The benefits of clover

The benefits of clover

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The pedigree of honey does not concern the bee, a clover, anytime, to him is aristocracy.” — Nature

What a perfect Easter. The daffodils in my yard were blooming so it was Easter inside and out. The only dark cloud to spoil the day, just like the commercial on TV about the spoiled birthday party, my septic field backed up. Fortunately, it was in the side yard.

White clover used to be the standard in every grass seed mix 75 years ago. After World War II, the middle class moved to the suburbs and chemicals that were developed during the war found new uses on lawns. The most popular was 2, 4-D. It was originally developed to wipe out potatoes in Germany and rice crops in Japan to starve the axis of power. However, it was found to be ineffective for that purpose. It did have the ability to kill weeds while sparing grass.

Chemical companies decided to win over Americans with this new discovery. Therefore, Americans now dream of lush lawns that need constant care. We are actually supporting big chemical companies that keep telling us that our lawns need to be a carpet of green. In 1945, Scotts packaged its first “weed and fee” product. By 1966, clover in the lawn was considered a weed. Aggressive marketing and advertisements convinced the general public of this.

Clover is a wonderful plant. It is a low-growing and drought-tolerant perennial. There are 250 species of clover. One variety of white clover is called Microclover and it provides the benefit of clover while producing fewer flowers and remains hidden below the grass. Bringing clover back into the American lawn requires new thinking on what constitutes a pleasing lawn and education about the benefit and cost savings clover provides.

It would be nice if park and green spaces used clover in their seed mixes. Clover is not an eyesore. It helps lawns remain green all year. As a member of the legume family, it fixes nitrogen from the air through beneficial soil bacteria living in the nodules on its roots. Clippings left on lawns after the introduction of clover are a powerful source of nitrogen. This eliminates the need to fertilize over the year. Adding clover is also an easy way to boost pollinator populations.

You can now buy clover seeds at many nurseries and farm stores. Anyone can start a nice patch of clover by planting in bare spots or green spaces. Benefits include: provides lawn with nitrogen; attracts pollinators; attracts earthworms; remains green all year; resists drought; prevents lawn diseases; and inhibits weed growth.

Contact Phyllis Both by email at or by telephone on Monday mornings at the Sauk County University of Wisconsin-Extension office, 608-355-3253.

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