We’ve been subscribing to an organic lawn service for several years. I know that we should be applying fertilizer ourselves. We do a lot of things around here ourselves. I am more afraid of the schedule than the work, though. It just wouldn’t be done on time, which is really the point, right?
Thinking back to my grandparents’ yard, I don’t recall that they ever applied fertilizer. You might think that a young kid wasn’t likely to remember something like that, but I have a lot of memories of their home. I spent most of my young life there, while my mom and dad worked.
I remember my grandfather’s large garden. He grew everything from a pear tree to corn. He used overturned pickle jars to propagate hybrid roses. The garden yielded leaf lettuces, beets, beans, peas, tomatoes and cucumbers that my grandmother regularly weaved into family dinners for nine, all on a small four-burner gas stove. This couple had survived two world wars and the Great Depression. They raised a family of five on a foundry worker’s income. Then, they welcomed two grandchildren into their daily lives. They were nothing short of miraculous.
I spent many a summer afternoon lying on the grass in the backyard. Though, it wasn’t grass like we have today. It was predominately clover. White clover. It was there that the neighbor kids taught me to hunt for the elusive four-leaf clover. And how to manufacture fakes by splitting a leaf. Yeah, it only worked for a few seconds, but it was big fun back then.
So, what was with the clover? We don’t have it, and my parents didn’t have it. Neither do/did our neighbors.
The answer came in a pamphlet left by the organic lawn service. I read with interest “The Benefits of Adding Clover to Your Lawn.” Whaaat? Weren’t we trying to get rid of clover?
When you Google “clover in the lawn,” you will notice that there are more results for getting rid of clover than for adding clover. What gives? How can these competing stances be reconciled? If not reconciled, which sentiment will prevail?
With the rise of suburban subdivisions and new chemical technology in the 60’s and 70’s came the chemical control of lawn care. This was viewed back then as American science’s shining moment. We were watching moon landings and drinking Tang. Applying lawn fertilizer and weed killer biennially became a ritual; as did dusting the tomatoes and cucumbers with carbaryl.
Then came Rachel Carson and Silent Spring. She sounded the alarm that our liberal use of chemicals had a devastating environmental impact. For her trouble, she was labeled as a traitor and communist. Well, well, well … it looks as though politics, big business, and science have a long history of discord.
I’m getting dangerously close to becoming a political blogger here. So let’s get back to the main topic.
It seems that clover is an important part of natural lawn care. The roots of clover support a bacteria that has the ability to make nitrogen available to plants, including grass. It is nitrogen that “greens up” your lawn. I knew this about garden plants – that growing beans and peas had benefits for other garden plants. I just never thought about the lawn.
The possible downside? White clover flowers attract bees. I remember that from my childhood, too. Always watching out not to sit or step on a bee. Stings did happen.
The Old Farmer’s Almanac recommends mowing the clover lawn often if bee stings are a concern when the clover flowers are in bloom. That’s why my grandfather’s push mower was at-the-ready leaning against the garage wall.
Clover has a remarkable ability to tolerate drought and shade, both of which are challenges our yard. The flowers attract beneficial insects that prey on garden pests.
I am thinking that adding some clover to our lawn is a good idea. It’s rather ironic that the lawn service may lose our business by its own hand. Or, perhaps, the joke’s on me. I have to actually get out there and make it happen.
What are your thoughts on clover in the lawn?
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