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Clovers Lawns vs. Grass

Clover: The Cheap, Low-Maintenance Alternative


Further exposition is in order regarding some of clover's "ideal" qualities, as discussed on Page 3. To begin, the reason clover lawns wouldn't require fertilizing, as does grass, is that these plants are nitrogen fixers. They share this ability with other cover crops in the Pea family.

Clover snatches nitrogen out of the air, bringing this most essential fertilizer down to earth by means of nitrogen-fixing bacteria living in nodes along the roots -- all at no cost to you, in terms either of money or of maintenance. If you're interested in cheap, low-maintenance alternatives, this sounds like magic, doesn't it? At the very least, I'd say any homeowner would be lucky to have such a plant, instead of turfgrass.

You may also be wondering about clover's ability to aerate the soil, thus reducing concerns over soil compaction. Clover tolerates compacted soil better than lawn grass does. It has longer roots, enabling it to access water at deeper levels.

Finally, a word about two of clover's other "ideal" qualities listed on Page 3: its ability to attract honeybees, and the fact that clover lawns wouldn't need to be mowed nearly as often as do lawns composed of grass. Clover puts out a mildly attractive flower -- which could easily be listed as another advantage it has over turfgrass. This flower draws bees and other beneficial insects to your landscape. But if you are allergic to bee stings, to be on the safe side you can simply mow more frequently during the blooming season. If you are not allergic to honeybees, this should not be a concern; for honeybees tend not to be aggressive away from the hive anyways.

The Movement Against Lawn Grass

Of course, it's not a matter of "all or nothing," and one advantage turfgrass does have over a clover lawn is that it stands up better to heavy foot-traffic. Mixing clover and grass together in the same lawn may provide the best answer for most people. But there is a growing movement in the U.S. to cut back on the amount of landscape consumed by lawn grass. One popular website devoted entirely to the movement against lawn grass is LessLawn.com. The steam that powers the movement against lawn grass derives from a number of sources, including:

  1. An urgent sense in North America that drought is increasingly becoming a factor when making choices about what to plant, as discussed in my xeriscaping article. Simply put, homeowners are tired of seeing their lawns die every summer -- or of paying through the nose to prolong a lawn's life.
  2. Concerns about the pollution caused by herbicides, pesticides, chemical fertilizers and the emissions from lawn mowers.
  3. A desire for low-maintenance landscaping, as well as cheap alternatives to lawn grass. Mowing lawns, and applying herbicides, pesticides and fertilizers to them, means more than just pollution. All of this costs money and causes you work, as does the need to aerate and irrigate lawn grass.

Again, having a clover lawn provides a solution to all these problems -- environment, money and labor. The arguments in favor of trying an experimental clover lawn in a small area seem overwhelmingly convincing to this observer. You may still only rarely come upon a 4-leaf clover, even if you grow clover in front of your home as an alternative to lawn grass. But you'll feel so lucky to have clover as your "outdoor carpeting" that it will seem like you have a whole lawn-full of these legendary good luck charms.

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