Clover has been grown on lawns over time instead of turfgrass because of its numerous advantages and manageable downsides. Despite its multiple varieties with distinct features, strawberry clover, microclover, and the White Dutch are the best clover types that make the most beautiful and sustainable lawns if used instead of turfgrass.
Is clover good or bad for lawns?
Clover is good for lawns because it’s easy to maintain, requires little to no mowing, and fixes free nitrogen into the soil when growing. Clover needs less water to grow and can stand extreme hot or cold weather conditions while remaining green throughout the year.
Advantages of a clover lawn
Apart from using clover as grazing pasture for animals, you can also use it exclusively on your lawn rather than turfgrass since it has various unique benefits that normal turfgrass cannot give you. Below are the benefits you will reap if you use clover on your lawn.
1. Clover fixes free nitrogen in the soil
Clover is a perennial legume that fixes free nitrogen in the soil through a symbiotic relationship with soil microbes. It converts free nitrogen in the air into nitrates, a consumable form that its roots absorb and use for growth and development. If clover is grown with grass on the lawn, it will give the grass free nitrogen.
When clover fixes nitrogen for its use, it reduces nitrogenous fertilizers supply rate, decreasing air and soil pollution levels.
2. No use of herbicides
Grow clovers over the grass on your lawn if you aren’t ready for the endless battles of killing weeds from the lawn. Clover is a fast-growing perennial legume that spreads on the lawn aggressively through the visible stolons and seeds. No type of weed can outgrow a clover. Clover outcompetes lawn weeds and will not allow them to grow on a new lawn, and eliminates existing weeds.
3. Clover needs little to no mowing
Normal lawn turf grass grows steadily and matures taller hence require often mowing, like once or twice per week, to keep them short, uniform, and lusher. However, when the small white variety of clover called microclover is grown on a lawn, it will need little to no mowing because it grows slowly and matures to a shorter height of 3 inches, perfect for the lawn.
Three inches isn’t tall enough to require frequent mowing, and their slow growth rate takes longer before needing another mowing session.
Little to no mowing will save your time, money, and effort.
4. Clover requires less water to maintain
Clover has deep roots which constantly draw water from the soil water table to sustain itself, making it easy to maintain them as they will not need consistent watering like turfgrass. Clover is perfect for growing in dryland receiving little rainfall or less irrigation.
5. Clover attracts bees to the lawn area
Clover has nectar and a sweet scent for attracting bees to a lawn area. Bees feed on nectar while helping in cross-pollination. It would be a great addition to attract bees to initiate cross-pollination if you have planted flowers on your lawn. These bees also cross-pollinate other types of crops grown near the lawn area.
6. It can stand drought and winter
Clover is more resilient to dry conditions or low humidity. Sweetberry clovers, for example, have deep roots that penetrate deep into the soil water table to absorb water for its growth and development. Clover will remain active even during droughts because it will never lack water for use.
Clover also survives during cold winter seasons while remaining active and green.
7. Clover remains green throughout the year
Because clover requires little water to grow and can withstand extreme hot or cold conditions, it grows during these seasons and retains its green color, unlike turfgrasses.
8. It makes the soil more compact, thus preventing soil erosion
Clover has deep roots that strongly hold the soil particles together, thus preventing water run-offs after a rainfall. Compact soil cannot be easily carried away by running water, therefore controlling soil erosion.
9. Clover is affordable
Surprisingly, clover costs way lesser than other lawn cover options, such as installing turf grass or using an inorganic turf. Clover costs just a dollar for one thousand square feet. So you will not need lumpsum money to buy and grow clovers on your lawn.
10. Clover is to easy maintain
Clover doesn’t require frequent watering because it uses less water. A clover lawn needs little to now mow yearly and outcompetes other weeds. Moreover, clover fixes free nitrogen in the air; thus, you don’t have to apply nitrogenous fertilizers.
Frequent watering and mowing, applying fertilizers and herbicides require much effort, time, and money. But with clovers on your lawn, you will use less time, effort, and money to maintain it.
Disadvantages of clover lawns
Despite the numerous advantages, clovers have their downsides when used on a lawn in place of turfgrass. After all, nothing is perfect, and clover isn’t an exception. You want to check these disadvantages before choosing clovers for your lawn.
1. Clover can’t withstand heavy traffic
Clovers are fragile, soft, and very comfortable to walk on barefoot. While this makes it advantageous as your kids and pets can comfortably run and walk on the lawn, it becomes a bad choice if the traffic is heavy.
Clovers are meant for lawns with low or medium traffic. They cannot stand high or heavy traffic because they are fragile. However, you can always cover up for heavy traffic by mixing clover with turfgrass to make the lawn stiffer and more withstanding.
2. Clover has a short lifespan
Clover isn’t durable enough to stay on the lawn for more than two years after planting; hence should be reseeded every two years. Clover develops bare spots and patches on lawns after the time frame passes, and you’ll be forced to reseed to have a more uniform and attractive lawn. If you want a more durable lawn, look for other options instead of clover.
3. Bees can be harmful to people and pets
While clovers have a sweet scent and nectar for attracting bees for cross-pollination, these bees can be dangerous to people and pets. Bees can sting your kids or pets while playing on the lawn and cause allergic reactions to people who are allergic to them.
4. Unattractive appearance when mixed with turf grass
Clover appears attractive when planted solely on a lawn area. Unfortunately, this won’t be the case if you grow it with turfgrass, as it will appear clumpy. Clover forms patches on the lawn and looks like weeds among the grass. The unmatching appearance makes the lawn less attractive, decreasing the outdoor’s aesthetic status.
Best clover for lawn
Microclover also called Trifolium, repens L. var Pirouette is the best type of clover to grow on your lawn. Microclover has small leaves and only matures to 3 inches tall, matching turfgrass height. Its leaves lie low in the lawn, thus withstanding low mowing. Microlever doesn’t compete with turfgrass when grown on the lawn and has an attractive uniform appearance if mixed with turfgrass.
Will clover take over grass?
Clover will take over grass over time if the soil is too compact, lacks enough nitrogen and water supply, and its seeds remain in the lawn.
Clover thrives in lawns with insufficient nitrogen supply as they fix free nitrogen in the air into nitrates and utilize it. It can also survive lawns with less water supply and compact soil. Moreover, clovers spread aggressively by seeds and stolons. The seeds stay in the soil longer and will regrow and emerge over time, taking over the lawn.
When to choose clover over grass
Both clovers and grass are a great choice for covering lawns as they both make the lawn more attractive and improve the outdoor status. But, you can’t grow both of them on your lawn simultaneously if you want an appealing uniform lawn. You will have to choose one over the other. Both choices outdo each other in some aspects, but finally, choose clover over grass if in the following circumstances:
1. When you want an easy–to–maintain lawn
Choose clover over grass if you are always busy and have little time to maintain your lawn because it’s effortless to maintain. You won’t spend more time watering the lawn daily or weekly, applying fertilizers regularly, mowing weekly, and adding herbicides to control weeds. Conversely, turfgrass needs high maintenance to keep them thriving throughout the year.
Mowing, fertilizing, applying herbicides, and watering consume more time, energy, and money, but clovers will readily help you reduce or cut these activities and costs.
2. When you want an evergreen lawn
Lawns that are green with no bare or brown spots remain attractive throughout the year. Plant clovers on your lawn instead of grass if you want to have an evergreen lawn. Both warm season and cold season turfgrasses are affected by extreme hot or cold conditions.
They show they are stressed by forming brown patches on the lawn, creating an unattractive appearance. However, clover is more resilient and survives in extreme hot or cold weather conditions while remaining green throughout the year.
3. When you live in a dry area
Different turfgrasses require different amounts of water to flourish, but clovers need less water to survive than all grasses. Choose clovers over grass for your lawn if you live in a dry area with less water supply.
Clover can survive in areas with low water supply because its deep roots penetrate and reach the water table to obtain water to support its growth. They will not also need weekly watering like turfgrasses. Clovers will continue to survive droughts because of their deep penetrating roots. Therefore, it will be a brilliant choice to add clover to your lawn instead of grass if you stay in a dry area with less water supply.
4. When you want a low-cost maintenance lawn
Keeping a turfgrass lawn requires a lot of money to maintain; from buying seeds, costly fertilizers and herbicides, mowers, and irrigation equipment.
However, keeping a clover lawn will cut the cost to more affordable. Clover seeds cost only a dollar for every pound of 1000 square feet. They fix nitrogen and outcompete seeds, so you won’t have to spend more money buying herbicides and nitrogenous fertilizers.
If you want a low-cost lawn, you want to choose clover over grass.
5. When you want to create a sustainable and eco-friendly environment
Clovers are the best choice if you are a person who loves to keep the soils, water, and air clean and fresh. Growing grass on lawns contributes greatly to environmental pollution. When you apply fertilizers or pesticides to lawns, the harmful chemicals are easily leached away and deposited into water bodies endangering aquatic life.
Harmful chemicals in soil kill micro-organisms which decompose dead organic matter for more soil nutrients. Mowing the grass frequently emits more poisonous fumes from the mower to the air, causing breathing problems to people.
However, suppose you plant clovers on lawns; in that case, you won’t have to apply fertilizers and pesticides and often mow, making the environment more sustainable and healthy for plants and animals to live in.