Feeling lucky? Clover lawns offer eco-friendly, practical substitute to grass, group says

If you don't have a green thumb and you're tired of weeding grass, you might want to swap out your regular lawn for a clover one, a Manitoba environmental group suggests.

White Dutch clover needs less mowing, less watering and less fertilizer than regular grass

Clover's slow growth means lawns only have to be mowed every two weeks and watered about one-fifth as often as regular grass. (Vilena Krushinskaya/Shutterstock)

If you don't have a green thumb and you're tired of weeding grass, you might want to swap out your regular lawn for a clover one, a Manitoba environmental group suggests.

"A clover lawn is basically just a really environmentally friendly and practical substitute for the normal Kentucky bluegrass lawn, which is the normal grass you see everywhere," said Clark Northwood of the Manitoba Eco-Network. He's leading a workshop on Wednesday about how to create the lawns.

Clover, which grows more slowly than standard lawn grass, only needs to be mowed every two weeks — compared to once a week for regular grass — and requires about one-fifth as much watering, Northwood said.

The plant is also considered a nitrogen-fixer, Northwood said, meaning it produces its own nitrogen and doesn't need to be fertilized.

"In that sense it not only makes itself healthier, but all the other plants in the vicinity healthier, too," he said.

The lawns are also a boon for bees, which like the blossoms that will show up if you allow your clover to grow past 4½ inches or so, Northwood said. Give bees an acre of clover and they'll create nearly 17 gallons of honey in a year, he said.

"If every yard had blooms that bees can get to, it would definitely be a really good food source for them, considering their recent decline in population," he said.

'Simple to do'

So far, Northwood said feedback has been all positive.

"People are just, like, amazed, like, 'Why haven't I done this before? How can I get started immediately?'" he said. 
"Because, like, there's no drawbacks. It's all environmentally friendly and it's easier for people to manage. It's just all good."

Tempted to create your own?

"It's actually, like I said, simple to do," Northwood said.

A 500 gram bag of white Dutch clover seed — the standard variety used for clover lawns — costs about $15 and covers roughly 1,000 square feet of ground. The seed is available at most hardware stores and garden centres, Northwood said, but isn't as common as standard grass seed.

Before planting, you'll have to prep your existing lawn for its transformation.

"What you have to do is get your lawn mower, put it on the lowest setting so it'll cut the lowest. You just go over your grass till it's almost in the dirt," Northwood said.

"You get clover seeds … and you mix that like in a one to 10 ratio of clover to topsoil, and then you can just mix that up and you can either just seed it by hand or you can put it in a spreader."

After spreading the mix thinly across the lawn, water it for seven to 10 days, Northwood said. Give it time to germinate and let it grow about four or five inches initially before cutting to whatever length you like.

While it's getting settled, dig out any weeds you don't want. The clover will slowly take over your lawn, and once it's established, it should keep weeds like dandelions from proliferating.

You can check out the Manitoba Eco-Network's free workshop on clover lawns on Wednesday from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. at Spirit Park, 200 Young St.