Of course, this piqued my interest naturally as anything that self-treats itself means a few things:
- Less money I had to pay taking care of it
- Anything that is natural is typically better for the environment
- Most things that are natural are safer for people
So, I began to do a little research and what I came up with was kind of shocking. White clover, a so-called "weed" that I'd done battle with back in my younger, lawn-tending days, was this obviously magical, self-fertilizing "lawn" I'd heard about. Well, at first, I laughed it off because sure, everyone knows weeds are self-fertilizing; That's why they have to be ripped out at the roots by hand.
But then, as I gazed over my yellowing, sickly lawn that had seen so many better days with my now-grown children frolicking across it, I decided to have an open mind and do some more research.
Clovers For Your Lawn
What I found was astonishing. The pictures alone were enough to make me wonder if I was remembering what white clovers looked like correctly. I did not remember them being this beautiful or aesthetically soft. As it turns out, white clovers mix in amazingly with grass, creating a mutually beneficial relationship that is just as attractive to the eye as it is to your wallet.
As it turns out, white clover lawns are actually called "ecolawns" and are made from the white clover (Trifolium repens) and natural grass combination that happens when you seed with both. The reason that so many people think to get rid of white clovers when they see them is because when natural seed happens, there are only single white clover plants touching down on your lawn which results in a cluster or clump of pure clovers. This can be very unsightly as it ruins the uniform look of your lawn.
But a white clover lawn is completely different, involving not natural seeding, but controlled seeding that will result in a gener lawn that needs less water and no fertilizer. In fact, if you can imagine how the beautiful grass looks in the Dutch plains around farmhouses, you can now picture what your new lawn will look like.
And because white clover lawns attract beneficial insects, you will not need any herbicides or pesticides to keep your lawn looking healthy. In fact, because of the nitrogen fixing bacteria interacting with the white clover, the grass will actually be fertilized by the nitrogen in the atmosphere taken into the soil by the clovers. In essence, it's a hands-off, toes-on lawn.
Benefits of a Clover Lawn
Aside from the fact that you will not have to do much to maintain a beautiful lawn, white clover lawns also have many other benefits. For example, the root structure becomes deeper with clovers making your lawn better equipped to handle droughts and heat waves. While your neighbor's lawn is busy turning brown and yellow, your lawn will be just as green as ever thanks to the clovers' green being nearly identical to your grass's.
Plus, in the summertime when your white clovers are blooming into little white flowers that hug the foliage line of your lawn, honey bees will pass by to feed and then pollinate your nearby flowers. Also, parasitic wasps (not the sting kind, but the kind that eat aphids) will keep your lawn and garden pest free while remaining safe to humans. This even eliminates the need for pesticides!
If you do not like the flowers, you can simply mow the lawn as usual, though the clovers tend to grow a little lower than normal grass. But thanks to this low-growth, your soil is more well shaved meaning less weeds popping up and a softer lawn for barefooted gardening. The clovers are also amazingly adept at taking foot traffic and not showing any signs of trampling.
Planting Your White Clover Lawn
If you think an ecolawn may be right for your home, it's fairly simple to get started and once you do, super-easy to maintain. First, make sure you're using Dutch white clovers which are smaller, unlike the larger Ladino white, Alsike or Red Clover. Of course, if you can find some other small-leafed, white clover varieties, these may work as well or better.
Spring is the best time to seed for your ecolawn. If you have existing sod, sow clover seed in spring or early fall. Still, early to mid-April is the best time because of the lack of moisture and competitiveness grass growth. You can even frost-seed your white clover into cracks in the ground towards the end of March and beginning of April, they're that tenant.
Sow about 2 to 8 ounces per 1000 sq. Ft. Of grass, using a rake to work it into the soil and then walk over it or use a roller. Try to spread it evenly by hand if your spreader will not handle the small seeds. If it's mid-May or later, water the lawn for about a week if it's not raining. After that, you should be all set to go.
Remember, the white clover will spread over your lawn as the months and years go by, naturally embedding itself where it's needed to make your lawn a healthy environment for natural growth. To take care of your lawn, just do what you feel is right; The ecolawn is that forgiving. Just remember not to use any herbicides without you wish to kill off the clovers and go back to your original lawn.