How to Plant a Clover Lawn

Give your outdoor space an English garden aesthetic by transforming your traditional turf lawn into sustainable clover.

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clover lawn

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Clover provides food for pollinators such as bees and is one of the reasons for the renewed interest in mixing clover with turf grass in lawns.

Photo by: Shutterstock/Melissa Burovac

Shutterstock/Melissa Burovac

Clover provides food for pollinators such as bees and is one of the reasons for the renewed interest in mixing clover with turf grass in lawns.

By: Ryan Reed

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There's a trend in lawn care that doesn't involve harmful chemicals, expensive equipment or hours of your time. Clover, valued in American lawns before the modern monoculture aesthetic became fashionable, is making a comeback. Homeowners are making the switch to clover lawns or seeding clover in with their turf grasses because clover is environmentally friendly, improves soil health, and clover lawns are low-maintenance.

Read on to decide whether a clover lawn is right for you and learn how to transform your turf into clover.

Why Choose a Clover Lawn?

Anyone who has a traditional turf lawn will tell you how much work it is. From overseeding to fighting weeds, watering, mowing and trimming, it's a constant battle for many to maintain.

Clover, which is part of the legume family, is the complete opposite. It's perfectly imperfect. In fact, you probably have some growing in your yard right now. Instead of spraying harmful chemicals to get rid of it, embrace clover and all it has to offer.

Advantages of a Clover Lawn

Whether you're looking to go all in on clover or plant a combination of turf and clover, there are several benefits.

Environmental Advantages

First, clover can improve your soil and the health of your grass and other plants without the need for fertilizers. Growing grasses remove nitrogen, which often is replaced with fertilizers. Clover converts nitrogen in the air to a form that plants can use, making fertilizers less necessary.

Clover also provides a nectar source for the dwindling pollinator population. When left to grow, clover will blossom with flowers that attract different species of bees and butterflies.

"I think the awareness of doing things that attract pollinators is one of the reasons for the renewed interest in clover lawns," says Judson Steinback, co-owner of Coulee Region Ecoscapes in La Crosse, Wisconsin.

Low Maintenance

In terms of maintenance, clover is about as easy as it gets. You'll need to water daily at the start, but once your clover lawn is established, or has blended in with your existing turf, you can cut back to once or twice a week in the driest regions and not at all if it rains regularly where you live.

Mowing will quickly become a chore you do a lot less often as well. Depending on your preference, you may choose to let your clover grow wild and only mow a few times a year or keep things neat and mow once a month.

Steinback says his company is seeding clover into turf for home lawns as well as large-scale play areas such as those at schools.

Lawns exlusively of clover can't stand up to much foot traffic, but green spaces with both turf grasses and clover are durable and use less water, making it easier to maintain. "There's a beneficial relationship between turf and clover," says Steinback. "You are getting the best of both worlds."

Selecting the Right Clover Seeds

There are several types of clover. Depending on where you live, what look you want and whether you're installing a fully clover lawn or mixing with your existing lawn, you'll need to consider their characteristics and benefits. When you find the type of clover that's right for your lawn, you can typically purchase the seeds at a hardware store or online.

Dutch White Clover

This is the most common type of clover for lawns and remains green through the summer despite consuming less water. White clover is low-growing, resilient, and the white flowers attract pollinators.

Climate: Grows best in cool, moist weather. Sensitive to drought.
Soil: pH level of 6-7.
Mixture/Ratio: Typically planted with grass mixture as the clover reduces the need for nitrogen fertilizers.

Microclover

This is a smaller variety of Dutch white clover that mixes well with grass for those wanting to maintain a uniform look. It produces fewer flowers, which reduces the number of pollinators that visit, but it's durable enough for moderate foot traffic.

Climate: Temperate regions.
Soil: Grows best in USDA hardiness zones 3-9.
Mixture/Ratio: 5% microclover mixed with 95% grass seed. Refer to this calculator for your specific project.

Red Clover

This variety is known for taller growth and its magenta/rose blooms. It's perfect for those who desire an English cottage look due to its "wild" look, and it's highly drought-resistant.

Climate: Best in cool, moist regions.
Soil: Grows best in USDA hardiness zones 4a-8b.
Mixture/Ratio: Grows best with grass. Use 8 pounds of medium red clover seed per acre.

Strawberry Clover

This clover variety is the most saline-tolerant and grows in various soil types. The white and pink flowers attract pollinators and can withstand flooding, making them the perfect choice for coastal areas.

Climate: Adaptable, but avoid planting in regions with excessive heat or cold.
Soil: Grows best in USDA hardiness zone 4a-9b.
Mixture/Ratio: 25% of total seed mix.

When to Plant Clover

Your region and climate dictate when you should plant clover seeds. Clover grows best in the fall, but it can also be planted in the fall before the first frost. In colder regions, wait until the temperature exceeds 60 degrees in the spring. If your climate is milder, late summer to early fall is ideal.

How to Grow a Clover Lawn

1. Prepare Your Soil for Clover

Clover grows best in slightly acidic conditions, so knowing the pH value of your soil is vital. You can pick up a pH soil test kit at most home improvement stores, and your soil needs to be between a value of 6 and 7 for optimum clover growing conditions. You can use lime to raise the pH level above 5, or add acidifying products to lower the pH below 7.

Keep in mind that if you are adding clover to your existing lawn, you'll want to find a pH value suitable for both.

2. Remove Debris & Dethatch Lawn

  • When adding clover to existing lawn: In the fall, dethatch your lawn and remove all debris so that clover seeds can easily reach the soil.

  • When installing a fully clover lawn: To achieve a lush clover lawn, clear your yard of existing grass, vegetation, rocks and other debris. This will allow the clover to take hold and spread quickly with minimal effort.

3. Mow & Aerate

When adding clover to your existing lawn, use a lower setting on your mower than you typically do. Again, this will ensure the clover seeds reach the soil. Aerate the soil.

When planting a fully clover lawn, you won't have to mow until there is significant growth and the roots have taken hold. If there are spots where clover isn't growing, aerating could help.

4. Sow Clover Seeds

For both new clover lawns and mixture of clover and turf, sow the clover seed by hand or use a spreader. The goal is to distribute the clover seed evenly.

When to Water Your Clover Lawn

Clover doesn't typically need regular watering, but until the seeds are established, you'll need to water the area daily for the first seven to 10 days. After that, you can cut back to once or twice a week or not at all if you're in a region where it rains regularly.

Maintaining a Healthy Clover Lawn

Mowing Frequency

The great thing about clover lawns is they're easy to maintain and require minimal effort. You'll never need fertilizer, and mowing frequency is entirely up to you. You can let your clover grow wild and blossom, or you can mow every couple of weeks to maintain a tidy look.

Look for Weeds

As your clover begins to take root, you will need to be on the lookout for weeds, especially those that do not produce flowers.

Avoid using herbicides as the most common types can kill your clover lawn along with the weeds. If you start to see weeds popping up, pull them out with your hand or use a tool to extract them from the soil.

Whether you’re looking to completely uproot your turf lawn and replace with clover, mix clover with your existing lawn or want to use clover to fill a bare spot in your lawn, the benefits far outweigh the drawbacks. From saving you time to being more eco-friendly to durability, it’s easy to see why clover is making a comeback and may be here to stay.

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