Most lawn owners consider plants like clover and dandelions as weeds and are quick to dispose of them. But gardening enthusiasts are now recommending that you let gardens grow with clovers because they can provide tremendous benefits to the entire ecosystem of the garden.
The clover is a hardy little plant that softer to sit on, attracts bees and butterflies, requires little care to maintain, and needs no pesticides or fertilizer to grow. It grows well in adverse conditions and it helps regulate the hydrogen in the air around other plants.
A new strain has been developed, called microclover, that doesn't sprout as many white flowers (often considered unappealing by many gardeners) while being smaller and softer to walk and sit on.
“Lawns are not stable natural habitats,” points out Mike Slater, president of the Baird Ornithological Club. “They originated as a status symbol in Europe, where only the upper class could afford to waste good cropland in nonproductive grass.”
“Unfortunately, we’ve become habituated to them, and having gas mowers, weed trimmers and leaf blowers enables us to maintain way more acreage than we could when muscle power and sheep were required to have a lawn.”
“We can all improve our yards as wildlife habitats by strategically deciding where we really want to have a lawn and how fanatical we are going to be about keeping out weeds.”
As a compromise, Slater recommends planting native wildflowers, bushes and trees around a plot of clover on the edges of your property line.
The Laid-back Gardener lays out 11 benefits of planting clover instead of grass on his blog:
1. Nitrogen fixer. As a legume, clover works symbiotically with bacteria to fix atmospheric nitrogen and make it available to both itself and neighboring plants. That’s why even lawn grasses grow better when clover is present.
2. Less fertilizer. A lawn containing clover needs far less fertilizer, and a 100% clover lawn needs none.
3. Drought Resistant. With its deep roots, clover will remain green through drought, as your neighbor’s lawns turn brown.
4. No mowing. A pure clover lawn doesn’t need mowing, but if you do decide to mow, you’ll only need to do so 3 or 4 times a year.
5. No aerating. Clover can grow in and loosen compacted soil, eliminating the need to aerate.
6. No herbicide. If you’re concerned about a uniform looking patch of green, you don’t have to worry about other “weeds.” Clover tends to smother them as is somewhat invasive.
7. Ground cover. Clover makes an excellent ground-cover for food crops.
8. Beneficial pollinators and wildlife. Clover produces attractive white flowers that attract beneficial pollinators likes bees and butterflies and provide forage for rabbits (and humans).
9. Repels pests. A lawn rich in clover tends to discourage pesky insects, most of which prefer grasses. Grubs will disappear entirely in an all-clover lawn.
10. Sun or shade. Clover grows well in both sun and partial shade.
11. Dogs can pee on it. Clover doesn’t turn yellow when dogs pee on it.