Pros and Cons of Micro Clover Lawn

Maintenance costs are a major cause of concern when choosing a ground cover plant for your lawn. What better way to lower your lawn care expenses than by replacing or mixing your existing plain grass turf with micro clover? 

Micro clover fixes nitrogen into the soil, thus no need for nitrogen fertilizers and subsequently, reduced fertilizing costs. It provides a perennial, drought-resistant lawn and is low-maintenance. But, it’s an invasive grower that attracts bees to your lawn, poor traffic, heat and shade resistance.

What is Micro Clover?

Micro Clover is a dwarf, white clover variety that grows close to the ground and doesn’t have a clumping growth pattern, unlike common clover varieties found in lawns. This legume’s leaves are also noticeably smaller, with common clover being about three times larger.

Legumes like micro clover can generate their own nitrogen. Thus, micro clover clippings form a great source of nitrogen for turfgrass in blended lawns when mowed. According to research from Penn State, you can lower your lawn’s yearly nitrogen needs by 1-2 lbs. per 1000 square feet by planting micro clover on the lawn. 

Micro clover seeds are costly, hence the low popularity of all-micro clover lawns. Typically, you’ll find homeowners mixing its seeds with turf grass seed to form a mixed lawn. However, if finances aren’t an issue, you might as well go for a micro clover lawn with no mixed-in grass.

Since micro clover grows closer to the ground, it can tolerate being mowed at the same height as most turf grasses to form an even lawn. Examples of common turf grasses that blend well with it include tall fescue, dwarf fescue, fine fescue, and dwarf perennial ryegrass.

Note: The recommended mowing height for micro clover is 3”-3.5”. Mowing it any lower will stress the plant.

Micro clover lawn pros and cons

Micro clover has several benefits, but this plant’s drawbacks can also be a deal-breaker for others. It feeds the soil with nitrogen, chokes out pesky weeds, and boosts turf texture. On the flip side, micro clover seeds are hard to find, their flowers can attract bees, it goes dormant in the winter, and it has poor shade tolerance.

Here’s a summary of Micro clover’s pros and cons.

ProsCons
Fixes essential nitrogen into the soilProduces flowers that attract stinging bees
Out competes most weedsCommercial micro clover seeds for planting are hard to find
Forms lush turf that’s comfortable to walk onVulnerable to most broadleaf herbicides
Doesn’t get discolored by dog urineGoes dormant in the winter
A perennial plant; that comes back every seasonHas poor heat and drought tolerance
Attracts beneficial insects that feed on common lawn pestsHas poor shade tolerance
A low-maintenance lawn optionHas low heavy traffic tolerance

Micro clover advantages

It enriches the soil.

All clovers are leguminous. Micro clover has root bacteria in its root nodules that convert atmospheric nitrogen into a usable form for other lawn plants. Since it fixes nitrogen into the soil, nitrogen is a form of organic fertilizer.

And since it can create nitrogen, you’ll spend less on fertilizer costs, especially if the micro clover hasn’t been blended with plain turf grass. And even if it’s a mixed lawn, you’ll still benefit from reduced annual fertilizer costs in the long run.

Note: By lowering the need for nitrogen fertilizers, micro clover reduces runoff fertilizer that causes pollution of water bodies, making it an eco-friendly method of adding essential nutrients to your lawn soil.

It crowds out weeds

Micro clover is a broadleaf that forms a dense canopy. It’s, therefore, able to shade out several types of undesirable weeds that might otherwise creep up on your lawn. Due to this reason, you don’t need to use a herbicide on a micro clover lawn.

It Improves turf texture

Micro clover is soft to the touch and improves the lawn’s texture, especially if paired with a prickly type of turfgrass. A micro clover-blended lawn provides a cozy underfoot feel that makes your lawn a comfortable relaxation and play area.

It’s non-reactive to dog urine

Unlike turf grasses, micro clover leaves don’t lose their color whenever they come into contact with dog urine.

It has a repetitive growth cycle

Micro Clover is a perennial plant. Thus, it will reappear on your lawn year after year. However, depending on environmental stressors, you may have to reseed your micro clover lawn every couple of years.

It attracts beneficial Insects

Micro clover flowers attract parasitoid wasps, which are beneficial insects that get rid of common lawn pests such as scales, aphids, and whiteflies. Unlike bees that can sting or cause allergies, these tiny wasps are harmless to humans.

It’s a low-maintenance ground cover plant.

Micro Clover is a low-maintenance plant with minimal fertilizing needs. It can make its own nitrogen and provide the nitrogen for other plants on the lawn. Furthermore, it’s also a low-growing turf option, reducing the need to mow the lawn often.

Micro clover disadvantages

It produces blossoms in the spring and summer.

Micro clover produces flowers in the growing season. While it’s not entirely a problem, it disrupts the uniform green look. Also, the blossoms attract bees, which can be a problem if there’s someone within your family with bee allergies.

And even if no one is allergic, your kids are still vulnerable to bee stings when playing on the lawn. Fortunately, you can mow the yard and level out the flowers to keep away the pollinators.  

Limited availability

Micro clover seeds aren’t readily available in most nurseries and seed stores across the country. And if you find a stockist, they’ll sell them at a higher price than a similar amount of turfgrass seeds.

Micro clover is vulnerable to broadleaf herbicides.

Micro clover is a broadleaf. Thus, you’d kill the desirable micro clover if you use a selective herbicide for broadleaf weeds while targeting another type of weed present on the lawn.

It goes dormant in the winter.

When micro clover goes dormant in the winter, the top growth dies, only leaving the roots alive. It leaves bare patches on the lawn. The lack of ground cover can contribute to erosion.

Low heat and drought tolerance

Micro clover has a low tolerance for prolonged drought conditions and high heat. You need to water it regularly in the summer and reseed bare spots to keep the micro clover lawn healthy.

Poor shade tolerance

Micro clover thrives in full, direct sunlight. This turf plant will likely struggle if planted on a shaded lawn.

Low traffic tolerance

Micro clover is only good for low-traffic lawns. Its soft top growth doesn’t handle heavy traffic well. It’s usually mixed with more wear-tolerant turf grasses to improve the overall ability of the lawn to withstand high traffic usage.

References

  1. Christa Carignan, University of Maryland Extension- Home and Garden Information Center: Lawns and Micro Clover.
  2. Kelsey Noll and Steven Daniels, Rutgers Energy Institute: Alternative Lawns- using clover as an eco-sustainable alternative to grass

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