12 Reasons to Plant a Clover Lawn

Green lawn with white clover

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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 fuel-guzzling 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. And for what? We can't even eat it!

Last year we wrote about planting clover instead of grass 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, here's why you should consider kicking grass to the curb and try planting (or mixing in) lovely clover instead. Whether you choose an all-clover lawn or to start mixing it into whatever grass you've already planted, you can't go wrong with clover. You'll still get many of the benefits from a mix.

1. It's 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's Inexpensive

Clover seed is cheap. Seed Ranch says you only need a quarter-pound of Dutch white clover seed for 1,000 square feet of lawn, and a pound of seed in its online store costs only $12.95. (Prices and recommended quantities of seed per square foot vary among sources.) 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. Clover can coexist beautifully alongside grass.

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 and improve soil quality; on its own, it requires no additional fertilizer.

4. Clover Blooms

Who would want a monochromatic carpet of grass when you could have one sprinkled with a starscape of flowers? By avoiding mowing during peak summer months, you can keep this lovely flower rug in view for all to enjoy.

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. It will also draw parasitoid wasps, which sounds scary but are actually good guys that hunt down harmful bugs.

6. Clover Can Also Be Bee-Free

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, which produces far fewer flowers than Dutch white, or simply mow the clover before the flowers 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. Not only that, but it will enrich the soil and improve its quality over the long-term.

8. Clover Resists Pet Urine

While grass lawns are susceptible to brown spots from pet urine, clover is not affected by it. That's right—you won't even see those unsightly patches in your lawn anymore.

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. It will always look lush and green and healthy.

10. Clover Doesn't Need Herbicides

Since clover outcompetes broadleaf weeds by forming dense clumps that spread by secondary roots, you won't need to douse the soil with toxic weed-killing things, hurray! (But if you do, the clover will die, which is the opposite of what you want, so do not be tempted to try it.)

11. It Doesn't Need Pesticides

Clover also stands up well to insect pests, so that's another good reason not to douse the soil with toxic insect-killing things, hurray! The reason for this is that often nitrogen-rich fertilizers are what attract diseases and pests in the first place, but because clover doesn't need those fertilizers (it's a nitrogen fixer, after all), those pests don't find it nearly so attractive.

12. Clover 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, since it never grows beyond eight inches in height. 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. It feels so lovely and cool on a hot summer day.)

woman's feet in a clover meadow

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