Clover, scientifically known as Trifolium, is a small, perennial plant that is often found growing in lawns and gardens. It’s easily recognized by its trifoliate (three-leaf) arrangement and its tiny white or pink flowers. While some people appreciate clover for its ability to fix nitrogen in the soil and attract pollinators, it can also become a nuisance when it takes over a lawn.
The problem with clover in lawns arises from its aggressive growth habit. Clover spreads rapidly and competes with grass for nutrients, sunlight, and water. Over time, it can form dense patches that crowd out your lawn grass, creating an uneven look that many homeowners find unsightly. Moreover, some species of clover can be quite tough and resilient, making them difficult to remove once they’ve established themselves in your lawn.
Despite its benefits, many people choose to remove clover from their lawns for aesthetic reasons. A lush, uniform, green lawn is a common goal for many homeowners, and clover’s contrasting color and texture can disrupt this aesthetic. Additionally, while clover flowers can be pretty, they also attract bees, which can be a concern for families with children or pets who frequently play in the yard.
In the following sections, we’ll explore how you can effectively get rid of clover from your lawn and restore your grass to its former glory.
Clover, or Trifolium, is a genus of about 300 species of plants in the leguminous pea family Fabaceae. The most common type found in lawns is the White Clover (Trifolium repens). It’s a perennial plant, meaning it lives for several years, and it’s known for its unique trifoliate leaf structure and small white or pink flowers.
Lifecycle and Spread
Clover seeds can remain dormant in the soil for many years until conditions are right for germination. Once established, clover grows quickly and spreads through both seeds and creeping stems that root at the joints. These stems, known as stolons, can spread out over a large area, creating a dense mat of clover.
Unlike grass, which reproduces only by seed, clover’s ability to spread through stolons allows it to colonize large areas of a lawn quickly. When a patch of clover dies off, new plants can quickly take its place through the growth of these creeping stems.
Competition with Grass
Clover has several advantages over grass that allow it to out-compete in certain conditions.
Firstly, clover is a nitrogen-fixing plant. This means it can take nitrogen from the air and convert it into a form that plants can use. This gives clover an advantage in poor-quality soils where nitrogen is often lacking.
Secondly, clover has a deep root system that allows it to access water and nutrients that are unreachable to grass. This makes it more resistant to drought and nutrient-poor soils.
Lastly, clover can tolerate low mowing heights, which means it can survive and even thrive when a lawn is mowed frequently.
Because of these factors, clover can often out-compete grass, especially in lawns that are not well-maintained. Regular watering, fertilizing, and mowing can help grass compete with clover, but if these tasks aren’t performed regularly, clover can easily take over.
Maintaining a healthy, robust lawn is one of the best ways to prevent clover from taking over. Here are some strategies you can use to keep your lawn in top shape and make it less susceptible to clover invasion.
Proper Lawn Maintenance
Proper watering is crucial for a healthy lawn. Lawns typically need about 1 to 1.5 inches of water per week, including rainfall. It’s better to water deeply and infrequently rather than shallowly and frequently. Deep watering encourages grass to develop deep roots, making it more resilient and less likely to be out-competed by clover.
Regular mowing can help prevent clover from spreading. However, it’s important not to mow too short as this can stress the grass and make it more susceptible to invasion. As a general rule, never remove more than one-third of the grass blade at a time. Leaving the grass a bit taller can help it compete with clover and other weeds.
Regular fertilizing can help maintain a healthy lawn. Use a slow-release nitrogen fertilizer in the spring and fall to encourage grass growth and make it less likely for clover to take hold. Remember, clover thrives in low-nitrogen soils, so keeping your lawn well-fertilized can make it less inviting for clover.
Pre-emergent herbicides can be used to prevent clover seeds from germinating. These products should be applied in early spring before the clover seeds have a chance to sprout. Keep in mind that pre-emergent herbicides only work on seeds, not established plants, so they won’t help control existing clover patches.
Preventing clover from invading your lawn requires a combination of good cultural practices and proactive measures. By maintaining a healthy lawn and using pre-emergent herbicides when necessary, you can keep your lawn clover-free.
Natural Methods for Clover Removal
While chemical herbicides can be effective at controlling clover, they often have unwanted environmental impacts. Here’s an overview of some non-chemical methods you can use to remove clover from your lawn.
Hand-pulling is a simple and straightforward method of removing clover. It’s most effective when the clover population is small. Here are step-by-step instructions:
- Water the area: Moist soil makes it easier to pull out the entire plant, roots and all.
- Grasp the clover at its base: Try to get as close to the soil as possible.
- Pull slowly and steadily: The goal is to remove the whole plant, including the roots, to prevent it from regrowing.
- Dispose of the pulled clover: Make sure not to leave any clover plants or fragments on your lawn as they could re-root or spread seeds.
- Fill in the hole: Use soil to fill in the hole left by the removed clover to prevent new weeds from taking its place.
Natural Weed Killers
Natural weed killers like vinegar or corn gluten meal can also be effective at controlling clover.
Vinegar is a natural desiccant that can dry out and kill clover. To use vinegar as a weed killer, mix it with a small amount of dish soap (which helps the vinegar stick to the clover) and spray it directly onto the clover. Be careful not to spray the vinegar on your grass or other desired plants, as it can kill them too.
Corn Gluten Meal
Corn gluten meal is a natural pre-emergent herbicide that can prevent clover seeds from germinating. To use corn gluten meal, spread it evenly over your lawn in early spring before the clover seeds have a chance to sprout. Keep in mind that corn gluten meal won’t kill existing clover plants, so you’ll need to combine it with other methods like hand-pulling for the best results.
Chemical Methods for Clover Removal
While natural methods can be effective at controlling clover, there are situations where chemical herbicides may be necessary. Here’s an overview of when and why to consider using chemical herbicides, the types available on the market, and safety precautions to keep in mind.
When and Why to Consider Using Chemical Herbicides
Chemical herbicides should be considered when non-chemical methods are ineffective or impractical. If clover has spread extensively across your lawn, hand-pulling may not be feasible, and natural weed killers like vinegar may not be potent enough. In these cases, chemical herbicides can provide a more efficient and effective solution.
Types of Herbicides
There are two main types of herbicides: selective and non-selective.
Selective herbicides are designed to target specific types of plants while leaving others unharmed. For example, some herbicides are formulated to kill broadleaf plants (like clover) without affecting grass. An example of a selective herbicide that can be used to control clover is MSM Turf^5^.
Non-selective herbicides, like glyphosate[^9^], kill all plants they come into contact with. They should be used with caution and are best suited for spot treatments or areas where you want to eliminate all vegetation.
Safety Precautions and Best Practices
When using chemical herbicides, it’s essential to follow safety precautions and best practices:
- Read and Follow Instructions: Always read the product label and follow the manufacturer’s instructions. This includes recommended application rates, safety precautions, and any required personal protective equipment (PPE).
- Timing: Apply herbicides when the clover is actively growing and the weather is calm to prevent drift.
- Spot Treat: If only certain areas of your lawn are affected by clover, consider spot treating rather than applying the herbicide to your entire lawn.
Remember, chemical herbicides should be used as a last resort when other methods fail. Always try to maintain a healthy lawn through proper watering, mowing, and fertilizing to prevent clover from taking hold in the first place.
[^9^]: CLC Inc
Restoring Your Lawn After Clover Removal
Once you’ve successfully removed the clover from your lawn, it’s time to repair any damage and restore your lawn to its former glory. Here are some steps to take:
Repairing the Lawn
- Remove Dead Clover: Start by raking up and removing any dead clover and other debris from your lawn. This will give the grass room to grow and prevent the clover from re-rooting.
- Aerate the Soil: Aerating the soil can help improve water, nutrient, and oxygen penetration, promoting healthier grass growth. You can rent a lawn aerator or hire a professional to do this.
- Top-Dress the Lawn: Apply a thin layer of compost or topsoil over your lawn. This can help improve soil quality and provide a good seedbed for new grass.
Reseeding or Sodding Bare Spots
If clover removal has left bare spots in your lawn, you might need to reseed or sod these areas.
To reseed bare spots, first loosen the top inch of soil with a rake. Then spread grass seed evenly over the area, lightly rake it in, and water thoroughly. Keep the soil consistently moist until the new grass is established.
For larger areas or quicker results, you might consider sodding. Prepare the area by removing any debris and loosening the top inch of soil. Lay the sod pieces end-to-end and press them firmly into the soil to ensure good contact. Water thoroughly after installation and keep the sod moist until it’s well-rooted.
Ongoing Lawn Care to Prevent Clover
Once your lawn is restored, ongoing care can help prevent future clover invasions. This includes:
- Regular watering: Water deeply and infrequently to encourage deep root growth.
- Proper mowing: Don’t cut your grass too short. A taller lawn can outcompete clover.
- Regular fertilizing: Use a slow-release nitrogen fertilizer to maintain soil fertility.
- Monitor for weeds: Regularly inspect your lawn for clover and other weeds and remove them before they have a chance to spread.
Maintaining a healthy, lush lawn is more than just an aesthetic pursuit. It’s also a practical way to prevent the growth of unwanted plants like clover. A well-kept lawn can outcompete clover for resources, making it harder for clover to establish itself.
Managing clover on your lawn can be a test of patience and persistence. Whether you choose natural methods like hand-pulling and vinegar, or resort to chemical herbicides, the key is consistency. Clover won’t disappear overnight, but with regular care and attention, you can significantly reduce its presence over time.
Remember, the best defense against clover is a strong, vibrant lawn. Regular watering, proper mowing, and timely fertilization are all crucial components of this. So, keep up with your lawn care routine, stay vigilant for signs of clover, and take action at the first sign of trouble.
With patience, persistence, and the right strategies, you can win the battle against clover and enjoy a beautiful, healthy lawn.
FAQs on How to Get Rid of Clover in Lawn
Why is clover bad for my lawn?
Clover isn’t necessarily bad for your lawn. It can actually help improve soil health by fixing nitrogen. However, some people prefer a uniform, clover-free lawn for aesthetic reasons. Additionally, clover can spread quickly and crowd out grass if not managed.
What’s the best way to remove clover from my lawn?
The best method depends on the extent of the infestation and your personal preferences. Hand-pulling is an effective method for small patches, while larger infestations might require the use of a selective herbicide that targets clover but leaves grass unharmed.
Can I prevent clover from growing in my lawn?
Yes, maintaining a healthy, well-fed lawn is the best way to prevent clover. Regular watering, proper mowing, and timely fertilization can all help your grass outcompete clover.
Why does clover keep coming back after I remove it?
Clover seeds can remain viable in the soil for many years, so new plants can sprout even after you’ve removed all visible clover. Consistent management is key to keeping clover at bay.
Will a lawn service be able to get rid of clover?
Most lawn services should be able to help with clover control. They can apply professional-grade herbicides and offer advice on lawn care practices to prevent future infestations.
Is there a natural way to get rid of clover?
Yes, vinegar is a common natural weed killer that can be effective against clover. However, it’s non-selective and can harm grass and other plants, so it should be used carefully. Other natural methods include hand-pulling and promoting a healthy lawn to outcompete the clover.
Can I use a non-selective herbicide to get rid of clover?
Non-selective herbicides like glyphosate will kill clover, but they’ll also kill grass and other plants. Therefore, they’re best used for spot treatments or in areas where you want to eliminate all vegetation. Always use such products with caution and follow the manufacturer’s instructions.