getting a clover lawn?

shellva(Camden 7b/8a)December 28, 2007


I posted this question over on the organic lawn forum but it doesn't look like that site is getting any traffic at all so I'm bringing my question over to you all.

My lawn is almost an acre weed patch. Bermuda grass, dandelions, nutsedge, crabgrass, some kind of low growing oval leaf but has barbs on it when it goes to seed kind of plant....I don't know, you name the weed, I probably have it.

Anyway, I'm on a well and have pets so I don't want to use round-up to start fresh. I'm not really into "grass" but I sure would love the clover that's in my lawn to become more prominent.

Can I just throw out fresh white dutch clover seed every spring and fall to have it eventually dominate the other weeds in my yard? Can clover overcome bermunda?

I don't think the seed is all that costly so I wouldn't mind the expense but I'd want to be pretty sure that eventually it would become the main plant in the lawn.

Thanks for your thoughts.


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squeeze(z8 BC)

yes seeding will help, and so will liming if your soil is at all acidic, but having better soil would help most and from the sound of the existing plants it's not great! likely nothing will ever outcompete the bermuda tho


    Bookmark   December 28, 2007 at 10:12PM
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White dutch clover grows quite well in some places of my turf, mostly I have found over the years where soil Nitrogen levels are low, and although it is supposed to much prefer a soil pH close to neutral where it does grow here is where the soil has a relatively low soil pH, like 5.7. A friend did what you propose and eliminated all the turf grass, by tilling, and seeded in clover but that did take several years of work before it was really well established.
However I would start by contacting the local office of the Rutgers University USDA Cooperative Extension Service about having a good, reliable soil test done first since even clover needs a good, healthy soil to grow in.

Here is a link that might be useful: Rutgers CES

    Bookmark   December 29, 2007 at 6:42AM
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shellva(Camden 7b/8a)

That's the problem though. I know my soil is in bad shape. The soil is compacted, especially in the backyard with the dogs. If one were to strip all the vegetation off they would find a slab of grey concrete with a light dusting of sand on the very surface.

One of the reasons I use a form of lasagna gardening is because it is near impossible to get a shovel into our soil.

It takes everything I have physically and financially to improve the soil in the areas I turned into flower and vegetable beds. My property is almost 3/4 of an acre. That's a lot of soil to improve and get rid of tough weeds with no synthetic chemical help.

I'll figure something out.

    Bookmark   December 29, 2007 at 7:40AM
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Biggest challenge with a clover lawn may be a hot dry summer. Granted, you may be in a much cooler area than I but I can only grow clover where I irrigate. I have seeded white clover in a few areas as a cover crop (in back under the orange trees where it gets regular irrigation and another section of lasagna bed that I have mini sprinklers on in hopes of future planting.)

In the North (Michigan) I remember white clover as being a regular lawn plant but the summers were not that hot and usually not that dry. I don't know if you will have much luck pitting clover against bermuda without killing the bermuda off somehow first.

If you have a membership to any of the warehouse stores like Sam's or Costco, the cardboard slipsheets are a wonderful way to lay out huge areas of lasagna beds without the challenge of wetting down newspaper. I then usually cover the cardboard with leaves or other mulch I steal from my neighbor's curbs. And my favorite, compost, if you can get it free from your county landfill or cheap from a local mushroom farm.

I'm not into spending much money on improving my dirt, just effort and perhaps some gas money.

Good luck

Here is a link that might be useful: TCLynx Gardening

    Bookmark   December 29, 2007 at 5:55PM
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dchall_san_antonio(8 San Antonio)

Here in Texas I rarely see Dutch white clover; however, when I do see it, competing with bermuda is no problem at all. Hot dry summers are only a problem if you don't water. The clover will take on a puny appearance in a hard soil lacking in consistent moisture. Still it completely covers the bermuda. It does not seem to like our alkaline soil.

All I would do is seed it uniformly and water to get it started. Then I would not mow it unless/until someone complained. It will stop growing by itself at about 4-5 inches. Then it just sits there looking lush.

    Bookmark   December 31, 2007 at 2:57AM
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shellva(Camden 7b/8a)

Thanks dchall and everyone for your input. I'll give it a try. There is clover in my lawn, just not as much as I'd like.

    Bookmark   December 31, 2007 at 7:50AM
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lou_midlothian_tx(z8 DFW, Tx)

Do a google on other white clovers, not just white dutch. You will see more cultivars that are more vigorous and hardy but probably a bit taller. You could try a little bit of each and find out what works best. I've looked into these extensively. I'm going with more hardy type next fall on my other unused property and see what happens.

I'd do a section of your property at a time to improve the soil using more types of clovers such as red clover, sweet clovers, etc and other cover crops like cereal (elbon) rye, alfalfa, chicory. That will really improve your soil. Seeds are relatively cheap. Farm supply store should have these.

    Bookmark   January 3, 2008 at 8:24AM
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lou_midlothian_tx(z8 DFW, Tx)
    Bookmark   January 3, 2008 at 11:00AM
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The major reason you see little clover growing in lawns is because since about the 1960's the companies that sell "weed killers" have told people that clover is a "weed" that needs to be eradicated. It has only been in about the last 10 years that I have seen some of the Cooperative Extension Service people saying that clover in your lawn is a good thing, again.
If you knew that clover in your lawn was good and someone sold a product that would control the dandelions and plantain but would also kill that clover would you buy it? WSo when people did notice that that stuff did kill off the good stuff it had to become bad stuff.

    Bookmark   January 5, 2008 at 6:51AM
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If you have a county extension agent around, I'm sure that they'll have info on clover varieties that do well in pastures for the local climate.

I did this when I was establishing my 2 acres of lawn (better described as a pasture that gets regularly mowed) which is now about 1/3 covered with clover. Most of this washed in with the irrigation water, but some varieties I planted. I've forgotten which specific species I introduced myself, but its pretty obvious where I planted them, because they all grow in an arc exactly where I tossed the seeds.

The big problem is drought, but the advantage is they are an excellent indicator of when to water.

I actually find that clovers often do better on the areas where the grass doesn't do as well.

    Bookmark   January 5, 2008 at 11:25AM
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dchall_san_antonio(8 San Antonio)

Pasture clovers (red and crimson) can grow to 18 inches. Dutch white grows to 5 inches.

    Bookmark   January 5, 2008 at 10:32PM
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I have areas of New Zeland White Cover growing (it is like a type of Dutch White Clover) it seems to be staying very compact so far. I had been searching for something to grow that would do ok and not require mowing.

The not requiring mowing seems pretty good so far but I doubt it will survive the hot dry spring/summer here without extra watering.

Here is a link that might be useful: My garden

    Bookmark   January 6, 2008 at 9:40PM
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barton(z6b OK)

I love the idea. I have a bermuda lawn and as mentioned, bermuda is next to impossible to get rid of without roundup.

I have one patch of white clover (which is incidentally in a spot which tends to be more moist) and it is thick, competing with the bermuda.

My soil is awful, overall.

I may try throwing around a bag of white clover seed in the existing lawn in other spots, and see what happens.

On the other topic mentioned (thin poor soil with little organic matter) here is what I did. It is starting to work, after three years. The dog pen was mostly in the shade of oak trees. It had a little shade tolerant prairie grass, but that quickly got trampled. The large shady part of the pen (_huge_ pen with only two dogs; amazing how quickly they can ruin it) turned into a mudhole when rainy and "concrete" when dry. Tree roots were starting to get exposed from erosion. I started going to the free mulch place and getting truckloads of wood chips. I scattered them in the dog pen, starting with the muddy and eroded spots and going from there. Grass is starting to come back a little, and the wood chips keep the mud and erosion under control. They are starting to break down, and I keep adding more. I think eventually the soil will get back, not to its native "before dogs and humans" state.

    Bookmark   January 8, 2008 at 8:35AM
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You might look into a variety from Pennington Seed company called Durana. It seems to do well once it gets started is very long lasting and is supposed to compete well with grasses. The seed is very small and must be in firm contact with the soil. This is not simple with a stand of grass already on the land. Does the ground freeze where you are? If so it is in your favor. There is a way to seed it in the late winter so that the heaving and thawing of the ground will work the seed down into the soil. I tried this last year. Using some sort of drag can be used to scratch up the thatch after seeding although this tecnique did not work well for me last year. We did have 100 year drought last summer however. I think your best bet to get a solid stand is to choose a bit of yard at a time and till it and seed it with your choice of clovers. Good luck. plantnFool

    Bookmark   January 8, 2008 at 10:33PM
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shellva(Camden 7b/8a)

Thanks so much for all your input and ideas. I've thought about doing an area at a time. Of course I'd probably be 90 by the time I managed to get the whole yard done.

I REALLY want to find a landscape company that has the plug aerator machines and hire them to come in and aerate the lawn but so far everyone I have called only has those blade type. My neighbor has one of those I could borrow but I don't think they really work in loosening up the soil.

We have freezes but nothing ever deep and lasting. Last week we had a night or two down in the teens but the days hardly ever stay below freezing.

Bermuda grass.....grrrrr

    Bookmark   January 10, 2008 at 4:52PM
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How about finding a landscape company, rental company or a friend who has a small tractor with a 3 point hitch and a pto with a tiller. That equipment will take care of the whole thing in an afternoon. You will be ready to plant and have the stand of clover in short order. If you have lots of stuff to get rid of you may try to till it twice a couple of weeks apart. This will thin your competition down considerable. Good luck.

    Bookmark   January 14, 2008 at 9:33PM
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