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Beneficial Clover in Lawns

Paul James shares his top three reasons for loving clover.

Master gardener Paul James takes a lot of flack for his stance on weeds, specifically his recommendation that lawns should contain a small percentage of weeds. This recommendation is based on the belief that weeds promote biodiversity and thereby reduce pest and disease problems. Weeds also provide food and nesting sites for beneficial insects, and tolerating weeds will help make chemical herbicides obsolete.

From a distance, Paul's lawn looks pretty nice. The population of weeds is in the neighborhood of 15 percent and includes a number of interesting plants. One of his favorite weeds is white Dutch clover (Trifolium repens), which he has loved since he was a kid. "I remember spending hours on end looking for a lucky four-leaf clover, although I don't recall ever finding one," says Paul.

Here are his top three reasons for loving clover:

1. Clover is a legume, meaning it fixes nitrogen from the air and puts it into the soil. "It's an amazing chemical process, one that reduces the need for additional nitrogen from fertilizers. In fact, clover seed used to be added to turf grass mixtures to help the grass become established faster."

2. Rabbits love eating clover, so if you want to deter rabbits from eating something more precious in the garden, you can try offering them clover.

3. Clover attracts earthworms "by the gazillions," Paul says, "and we all know how beneficial earthworms are for the health of the soil and the plants that grow in and on it."

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