Not So Lucky Clover

cloverI remember as a little girl running through the back lawn barefoot. I stopped and paid special attention when I reached the clover, the danger zone. Although it felt soft and glorious under my feet, bee stings on my toes did not. My father was a beekeeper so we had more than the average amount of bees flying around our yard.  If I found the clover patch free of stinging insects, I plopped down and searched for a four leaf clover.  I never did find one.

I’m not as enamored with clover as I once was.  Though I prefer clover over dandelions or crab grass, it isn’t what I want filling my lawn.  I did some research to find out why it grows and how to manage its growth. Here is what I learned:

  1.  Lawn grass needs nitrogen rich soil to grow well.  Clover doesn’t because it absorbs nitrogen from the air.  Clover is a warning sign that your grass may be starving to death.
  2. Water leaches nitrogen from the soil so over-watering, heavy rains, or overlapping sprinkler patterns create ideal conditions for clover patches. (My clover is in the spot that gets watered most by our sprinklers.)
  3. Weather can affect the nitrogen levels too.  During a cool spring, soil microbes may be slow to move nitrogen into the grass, giving clover a head start in its growth.
  4. The best way to prevent clover is to improve soil quality.  Aerate your lawn and apply compost or another organic fertilizer.
  5. You could use a weed killer for clover, but then you might have an ugly dead patch in your lawn.  Instead, apply corn gluten meal. It prevents seeds from germinating while it breaks down to add nitrogen to the soil.  It won’t kill existing patches, but it feeds the lawn grasses while reducing the clover over time.  Who knows?  Maybe I’ll find a four-leaf clover before it goes away.