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Few weeds annoy grass-loving homeowners more than clover. Scientifically named Trifolium repens, which means “creeping three-leaf” in Latin, this invasive plant can spread rapidly throughout your yard, taking over the area where your green lawn once flourished.
Once clover gets its hooks into your grass, it can be hard to eliminate. Luckily, there are natural ways to kick out this unwelcome guest and keep it from returning for good.
What Is Clover?
Clover is a member of the pea family. It features three leaves on each stem that are typically green, but can also be purple or red.
Most clover is a perennial weed that lives through multiple growing seasons. Clover can spread quickly, so it’s essential to take action as soon as you see it on your lawn.
How To Remove Clover Naturally
Removing clover naturally means practicing natural landscaping and choosing the most environmentally friendly solutions to create a healthy lawn. You might select organic fertilizer or natural weed killer, for example; or you may opt to pull your weeds with a trowel.
Cover the Clover with a Garbage Bag
If the clover has contained its growth to one part of your lawn, count yourself fortunate and get started immediately.
Like most other plants, clover needs sunlight to live. You can cover the affected area with a dark garbage bag or a heavy plastic sheet. Anchor it down on all four corners with something heavy, such as a rock, so the sheet doesn’t blow away. After several weeks, pick up the sheet. If you waited long enough, the clover will have died.
Weed Out Clover by Hand
If you are dealing with small patches of clover, weeding by hand is the most effective—and greenest—way to get rid of it. Thankfully, this task isn’t too taxing, even if you don’t think you have a green thumb. Here’s how to do it:
- Grab a pair of gardening gloves and a spade.
- Loosen the soil around the clover with your spade.
- Pull up the plants with your gloved hands.
Remember to get the roots, though, or you’ll see those little white flowers sprouting up again in a few days.
Spread Mulch Where Clover Has Taken Root
It may be tough to make sure you’ve got all the roots if the clover has sunk its root tendrils into your flower beds or the space around your trees. If you leave even one living root, you may see your clover return before long.
A simple solution is to lay down a piece of landscape fabric and dump a heavy supply of mulch on it. The mulch will nourish the soil around your flowers or trees, and the fabric will help prevent clover growth.
Mow Your Lawn Higher Than 3 Inches
Clover is a low-growing plant with a shallow root system. Consequently, it does not grow as tall as the surrounding grass. If you set your mower‘s deck to three inches or higher, it will keep your grass higher than your clover, thus depriving the weed of sunlight.
While you might like the look of a close-cropped lawn, such a deep cut can harm your plants’ health. As a rule, cut no more than one-third off your grass during a single mowing session. Set your mowing height and your calendar accordingly.
Kill Clover Plants with Natural Herbicide
For a bigger clover problem, you will need an herbicide. As always, the trick is to find a product that kills weeds but does no harm to the surrounding plants. Some people try mixing vinegar with a drop of dish soap inside a spray bottle. That approach will work, but you may not find it practical for more than spot treatment.
A better approach might be scattering corn gluten meal, which releases dipeptides (organic compounds made from two amino acids) into the soil. You can likely buy this product from your local garden center or online from Amazon. Scatter about 20 pounds of meal over 1,000 square feet of your lawn, water it well, and let it work its magic.
Fertilize Your Lawn with Ammonium Sulfate
Ammonium sulfate might sound like a harmful chemical, but it is actually an inorganic salt containing 21% nitrogen and 24% sulfur. Widely used as fertilizer for alkaline soils, ammonium sulfate releases nitrogen into the soil while lowering its acidity.
This nitrogen-rich fertilizer not only helps grass grow but also controls clover. The bacteria in clover’s roots engage in a process called nitrogen fixation, which is directly related to plant growth. By permeating the soil with nitrogen in ammonium sulfate, you increase its nitrogen levels, limiting the roots’ ability to fixate and grow.
You can purchase ammonium sulfate at a hardware or garden store and follow the directions on the container. Alternatively, you can contract with a lawn fertilizer service.
How To Prevent Clover in Your Lawn
If you prevent clover from gaining root space in your lawn, you will be well on your way to healthy grass growth.
Identify Clover Plants Correctly
Clover comes in a wide variety of species, and the kind of clover you might find in your landscaping is mainly determined by where you live.
In the United States, most clover falls into the perennials category. Perennial clover can live for two to three years, but it does not reseed well. You can find perennials such as white clover all over the United States. Another perennial, red clover, also grows nationwide but is more common in the northern and midwestern states.
Perennial varieties flower throughout the summer and stop growing only when they run out of water. These broadleaf weeds spread by seeding and through nodes that take root as the plant grows.
Other, less-common clovers, such as arrowleaf clover and subterranean clover, are annuals. These plants complete their life cycles in a single year. Arrowleaf is most commonly found in the region stretching from East Texas to Georgia, while subterranean clover thrives in the temperate climates of the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone 7.
Annual clovers germinate in the fall and continue to live through winter and early spring. They make use of winter rainfall for their hydration needs.
Use the Clover’s Lifecycle to Your Advantage
Unless you live in a warm climate, such as one of the states in Zones 8 through 10, your clover likely lies dormant in the winter. You can try putting down a preemergent herbicide, which works from the ground up to kill weeds and their shoots. Apply this product to your lawn in the fall, and it can help prevent several weeds from growing not just clover but also crabgrass and dandelions.
However, you may not know clover has taken root in your grass until it crops up in the spring. So while you probably want to use a preemergent herbicide, you will almost certainly need to have a post-emergent weed killer on hand in early spring, too. Post-emergents go on new plants in the spring and generally work from the leaves down to the root systems.
Use a Slow-Release Fertilizer
Some homeowners prefer fast-release fertilizers because they are more affordable than the slow-release options and achieve quick results. These products are not the best choice for a healthy lawn, however.
A slow-release fertilizer—like guano, blood meal, cow manure, or earthworm castings—pumps more nitrogen into the soil than a fast-release product. As a result, you get healthier grass and less clover.
Maintain a Healthy Lawn
If you think you have a clover problem, you might have an unhealthy lawn that needs more than a single treatment. The healthier your turf grass, the fewer weeds you have to deal with. Strong grass growth will crowd out clover, dandelions, and other weeds.
Get Help From a Lawn Care Professional
Lawn care professionals such as TruGreen can analyze your lawn’s health and offer you a customized care plan. For example, the TruNatural lawn care plan uses natural fertilizer and weed-control products to maintain a lush, healthy lawn.
What Causes Clover To Grow in Your Lawn
A few things that can cause clover to grow in your lawn include the following:
- Compacted soil: Clover’s thick root system lets it grow in tightly compacted soil that grass cannot root in.
- Lack of nitrogen in the soil: Clover thrives in nitrogen-poor dirt.
- Over-fertilization in one area: In this case, clover may thrive in one area while grass grows in another.
- Poor drainage: Clover can flourish in nearly any soil, including poorly drained areas where grass will not grow.
If you experience any of these problems in your lawn, you’ll need to address them before you can get rid of your clover—that is, if you want to get rid of it.
Benefits of Clover
Having clover in your lawn isn’t all bad news. Some people even plant it. Before the 1950s, homeowners loved clover. Because this hardy, drought-tolerant plant can flourish in even the poorest soil, clover provided green ground cover when nothing else would work. Over time, however, pure turf grass became the standard in lawn care.
Despite changing tastes, however, clover remains a low-maintenance plant that you don’t need to mow as often as other grasses. It also tolerates harsh growing conditions, leaving your lawn green during dry spells. Plus, clover provides a food source for bees and other pollinators. Many farmers and gardeners plant clover seeds because the plant nourishes and strengthens the soil.
Some homeowners may benefit from clover patches, especially in shady areas or places with poor drainage. For everyone else, clover needs to be controlled, or else it will take over your lawn. Start with mowing your grass high and fertilizing your yard with ammonium sulfate. If you still have a clover problem, don’t wait to call a professional lawn care service to help you take care of it.
How To Get Rid of Clover Naturally FAQ
Why do I have so much clover in my lawn?
Clover can grow almost anywhere and thrive in nearly any environment. It can spring up if your soil is unhealthy, your lawn is shady, or your grass is patchy. Once you have fertilized your lawn with a nitrogen-rich compound and coaxed your grass to grow, you should start seeing the clover begin to retreat.
How do you get rid of clover in your lawn?
A hardy plant, clover is not easily evicted. Some of the best ways to attack it include increasing your mowing height, using corn gluten meal, and investing in an organic weed killer. Long, healthy grass will help crowd out clover’s growth, and a weed killer can take care of the rest.
How do you keep clover from coming back?
Clover grows where grass fails. Therefore, the best way to keep clover from coming back is to plant new grass. You can either hire a team of professionals to sod your yard or scatter grass seed, cover it with mulch, and water it regularly.