The grass lawn’s glory days are over – here’s why we love a clover lawn instead.
In the etymological timeline of the word lawn, we have laune from the 1540s, meaning “glade, open space in a forest or between woods.” I can picture that; meadow-like clearings in the trees where low wild plants are growing, replete with messy little blossoms and scampering woodland creatures.
Today’s lawn does not look like that. No, today’s lawn is a strange construction that is not very natural at all. It’s more of a rampant carpet that is ravenous for water, demands an array of synthetic chemicals, and requires constant taming by means of a lawnmower. How did this become the ideal?
The birth of the modern lawn may have more to do with the sales of lawn-maintenance products (think herbicides) than common sense – a point we’ve been kvetching about for years here on TreeHugger. In the U.S., we have 40.5 million acres of lawn; according to NASA, all that lawn uses 60 million acre-feet (the volume of one acre of surface area with a depth of one foot) of mostly drinkable water a year. (See how to cure lawn lust in 6 minutes for more on that.) And for what? We can’t even eat it!
Last year we wrote about planting clover instead of grass (Use this instead of grass for your lawn and How to plant a clove lawn) and since it’s getting to be lawn season, I figured it was time to fire up the clover cheerleading section again. So without further ado, why you should consider kicking grass to the curb and try planting (or mixing in) lovely clover instead.
(And note, you can even just mix clover in with the grass you have to get some of these benefits.)
1. It is drought-resistant
Because of clover’s deep roots, it needs much less water than does grass. As the Farmer’s Almanac notes, “Clover is an extremely drought-resistant plant and will keep its cool-green color even during the hottest and driest parts of summer.”
2. It is inexpensive
Clover seed is cheap; the average cost is about $4.00 per 4000 square feet. You will also spend a lot less on water, products, and maintenance. And for those who have been fighting clover all along: Stop fighting, let it grow, and it’s yours for free.
3. It requires no fertilization
Clover is a legume, and as such, takes nitrogen from the air and sinks it into the ground as a useful fertilizer. If you are adding clover to a lawn, it will work to fertilize the existing lawn; on its own, it requites no additional fertilizer.
4. It blooms!
Who would want a monochromatic carpet of grass when you could have one sprinkled with a starscape of flowers?
5. It attracts pollinating insects
Those blooms bring bees, and heaven knows the bees need our help. Honeybees love clover (does “clover blossom honey” ring a bell?); planting clover is a nice assist.
6. But It can be bee-free too
That said, if you are worried about bee stings, there are options. Even though honeybees rarely sting when unprovoked and away from the hive, you can opt for a micro clover or simply mow the clover when it’s in bloom.
7. It grows in poor soil
Poor soil is no problem for clover, much due to the fact that it supplies its own nutrients with that nifty nitrogen trick.
8. It resists pet urine
While grass lawns are susceptible to brown spots from pet urine, clover is not effected by it.
9. It resists blight and mildew
Mildew, fungus, blights … these things hurt grass lawns. making them unsightly and in need of treatment. Clover is not subject to these troubles.
10. It doesn’t need herbicides
Since clover out-competes broadleaf weeds, you won’t need to douse the soil with toxic weed-killing things, hurray!
11. It doesn’t need pesticides
Clover also stands up well to insect pests, so no need to to douse the soil with toxic insect-killing things as well, hurray!
12. It rarely has to be mowed
Depending on what kind of clover you plant and what look you like, clover can be mowed very infrequently – by some accounts, as little as twice a season. I mean, maybe you like spending your weekends pushing a loud, exhaust-sputtering machine around, but if not, clover has your back. (And your feet too, see photo below.)