White Clover: Weed, or Welcome?

So, we have white clover in the yard. We haven’t seen much clover in other adjacent properties, but I assume that like a stray cat might wander into one’s yard, clover has claimed itself some turf.

Is it a weed? Is it welcome?

white clover in lawnAt the outset I was unsure because it’s a patch of clover that has expanded to become patches of clover in other areas of the yard this summer. I read that it will take over where grass is not doing well because the grass is not being artificially fed what it needs. I know Mutti had said she didn’t particularly like it, but I wasn’t sure. I knew that it was a good nitrogen fixer, that butterflies and bees like it, and that it won’t thrive in a yard that has been treated with garden variety chemicals. That led me to look up more information online about whether to launch an attack or embrace it. I had already tried to keep the dandelion population down this year by relentless use of the weed popper, regardless of their nutritional value, and I wanted to know what I might be up against with white clover.

What I found online surprised me.

A historical perspective on white clover showed that pre 1950s it was a valued element in yard seed. It was actually considered prestigious to have a higher ratio of clover to grass seed in the mix. The cultural shift is striking to me and made me want to read further. I had heard of other alternative lawn options before. I’d read of eco-lawn, and a low maintenance “no mow” grass that once it has grown long enough will lay down and “play dead” if the city will allow it to grow that long. I know that in St. Louis Park, MN, they required a home-owner to cut down the grass before it was able to reach the flop stage which defeated the purpose and expense of redoing the lawn. But since then the city has found a compromise by requiring a special Native Landscape Permit for planting the grass so the city will know the landscape is “special” and not just weeds. Anyway, as we are not interested in the prospect of redoing our lawn, I kept looking up information about white clover and was surprised to find sites that promoted the seeding of clover into lawns as another organic option.

So, is it welcome?

A weed is in the eye of the beholder on some levels. If it proves invasive and threatens other plantings, then I don’t want it taking over. But if it might suppress other weeds and can be kept under control to live along side the grass, maybe providing it with some nutrients, it could be a good thing. Though, I’d still want it more evenly distributed in the lawn instead of in uneven clumps.  A co-worker says typical grass in American lawns are on a kind of life support system, dependent on chemicals to really thrive. That would make the clover like the old-fashioned white-hat nurses, spreading to administer doses of natural nitrogen at their sides. I guess we’ll see how they do.

P.S. White clover was noted as a yard trend in 2005 by at least one gardening magazine.

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2 Responses to White Clover: Weed, or Welcome?

  1. The Daily Dabbler says:

    I love white clover. It reminds me of when I was a child. I used to sit in the middle of it trying to find a four-leaf clover. 🙂

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