Adding clover to your lawn is a great way to enhance it, and it’s also a reliable source of nitrogen in the soil. Sometime back, clover used to be fashionable in lawns as it is affordable and easy to maintain. Its flowers are not only visually appealing but also bring in pollinators such as butterflies and honeybees.
Interestingly, gardeners are now appreciating the importance of clover in lawns and are adopting it as a blend or replacement for lawn grasses.
My clover lawn has attracted a lot of attention in the neighborhood as people see my yard evergreen during hot summer when their grasses are struggling. I like how I don’t struggle to water and deal with weeds. So, let me take you through how you can plant clover on your existing lawn.
How to plant clover in existing lawn
Planting clover on the existing lawn is as simple as overseeding a lawn. You only need to plant at the right time, use the right type of seed, prepare your soil, and water the seed. Here are the key steps you need to follow:
1. Test and amend the soil
Start by conducting a soil test as clover prefers a pH level of between 6.0 and 6.5. You can buy a soil test kit from your local garden store and conduct the testing yourself or take a sample of your lawn soil to a nearby university extension or garden center.
If the pH is around 6, then you are good to go but if off then you have to amend your soil as recommended in the soil test report. When the soil is too acidic, you can lime your lawn to raise the pH. If too high, you can lower it by adding elemental sulfur or aluminum sulfate.
2. Prepare your lawn
Weeds, thatch, and tall grasses can affect the growth and establishment of clover on your lawn. You’ll have to kill the weeds (apply an herbicide), cut your grass at the lowest mower setting, then dethatch your lawn. Ideally, you’ll want to see bare patches of soil through the grass in your lawn.
If you’re trying to replace your grassy lawn with clover, you’ll need to spray your grasses with a weed killer to get rid of them before planting clover. You will have to wait few weeks after spraying weed killer for you to spread the clover seed. Read the product label to know the exact time.
3. Choose the ideal clover type
Clovers come in many types with white and red clovers being the most cultivated in lawns. They are named after the color of their flowers. Red clover produces red flowers, and white clover produces white flowers.
However, most people opt for a Dutch white cover as it is known to be a resilient type. Dutch white clover is the most popular for lawns because it is relatively low growing, spreads fast, tolerates close mowing, out-competes weeds, and blends well with a variety of grasses.
4. Plant your clover seed
Spring and summer or early fall are the best time to plant your clover seed. You can as well start planting in late winter when grasses are yet to recover. This gives you the advantage of reducing competition between the clover seed and thick grasses.
Clover seeds are tiny and lightweight, so you’ll need plenty of them to cover your lawn. Some experts recommend mixing clover seed with sawdust or sand in equal parts to help weigh them down. You may also want to mix clover seed with some grass seed.
The amount of clover seeds you distribute typically depends on whether you want clovers as your primary ground cover or growing as a blend within the lawn grasses. Seed clovers at a rate of 2 to 8 oz. per 1,000 square feet, according to the University of Minnesota Extension.
Spread clover seed by hand for small areas and use a broadcast spreader for large areas. For good germination, the soil needs to remain moist. If it doesn’t rain, water your lawn every day for the first two weeks. The clover will sprout in 7-10 days and as soon as seedlings sprout, you can reduce your watering schedule.
5. Clover lawn aftercare
Clover should be allowed to establish, bloom and go to seed before the first mowing. Mow it short at 2’’ to remove the spent blooms and thereafter 3’’ or so. Pure clover lawn doesn’t need watering during summer but you may have to if you have other grasses.
NOTE: Clovers don’t need fertilizer as they already have a mechanism of converting nitrogen from the air into nutrients. Adding fertilizer may burn the plants or encourage the instant growth of weeds and grasses.
Will clover take over grass?
Clover is known to coexist with many types of grass and I rule out the possibility of clover taking over your lawn. Clover is a very resilient plant that can thrive in areas that are poorly drained or too shady for a conventional lawn. If clovers are taking over your grass then your lawn may have one or more of following problems with your lawn:
- Low nitrogen level: Grass needs plenty of nitrogen to thrive while clover does not. If the level of nitrogen in the soil is depleted, then your grass will struggle to grow. Clovers can take advantage of low nitrogen levels and over take your grass. You can use soil tests to test your soils nitrogen levels. Test kits can be found here online.
- Mowing too low: You may think mowing too low will punish clover. This is far away from the truth. Mowing too low stresses the grass whereas clover doesn’t have a problem with that. Mowing tall can help control the spread of clover on your lawn.
- Imbalanced watering: Clover thrives in both soggy and dry conditions. If you underwater your lawn or overwater, then grasses will struggle. While this is happening, clover will be taking advantage.
- Compacted soil: When soil gets compacted, it becomes difficult for the grassroots to access water, air, and nutrients needed for proper growth. Clover on the other hand can thrive in compacted, poor soil where the grass is thin.
- Wrong grass type: if you blended clover with the wrong grass type for your climate, then it will struggle and die as the clover thrives.
If you don’t have any other reasons to get rid of clover in your lawn, then check into the problem affecting the health of your grass and fix them to continue enjoying a beautiful clover-grass lawn.
Adding clover to your lawn is a noble idea. Clover will naturally fertilize your grass through nitrogen fixation, it outgrows weeds, provides a perfect ground cover that insulates the soil, and adds a visual effect to a lawn with its beautiful flowers. More important, clover decreases the watering and mowing needs of a lawn thus making everything easy to maintain.