Protect Your Turf: The Benefits of White Clover

Learn why adding white clover to your yard can deter critters from munching on your precious garden.


| January 2018


The Humane Guide to Critter Control (Cool Springs Press, 2017) by Theresa Rooney helps gardeners keep way pests and critters from their precious gardens safely and organically, as not to hurt the critter or garden. In the following excerpt, Rooney discusses the benefits of adding white clover to your lawn.

Rethink Your Lawn

If you love your turf (and lots of people do), there are things you can do to minimize pest damage. Perhaps you thought I would say pull out all the turf and plant native plants and trees? If you have children or pets, you may need space for them to romp. A nice turf can highlight a beautiful garden. Turf can cool your yard and soften the sound of the neighborhood. Now, here comes the crazy idea—consider adding white clover to your turf.

We Americans have had a love affair with our turf for a long time. Before the 1950s, we allowed clover and dandelions in the grass. Mostly because we didn’t have all the herbicides we do now. But in the 1950s, herbicides became popular. The seed and chemical companies were pretty smart. If you kill all the broadleaf weeds—that may actually benefit the grass—you now have to fertilize the grass. If you cut the grass shorter you may need to water more and use more fertilizer and herbicides. Instead of a short manageable meadow we were to aspire to billiard table-flat green lawns.

If you add clover to your lawn, you may find the rabbits prefer it (and truly they do) rather than your lilies. Woodchucks too prefer clover—it is one of their favorites. Clover is also a great bee attractor and often found in “bee lawns.” Bee lawns are an alternative to traditional grassy spaces that include low-growing plants that flower and provide nectar and pollen for the pollinators. This may include creeping thyme, clover, low-growing sedums, violets, or Canadian ginger. Fescue is also the grass often used in these mixes, as it is a slower-growing grass and doesn’t need the fertilizers that Kentucky bluegrass does. Some of these plants can take a bit of foot traffic and others very little, so they need to be planned and planted according to how the area is to be used. You may find that as you increase the diversity in your landscape, your pest problems seem to lessen or even disappear entirely.

Clover is also a nitrogen fixer. The nodules on its roots allow the plant to pull nitrogen from the air and store it in those nodules. As the roots die, the nodules release that nitrogen back into the soil to the grass roots. If you use a 30-0-15 fertilizer on your lawn, that first number represents nitrogen, the very thing that clover provides free. The clover will not need to be mowed as often as your grass may need to be mowed. More time saved for you. As you add diversity to your turf grass you may notice it seems healthier. It is more able to grow thick and lush. More able to withstand some insect damage, or avoid damage altogether, because the soil is so healthy that none of the “bad” soil insects get out of control. Using products on your lawn that aren’t organic or natural may decrease the soil health and resilience of your lawn, forcing you to use even more products.

What about those dandelions? If you can, let them be! Just mow the flowers before they go to seed—it will keep your neighbors happier. The dandelions are an early flowering plant. They may be one of the few plants in flower when female bumblebees come out of hibernation and are starving. Just recently, the rusty patched bumblebee was put on the endangered list. Yes, a bumblebee is endangered. There may even be some already extinct, as they have not been seen in years. To me, the bumblebee is an iconic part of summer—hearing the lazy buzz and seeing that seemingly impossible-to-fly bee slowly fly past is a treat I enjoy every time.

AmyW
2/2/2018 8:15:53 AM

My flowering lawn, with clover, dandelion, chickweed, henbit, violets, grape hyacinth, and more all mixed in with the turfgrass plays a big part on the success of my veggie garden, I am sure. There are plenty of pollinators in my Georgia garden, doing their good work right when I need them to, because the yard provides food for them almost year round! Thanks for the post. -Amy


AmyW
2/2/2018 8:15:51 AM

The benefits of a flowering lawn are many! I still get bunnies in the garden, nibbling my planted-on-purpose flowers and veggies, in spite of having plenty of forage in the lawn, but I also have an abundance of pollinators in my garden. The pollinators are a big reason why my veggies are such a success. I am pretty sure the clover, dandelions, violets, henbit, and other flowering plants in the lawn are what draw the beneficial insects to my yard. Thanks for the post! -Amy






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