Hello Fellow Readers, I stumbled upon the most beautiful field of clover leading to glorious reasons while white clover makes a magnificent lawn alternative.
Pollinators were scurrying from one dainty puff to another, busily gathering nectar and pollen. Their hairy legs were combing through each petal of the pinkish-white blooms. There were primarily honeybees, but many bumblebees too. All were sharing the bounty politely – no arguments over who’s whose. I stood quietly listening to their soft buzz and saw a rhythm in their movements. It’s interesting how a honeybee can land on a clover flower, assess its fruits, then quickly move on. Perhaps the pollen was already taken. I tiptoed through the field, grabbing photos and carefully not stepping on anyone.
Beyond the beauty of the expanse of flowers, which lit up the field as dusk was falling, what makes it more remarkable is that the ground serves as a sports field for children. It’s comforting to know weed killers and other chemicals are likely not used there, especially in the wake of the glyphosate controversy (in Roundup and others) we spoke about a few weeks back.
Initially, I thought the maze of clover spread over time until I learned that clover (Trifolium repens), also called Dutch clover or white clover, is used as a lawn alternative with many benefits. Before the 1950s, clover was considered an asset in lawns until the revolution of broadleaf weed killers that also kills clover; then, clover began to be considered a weed. Thankfully there’s a revival of using clover as a lawn alternative. Or it can be mixed with grass seed in high-traffic areas like sports fields, where it’s becoming a new trend. And for many good reasons.
It’s drought-tolerant, so your lawn will stay greener. And an all-clover park requires little or no mowing. White clover only grows two to eight inches tall. You can mow it more often if you’re finicky about having a perfectly groomed-looking lawn. Most mow once a season after the flowers fade to encourage a second bloom. Mixed with traditional bluegrass or Bermuda grass, you’ll need to cut more often.
Clover doesn’t need fertilization as it’s a nitrogen-fixer that farmers often use as a living mulch between rows of vegetables. It feels comfy to walk on, even barefoot, though best to walk shoeless only when not in bloom unless you tiptoe around to avoid stings. It can grow in the lousiest soil. And there’s no discoloration from your canine kid’s ‘patches.’ Plus, clover seeds are inexpensive.
You’ll never need herbicides like Roundup or other ugly stuff, as white clover squelches weeds.
Most magnificent is clover attracts beneficial insects like our important pollinators that have been dangerously in decline — a field of dreams rather than a yard of chemicals. Garden Dilemmas? AskMaryStone@gmail.com
Link to a continuation of the story in Lawn Alternatives Part 2
Column Updated 7/19/23
This story is featured in the Garden Dilemmas Podcast:
I invite you to read the previous column Ridding of Roundup, which includes more environmentally thoughtful ways to remedy weeds.