Be in clover with new take on lawn care
SIXTY years ago, a pristine bluegrass lawn was not the norm.
Herbicides were only just being developed and homeowners were being encouraged to rid their gardens of socalled weeds (clover being one of these) with these heavily marketed chemicals.
In fact, the number of herbicide products used in Canada and the United States from 1950 to 1969 rose to 100 (according to F. L. Timmons in A History of Weed Control in the United States and Canada, 1970) and in 2005, the professional journal Weed Science cited 184 new chemicals had come onto the market to fight weeds since 1970. That’s a lot of weed killer.
Would you be surprised to hear that in the old days, the quantity of clover in grass was the mark of a healthy and well-maintained lawn? In truth, white clover contributes much to a lawn. Its roots capture nitrogen and make this important nutrient available to itself and nearby plants; clover remains fresh through the worst heat of the summer; it doesn’t need supplemental watering or fertilizing and it colonizes a large area quickly. Finally, its flowers provide nectar for bees.
The trick to establishing a clover lawn is to weave it through the grass rather than simply relying on it alone. Seeding clover into your existing lawn in early spring, either before the ground has completely thawed or soon afterward, is the best strategy to encourage strong early-season growth.
David Patriquin, a retired professor of biology at Dalhousie University in Halifax, writes that a strong clover/ grass lawn usually requires successive applications of seed for two or three years until the population of clover has become established.
He encourages the use of inoculants (you can buy this where you buy clover seed) where there is no pre-existing clover to kick-start its ability to convert nitrogen into a form usable by plants. He also suggests clover is best grown on a sunny or at least partially sunny location, or it may flag late in the season.
Patriquin’s informative website (www.versicolor.ca/lawns) was set up in 2004 as a tool for homeowners in Halifax when their cosmetic pesticide ban went into effect from 2000 to 2003. Originally conceived as a site that provided organic options for those still relying on chemicals to control chinch bug (a common lawn pest), it also contains detailed information to establish your own clover lawn.
If you’re looking for a carefree grass to combine with clover to make a virtually maintenance free lawn, try EcoLawn. This grass seed is a mix of seven varieties of fescue, which is a fine, shade-tolerant and relatively low-growing type of grass that appears droughtproof, as well as pest and disease resistant. It was developed in Coldwater, Ont., and a five-pound bag can be purchased at Home Hardware stores for about $35.
Should you embrace a mixed lawn of fescue and clover, you’ll have both time and money to enjoy doing absolutely nothing during your summer holiday.
— Canwest News Service
Retired biology professor David Patriquin suggests weaving clover through grass to get your low-mainten
ance option established.