Many enjoy growing some of their own food as well as a flower garden, but often space is also needed for kids and/or animals to play. An excellent alternative to a turfgrass lawn is clover, but in recent decades it has been perceived as a weed, along with dandelions, another hugely beneficial plant.
Before the 1950’s, grass seed mixes always included over. Clover is a legume, rather than a grass. It is rather drought tolerant, green year-round, except in exceptionally dry periods, is resistant to trampling, and isn’t picky about soil quality or sun exposure. Clover flower nectar is a delight for pollinators and beneficial insects such as butterflies, bees and bumble bees. Plant it near vegetable garden or orchard to attract pollinators. Clover flower tea is a nice drink and the leaves may be eaten in salads or co cooked. Clover tea is recommended during a cough and cold.
Legumes benefit soil quality by increasing soil organic matter, improving soil porosity, recycling nutrients, improving soil structure, decreasing soil pH, diversifying the microscopic life in the soil, and breaking disease build-up and weed problems of grass-type crops.
Legumes possess the ability to convert the pure form of nitrogen to its ammonia form which is extremely helpful in fixing the nitrogen in the soil. Legumes are used as nitrogen fixers in agriculture and clover is one of the best nitrogen fixing plants available. Clovers have the ability to obtain nitrogen from the atmosphere and “fix” it in nodules on its roots; this is called nitrogen fixation. The amount of nitrogen fixed varies depending on species, stand density, fertility, weather, and the extent to which the clover has been defoliated.
As a part of the bigger picture, legumes play a supporting role in converting the nitrogen to its ammonia form. For the conversion of nitrogen, a particular type of soil bacteria known as Rhizobium plays the major role. Rhizobium enters to the roots of legumes and then start to multiply at a rapid rate and starts converting nitrogen to its ammonia form in this process.
In any healthy soil, you will find immense amounts of Rhizobium bacteria. This is because without fixed nitrogen plants are unable to grow.
For unhealthy soils or those who are in the middle range, it is often recommended to add a good amount of Rhizobium in the soil. This soil bacteria is easily available in the market in packets.
Rhizobium is a must for maintaining the fertility of the soil and ensure a healthy sprout. They add a lot of benefits to the soil and do not hurt the plants even a bit while performing the conversion of nitrogen into its ammonia form, which plants require for their growth.
White clover is generally the most used clover, is the easiest seed to find and is better for grazing animals than red clover. Clover is a herbaceous perennial plant. Its leaves are long-stalked, composed of three leaflets. Flowering occurs in April-May to September. Its flowers attract bees and bumblebees. The flowers are grouped in spherical flower heads, white in color, sometimes slightly pinkish white.
So, growing a clover lawn may be just the environmentally friendly solution for your green space as well as easier on you and your pocketbook. It’s low growing, so you never need to mow it. You can also use it as “living mulch” to fill in the spaces between your perennials and garden to keep the weeds out. If you aren’t ready to make a full change, try out a small clover patch and all its potential habitat.
Now that you’re familiar with the benefits, here are some planting and growing guidelines:
Propagation and Planting Clover
It is mainly propagated by seeds. Clover seeds are sown directly on the ground but can also be broadcast over the top of existing grasses and weeds. Prepare the soil well before planting seeds and be prepared to broadcast a couple of times. Clover seeds are a favorite of birds – good and bad news. Keep some seed in reserve and broadcast more than once to help successful establishment.
Regions where Clover Grows
Clovers live in temperate and subtropical parts of North and South America and the Old World. Three geographic regions have the most clover diversity: the Mediterranean basin, western North America and the highlands of eastern Africa.
When to Plant Clover Seeds
Spring is the best time though late-summer sowing is a practical alternative provided there are adequate soil moisture and sufficient time for the clover seedlings to develop well before winter.
The standard seeding rate is two pounds per acre. The optimum sowing depth is 10-12 mm with a light but firm soil cover. An easy way of planting is to broadcast it and then walk over the area.
Requirements for Growing Clover
- It requires full sun or slightly shaded position. Its shallow root system makes it intolerant to harsh drought conditions.
- Clover is a hardy plant that grows in the variety of soil types and can be grown both on the ground or in a container with relative ease. It prefers well-drained, fertile soil with neutral to slightly acidic pH 5 to 6.5.
- Clover prefers slightly moist soil. However, it can tolerate a short drought period but it is not drought tolerant.
- It grows easily and doesn’t require any fertilization.
- White clover is resistant to diseases and pests. However, the risk of slug attack is possible at the beginning of its growth. Once established, this is not a problem.