeds. It stands up well to foot traffic, reduces thatch build-up, decomposes rapidly when mowed and provides erosion control in the process.
3. Food for Honey Bees—and Other Beneficial Bugs
White clover is prized by Honey bees (who are having a rough go of it right now). Which brings me to another reason why folks seem to dislike clover: They worry about their kids getting stung by bees. Honey bees, unlike yellow jackets and other wasps, are not aggressive and will not sting unless threatened or stepped on. There’s a very simple solution to this perceived problem: Have your kids wear shoes when they play outside. My son is outside all day in the summer and has never been stung because he always wears shoes. Clover blossoms are attractive to other pollinators and beneficial insects, too. These critters help in the vegetable garden by controlling pests and pollinating fruits and veggies.
4. Monoculture Eliminator
Another advantage of clover in the lawn is the plant’s ability to bring diversity to what would otherwise be a monoculture. This diversity detracts pests and diseases, increases drought resistance, and encourages turf grass to grow deeper roots. With a mixed lawn, irrigation is reduced or eliminated and pesticides become a thing of the past.
5. Bearer of Good Luck
According to Irish tradition, the three leaves of clover represent the Holy Trinity and a fourth leaf brings good luck. Four-leaf clovers are a genetic anomaly that occurs during leaf development, and they aren’t as hard to find as you might think. Over the course of his 25-year sentence, a Pennsylvania prisoner managed to collect about 80,000 four-leaf clovers by scouring the prison grounds. My son and I found four within a five-minute period the other day. As for the promised good luck, well, we do indeed feel very lucky to be blessed with such a healthy, clover-woven lawn.
Learn more about clover on HobbyFarms.com:
- Bring Clover On Over
- 5 Cover Crops for Your Small-Scale Garden
- All Hay Is Not Equal: Choose Your Livestock’s Carefully
- 5 Steps to Healthier Cattle Pastures
- 5 Weeds to Leave In Your Garden