Why and how to plant an ecological clover lawn

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With everything going on with climate change and the environment, many gardeners are considering more sustainable practices in our gardens.

Traditional sod lawns use a lot of water and fertilizer and are an inefficient use of valuable resources. Mowing creates emissions and turf lawns do not provide suitable environments for our precious pollinators.

It’s time to start thinking about lawn alternatives. If this is your mindset and you are looking for lawns that are environmentally friendly, low maintenance, beautiful and easy to maintain, consider a cloverleaf lawn.

Let’s get started, so you can learn how easy it is to use clover.


What is a Clover Lawn?

Clover is a herbaceous perennial plant that reaches about four to six inches in height with a spread of about 12 inches. It is a fast growing legume that replenishes the soil with nitrogen.

You can create a lawn made entirely of clover or a mixture of traditional grass and clover. It is a good choice for high traffic areas.

Clover has broad leaves that cover the ground well and a dense spread. You get small flowers of different colors, including white, pink or red. You can leave these flowers blooming for pollinators or mow for a cleaner, grassier look.

Clover was once a popular lawn choice, but it has fallen out of favor and many people now consider clover a weed.

Clover is native to Europe but has become naturalized in most places around the world, including North America.

Benefits of a Clover Lawn

  • The clover stays green all summer long with little need for additional water. Clover is drought resistant and in southern regions it will stay green most of the year. In cooler areas, it will turn green in the spring and stay that way until the first frost.
  • Minimal mowing is needed for clover lawns. You can mow faded flowers in the summer or tidy up. If you want to keep the clover from blooming, you can mow to keep it short and tidy.
  • Clover attracts beneficial parasitic wasps which are harmless to us but feed on pests like aphids, whiteflies and scale insects.
  • Clover attracts pollinators such as bees, which will also visit your other plants.
  • You do not need to fertilize the clover. It is a nitrogen-fixing plant that takes care of itself.
  • Clover is not fussy about the ground and will grow in poor quality soil.
  • Clover feels great under bare feet, so kids love to play on it.
  • Unlike most turf lawns, clover does not turn yellow when dogs relieve themselves.

Disadvantages of a Clover Lawn

  • Clover is best suited for low to medium traffic areas. For higher traffic areas, you can mix clover with grass.
  • Clover lawns may need reseeding every three years or so to keep them uniform. It is a short-lived perennial that reseeds well in mixed clover/turf lawns, but in all clover lawns, reseeding may be necessary.
  • Clover stains clothes more easily than grass.
  • Clover doesn’t look as clean as a finely manicured grass lawn.

Types of clover for a lawn

dutch white clover (Trifolia repens) is the most common type, so you may already have a few on your lot. White Dutch clover grows between four and eight inches tall. All the flowers are small and white. It needs at least four to six hours of sunlight per day. The seeding rate is one pound per 1000 square feet.

Micro clover (T.repens. var pipolina) has been bred to produce small flowers no larger than six inches. It doesn’t clump as much as white Dutch clover, so it has a more uniform and consistent appearance. It can also handle a bit more traffic.

Micro clover tolerates some shade, although sunlight gives you a better quality lawn. It has far fewer flowers than white Dutch clover and it will turn brown in winter when it goes dormant. The seed rate is one pound per 500 square feet.

Red clover (T. pratense) is not widely used in residential yards. The flowers are quite tall and suitable for grazing for animals or as a cover crop. Keep this in mind if you are looking for clover seeds to buy.

sweet clover (Melilotus officeinalis) resembles red clover in that it is not suitable for a residential lawn.

How to Plant a Clover Lawn

First you need to decide if you want a clover lawn alone or a mixture of clover and traditional grass. Consider an all-cloverleaf lawn if the area has low to medium traffic. If the area is a high traffic area, you may want a mix.

You might also consider testing a small area of ​​existing lawn to see if you like it.


For best results, make sure the soil pH is as close to optimum as possible. The pH should be between 6.0 and 7.0. Use a pH meter or soil test kit to get the specific result.

You can amend the soil by adding lime to make it more alkaline or by adding peat moss to make it more acidic. The amounts will depend on the pH result, so seek help from a local expert once you know the level.

Plant your clover lawn

The best time to start this process is in the spring when you are sure the last frost has passed. If you live in an area with mild fall weather, you can try fall planting. The temperature should be consistently above 40°F for at least a month before winter begins to set in.

Overseeding an existing lawn with clover

  • Start by mowing the existing lawn as low as possible without killing it.
  • Rake up the debris and remove it,
  • Aerate the lawn if you can. Use a manual carrot aerator or a fork to push oxygen into the soil.
  • Clover seed is tiny, so mix it with sand before spreading it to see where it goes and prevent it from clumping. Most spreaders struggle to broadcast seeds as small as clover.
  • Once the clover is on the fly, water it well without saturating the soil.
  • Water daily for two weeks so the clover grows strong to fit into the existing lawn.
  • Because there is existing grass, you may need to redistribute the clover seeds if you haven’t taken enough.

Plant a new clover lawn

It takes more work than overseeding an existing lawn, and you should start preparing the ground several weeks in advance. Consider the time of year so you don’t end up with a muddy area from rain on bare ground.

This is a great trial option if you have an area of ​​bare ground or the turf has failed.

  • Remove all weeds, sticks, debris and stones.
  • Plow, rake or loosen the top layer of soil to six inches deep and water well to grow existing weeds.
  • Remove all new weeds at least two days before planting the clover.
  • Add weed-free topsoil if needed.
  • Rake the area smooth and level.
  • Mix the clover seeds with sand and spread evenly, covering the soil without allowing the seeds to clump together in small areas. The seed should be evenly distributed.
  • If you are planting new grass seeds with the clover, broadcast them separately now.
  • Rake the soil lightly to cover the seeds. Clover won’t sprout if you bury it too deep.
  • Compact the floor using a roller or simply walk over the entire surface without pressing too hard.
  • Water regularly until the lawn is well established.

7 Tips for Maintaining a Clover Lawn

  1. Mow sparingly. One of the benefits of a clover lawn is to attract bees. If you keep the mowed clover short, the flowers are continually cut. Try planting clover in an area where you don’t mind the sloppy appearance. If you mow, use the mower without the catcher and let the cut clover sit on the lawn as an organic fertilizer.
  2. Do not fertilize the clover lawn. Clover brings nitrogen to the soil, so it does not need to be fertilized regularly. If you think the clover lawn is struggling or seems nutrient deficient, try a low-nitrogen fertilizer. The lawn will become stronger and healthier if you add phosphorus and potassium.
  3. Clover will die if you use herbicides. Clover naturally suppresses weeds, so it takes care of itself. If weeds appear on the clover lawn, remove them manually.
  4. Water thoroughly the first month until the lawn is established, especially when starting a clover lawn from bare soil. If it rains enough, beware of excess water.
  5. Don’t step on the lawn too soon. Until the trefoil is properly installed and close to its full height, it should remain undisturbed for foot traffic. Once it’s lush, you can start walking and mowing on your desired schedule.
  6. If you are planting grass with clover, sow the seeds separately. This is because clover seeds are tiny and will sink to the bottom of the container, which means they will all be in the last area you threw the seeds on. Keep them separate and sow them one after the other, making sure to distribute them evenly.
  7. If you have a large area of ​​clover, consider having bees. They love clover, and it adds a wonderful taste to honey.

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