What if you could have a lawn that rarely needed watering, was naturally weed free, aerated the soil on its own, was soft to walk on, attracted beneficial insects, seldom needed mowing, stayed a luscious green even after Rover peed on it and was self fertilizing?
Well, back in the 1950s those were the precise qualities of a prestigious lawn plant marketed to savvy consumers. What happened to it? It was too easy. It worked so well there was no money to be made.
The solution? To usher in the era of finicky grass seed, lawn fertilizer, weed killers, sprinklers and lawn mowers that we know and use today.
What was the name of the once prestigious lawn plant that proved too easy for its own good?
With its deep root system clover tolerates compacted soil better than grass and is able to tap into moisture at lower levels which is why it requires far less watering. These qualities make clover highly competitive and able to choke out weed competition, negating the need for herbicides.
And forget the fertilizer too. Clover has the clever ability to snatch nitrogen right out of the air and pull it down into nodes along its roots, making it self-fertilizing.
Clover’s small sweet honey scented flowers attract bees and other beneficial insects, as well as making them a delight for your own senses. Dutch White is the most commonly used clover for lawns, growing only four to eight inches high and hardy to Zone 4.
We have been taught to view the white clover blossoms as an eyesore, but if you take the time to look closely they are really quite pretty.
Left to its own intelligent devices, nature will always choose the most suitable blend of grasses and herbs for your lawn, which in the Peace Country most likely includes Alsike, the clover that naturally invades our lawns. Alsike grows taller and so requires more frequent mowing than Dutch White, but it is also much hardier, so better suited to our climate.
I’ll leave you with the following excerpt harvested from the book “New Way to Kill Weeds” by R. Milton Carleton.
“The thought of White Dutch Clover as a lawn weed will come as a distinct shock to old-time gardeners. I can remember the day when lawn mixtures were judged for quality by the percentage of clover seed they contained. The higher this figure, the better the mixture…I can remember the loving care which old-time gardeners gave their clover lawns. The smug look on the face of the proud homeowner whose stand was the best in the neighbourhood was something to behold.”R. Milton Carleton from “New Way to Kill Weeds”
I feel like we are coming full circle and enough people are either concerned about the environment or sick of caring for their lawns that we are approaching an era where we will be “clover smug” once again!