When we moved into our Zeeland Township property last year, our lawn was in need of a little restoration. To be honest, some spots were in need of a lot. The thing with going organic in your yard, there are no quick fixes; it's always a process. But without chemicals lurking beneath your feet, it's always worth it.
One of the things we did was to overseed a few areas last fall that were largely bare and rapidly taken over by big, nasty, hairy, thorny, weedy plants. We spent a better part of the summer pulling those things, and then in late August we threw a seed blend down in order to begin the restoration of that part of our lawn.
And now this spring, this section of the yard is thick, lush, deep green and healthy. Those nasty plants that were sprouting up in the bare spots last year? Gone. Now we've got a nice healthy blend of grasses...plus a hefty dose of clover. And you know what? We put put those little clovers there on purpose. Yep, our seed blend was about a third Dutch white clover seed. And no, we're not crazy. Clover is an amazing ground cover! Plus, it pulls nitrogen out of the air and deposits it into your soil-- it fertilizes itself and the rest of your turf!
Honestly, a weed is only a plant you don't want. And clover is only unwanted because the chemical industry has told us we should get rid of it. But this little ground cover should be a welcome addition to any healthy, beautiful lawn.
Rodale's Organic Life magazine published a story last year which talks about both the aesthetic and scientific benefits of clover in your lawn. Here's an excerpt:
The secret to having a great lawn without using harsh chemicals? It's Dutch clover. For the past 50 years, clover has been considered a noxious lawn weed, but before that it was an important component in fine lawns—and for good reason. Clover is drought-tolerant, virtually immune to diseases, and distasteful to common turf insects. And it generates its own food by fixing nitrogen in the soil.
So how did this lawn superstar get such a bad rap? Blame the broadleaf herbicides introduced after World War II. Used to kill weeds such as dandelions and plantains, the chemicals also destroyed the clover that was used in many lawn mixes of the time (leaving ugly bare patches in their wake). Today, virtually all seed companies omit clover from their mixes.
But that doesn't mean that you can't enjoy the advantages of this great green. Eliminating herbicides from your lawn regime is incredibly easy. And once you do it, most clover you introduce into your back yard will thrive. Here's where to start:
Kick The Fertilizer Habit
If your lawn is already in decent shape—no big bare patches, less than 20 percent weeds—you can make it organic without adding any new clover or grasses. Conversion is not so much what you do as what you stop doing. In other words, throw out your [chemical] fertilizer...
Add Clover + Other Grasses
If you're lucky, you already have some clover in your lawn. If not, it's easy to add it by overseeding, or planting on top of what's already there. In spring or autumn, rough up the surface of the lawn with a metal garden rake. Mix the clover seed with sand or finely screened compost to ensure even distribution. Sow two ounces of clover seed per 1,000 square feet for a moderate clover cover, or up to eight ounces if you want the clover to dominate the turf. After sowing, water your lawn deeply and keep the soil surface moist until the clover germinates. The result will be a soft, cushy, deep-green lawn that stays lush through spring, summer, and fall.
If you live in west Michigan and you'd like to kick chemical habit with your lawn, get in touch with Good Sweet Earth's turf guy, Steve Veldheer at Steve@GoodSweetEarth.com. We can fertilize your lawn without one drop of chemicals-- check out our lawn fertilization service.
Let's get the chemical industry out of our yards and go back to doing it the way nature intended!
Steve & Corey Veldheer are organic yard & garden specialists in west Michigan.