Want a Sustainable, Soft, Grass-Like Lawn? Plant This

August 3, 2018 at 12:52 am




Clover is softer and more sustainable than grass. It fixes the soil, attracts beneficial pollinators and wildlife, and requires no water, fertilizer, herbicide or mowing! Plus, it’s edible!





Want to make your yard more sustainable and wildlife friendly, but still want a soft patch of grass to play on? Plant clover!

You can either mix it in with your current grass or have a completely clover lawn.

Clover requires zero fertilizer or herbicide and little to no mowing or watering. Meanwhile it improves the soil, attracts bees, butterflies and other beneficial bugs for your garden. And, it’s even softer to sit on than grass!

And if you don’t want so many white flowers in your patch of green, no problem. Over the last decade a new variety of white clover called microclover has become the trend across Europe and is just becoming a thing in the United States. The microclovers are smaller, don’t grow so many flowers and have softer stems for sitting and walking on:

 

It was pretty universal for Americans to use clover in up through the 1940s. Then people started using herbicides to kill off dandelions, plantain and other broadleaf “weeds.” Clover was a casualty.

The Laid-back Gardener lays out 11 benefits of planting clover instead of grass on his blog:

1. Nitrogen fixer. As a legume, clover works symbiotically with bacteria to fix atmospheric nitrogen and make it available to both itself and neighboring plants. That’s why even lawn grasses grow better when clover is present.

2. Less fertilizer. A lawn containing clover needs far less fertilizer, and a 100% clover lawn needs none.

3. Drought Resistant. With its deep roots, clover will remain green through drought, as your neighbor’s lawns turn brown.

4. No mowing. A pure clover lawn doesn’t need mowing, but if you do decide to mow, you’ll only need to do so 3 or 4 times a year.

5. No aerating. Clover can grow in and loosen compacted soil, eliminating the need to aerate.

6. No herbicide. If you’re concerned about a uniform looking patch of green, you don’t have to worry about other “weeds.” Clover tends to smother them as is somewhat invasive.

7. Ground cover. Clover makes an excellent ground-cover for food crops.

8. Beneficial pollinators and wildlife.  Clover produces attractive white flowers that attract beneficial pollinators likes bees and butterflies and provide forage for rabbits (and humans).

9. Repels pests. A lawn rich in clover tends to discourage pesky insects, most of which prefer grasses. Grubs will disappear entirely in an all-clover lawn.

10. Sun or shade. Clover grows well in both sun and partial shade.

11. Dogs can pee on it. Clover doesn’t turn yellow when dogs pee on it.




“Lawns are not stable natural habitats,” points out Mike Slater, president of the Baird Ornithological Club. “They originated as a status symbol in Europe, where only the upper class could afford to waste good cropland in nonproductive grass.”

“Unfortunately, we’ve become habituated to them, and having gas mowers, weed trimmers and leaf blowers enables us to maintain way more acreage than we could when muscle power and sheep were required to have a lawn.”

“We can all improve our yards as wildlife habitats by strategically deciding where we really want to have a lawn and how fanatical we are going to be about keeping out weeds.”

As a compromise, Slater recommends planting native wildflowers, bushes and trees around a plot of clover on the edges of your property line.

If enough people did this, our yards could serve as corridors for wildlife to move back and forth between parks and other natural areas nearby.

“America can no longer afford to be defined as the place with tidy green lawns,” he says. “We are facing a global extinction event for many wild animal and plant species … Let’s at least take a few baby steps and show, by our tolerance of a few clover and dandelion flowers, that our planet and the other creatures and plants we share it with are important too.”