Monday, May 24, 2010

Clover Lawn

It figures: just when I'm all excited about mowing the lawn, the clover blooms. It's time to give the clover a vacation from mowing so that it can reseed itself some more.

It isn't necessary to do this, but the clover is still growing in clumps, and some re-seeding should help with that. Plus. . . I like the flowers. And so do the insects. I remember being sad as a child when my parents mowed down the clover blossoms.

This, by the way, is white Dutch clover, Trifolium repens. It isn't native. It is quite possibly invasive, but (and I can't believe I'm saying this) it's already here, just about everywhere, right along with out invasive lawn grasses. It adds nitrogen to the soil, the pollinators love it, and it grows in our barren desert lawnscape without any watering whatsoever.

In the absence of a native plant that makes a decent mowed lawn, I went with a childhood favorite.

One thing I've noticed is that I haven't found a single four-leaf clover in the lawn yet, and I can find a four-leaf clover in a haystack. This makes me wonder if four-leaf clovers are induced by nasty chemicals in the soil. The creepiest clover patch I ever found was in downtown Providence, RI, which has a rich history of such chemical-spewing industries as costume-jewelry-making and cloth-dying. Five petals, six petals, seven petals. . . I stopped counting on the last one and just left. That poor plant gave me a serious case of the willies.

This may possibly be the only organic lawn I've ever hunted four-leafers on.


Diana/ Garden on the Edge said...

You're partially right. Four "leaves" on a clover are more likely to occur in poor growing conditions, including high exposure to chemicals.

Four (or more) leaves occurs as a result of a genetic mutation. (I'm working hard to explain this simply and briefly). The chemicals or poor soil don't cause the mutation but it does reduce competition for resources. The "normal" three leaf clover is able to outcompete any mutated plants. The four leaf mutation is not as healthy and vigorous a grower as the three leaf form.

So the complete lack of four leaf clover is a sign that your soil and growing conditions are healthy! If you ever DO find a four leaf clover you might want to transplant that particular plant to an area with less competition and hope it propagates.

All that being said I remember a patch in a neighbor's yard when I was a child that would reliably produce multiple leaves - four, five, seven - and that was in a rural area where (and when) the idea of a "perfect" chemlawn hadn't caught on.

If you didn't understand my explanation email me at DEQDAVIS at gmail.

Michelle said...

Thank you Diana! That makes perfect sense. I had heard elsewhere that four-leavers were mutations, and I was wondering how that fit with my observations. Thank you! I'll be on the lookout for mutated clovers now. . .

Pam J. said...

Today I curled up in a corner in the fetal position while my husband cheerfully mowed the front and back lawns, both of which are about 50% Dutch white clover. It was so painful...I told him he was destroying my bees' food. I've grown to hate the lawnmower and especially that damn weed whacker he likes to use. Some men never get over the love of loud machines. It's way too late in our marriage to try and change him. Hence, my fetal position (and a lot of pouting all afternoon).