Did You Know?
Rather than being harmful, clover plants are actually beneficial for a garden, as they enrich the soil.
Clover is a small plant, characterized by its white blossoms and trilobed leaves. This plant is a low-growing perennial that propagates via seeds and stolons. It grows in a mat-like pattern. Clover can be identified by the oval or tear-like shape of its leaflets, and the presence of white crescent-shaped markings. The most commonly encountered species is the white clover, also called the 'Dutch clover' or Trifoliens repens
, though other species such as the California burclover and red clover are also found.
In stark contrast to the past, when clover seeds were intentionally added to lawn mixes, modern homeowners consider it a weed. There are several reasons for this. One is, the plant's reputation of 'taking over' a lawn. The white blossoms attract bees, which keep people from walking barefooted on the lawn. The patches of clover weeds give an uneven coloration to the lawn. Moreover, the fruits of burclover are spiny, which pricks the skin and gets attached to clothing. However, the main reason why clover is disliked is because it appears out of place and supposedly spoils the look of a garden.
The situation became worse after broad spectrum herbicides came into use. These chemicals were found to be lethal to all weeds, but also killed clover plants in addition. Because of this, white clover was clubbed together with the other weeds. Clover is considered undesirable both, in grass and flower beds. It can be removed both, organically, without the use of chemicals, as well as by chemical means.
How to Get Rid of Clover
Find and uproot individual clover plants using your hands. Clover grows in clumps, which makes doing this task easy.✦
Insert a knife one inch into the soil at the plant base, and slice the roots off to ensure that they don't stay behind on uprooting.✦
Alternately, you can use a hand fork by inserting the prongs below the roots, and then forcing the plant out of the soil. Pull the plant upward with one hand while doing this.✦
Cover the soil with a layer of mulch, such as wood chips. This will prevent clover seeds from germinating, especially in flower beds. Make sure to replenish the layer regularly, to compensate for loss of mulch due to decomposition.✦
Apply cornmeal in the soil, making sure to mix it well in the top layers, and spray water on it. This releases chemicals from the cornmeal, which retards the growth of weeds like clover, without affecting grass or other plants. It also enriches the soil with organic nitrogen.✦
Regularly watering your lawn will cause the grass to grow stronger and resist clover infestation.✦
Neglecting the lawn may actually be beneficial, as grass will grow and surround the clover plants, depriving them of sunlight.✦
If bare spaces exist in your lawn, sprinkle grass seed on it. Provide adequate water till they germinate. Mow them only after they grow 4 inches tall.✦
Mow the lawn regularly, after setting the blade at a height of 3 inches. This keeps the grass taller, which blocks off light to the surrounding, low-growing clover. Using a grass box will prevent dispersal of clover seeds.✦
Add sugar to the soil, making sure to mix it well in the top layers. Then, spray water from a garden hose, to allow the clover plants to absorb it. Sugar is harmful for clover weeds.✦
You can use one of the several organic weed killers available in the market―such as feHEDTA―which kill weeds without harming other plants.✦
On landscaping beds, nail down landscape fabric around the base of the plants with U-shaped spikes. This fabric blocks off all light, while allowing for the plants to be watered, thus preventing clover from growing around the other garden plants. Later, remove the dead vegetation.✦
Alternately, you can simply cover the clover plants with sheets of newspaper, which will block out the sunlight.✦
In spring and fall, first cover the patch of clover with top soil and compost, and then spread grass seed over it. When the seeds germinate, the grass will out-compete the clover.
Fertilize your plants well, both in summer and autumn, to make sure they grow strong and are able to compete with clover. Begin feeding them in April, when new clover growth begins.✦
You can use a broad-spectrum herbicide, such as glyphosate, to eliminate clover plants. However, these chemicals do not discriminate between weeds and other plants, so be careful not to apply them near other plants in the garden.✦
Adding vinegar will make the soil more acidic, which makes survival of clover difficult.✦
Clover prefers nitrogen-poor soil. So applying a nitrogen-rich fertilizer like sulfate of ammonia to the plants will inhibit clover growth.✦
Apply a selective herbicide, such as a mixture of 2,4-D, dicamba salt and MCPP in the early months of autumn. This will kill the clover without harming other plants.✦
When applying a herbicide, choose a spray rather than a granular form, because it is readily absorbed. Add some dish soap to the spray, as this will ensure that the chemicals stick to the waxy clover leaves and will not trickle down. Also, apply herbicides only if the lawn is healthy and adequately watered.
Is it Advisable to Remove Clover?
Clover plants are nitrogen-fixing plants, which means that they trap atmospheric nitrogen and release it into the soil, increasing its fertility. This makes the garden appear more greener, besides reducing the need for fertilizing.
Clover provides stiff competition to other weeds, which prevents them from infesting a garden. Also, since clover is a low-growing plant, you can mow the garden much lower, which allows it to survive, but kills other weeds.
The white blooms of clover attract bees, which also helps pollinate flowers in ornamental gardens, causing more blooms. Because of these benefits, more and more people are cultivating clover in their gardens, rather than removing them.
While you won't benefit from removing clover, if you still want to go ahead, then simply maintaining a lush lawn with regular watering and fertilizing will keep those white blossoms away.