Clover is a plant with many identities and can be one of the most challenging lawn weeds to control and remove from your garden. It spreads low and quickly and can be damaging to your garden, so in this blog post, we explore how you can kill clover and stop it from ruining your garden.
What is Clover?
Clover is also known as trefoil, which are common names for the plant genus Trifolium, which consists of more than 300 species of flowering plants in Fabaceae’s legume family. To most of us, clover is either a pesty weed that needs to be killed, a beautiful element of a home lawn or garden, a crop to be consumed or used in cooking, or even an important religious symbol of luck and good fortune.
Clovers can be found all over the world and are native to all continents, with Antarctica and Australia being the only exceptions. The majority of clovers, such as the common white clover, are perennial, meaning they will always come back, and in many cases, they come back stronger if they are not controlled and killed.
They have the nasty habit of being self-seeding, meaning they can appear pretty much anywhere in your garden, even if you have not seen them there before. They are notoriously difficult to control and spread quickly. Although many varietals appear, it is mainly the white clover that makes regular appearances in our gardens.
The low-growing white clover plant is native to Europe and Central Asia and arrived in the United States with early settlers before spreading across the country. Because several clovers such as the white plant can be a persistent nuisance in lawns, harboring an ability to survive close mowing and even resisting weedkillers, we will explore ways in which they can be killed.
The Life Cycle of Clover
Clover lies dormant in the winter months and only begins to grow when soil temperatures reach approximately 50 degrees Fahrenheit. The dreaded white clover flowers in early Spring and will spread aggressively throughout your garden all summer if it’s not controlled and managed. After flowering and spreading, the flowers turn to seeds and will germinate in Autumn.
Clover thrives in clay and silt soils that have a low nitrogen content but are high in phosphorous and potassium. Clovers can be identified by their iconic three leaves. In certain cultures, it is said that if you find a four-leaf clover, it is meant to be a lucky charm that you should keep. I’m not sure keen gardeners would agree with this sentiment, though!
The Benefits of Clover
Although this post is mainly about removing and killing clover, it’s important to acknowledge that the plant does have some benefits.
For the most part, clover stays green all summer and doesn’t need to be watered. Moreover, it requires little or no mowing, as white clovers grow between 2-8 inches tall, meaning it doesn’t grow unruly and doesn’t look unkempt. It looks at home on many lawns and brings color to lawns that perhaps become discolored at the height of the dry season.
We also know that many beneficial insects are attracted to clover, such as bees, which in turn help pollinate your garden. In fact, clover is one of the bees’ favorite flowers, and a garden lawn rich in clover certainly attracts its fair share of pollinators.
Clover doesn’t need herbicides or fertilizers to grow, and it also out-competes other weeds that can often be more harmful. It is resistant and grows well in poor soil and can be found even in the most poorly maintained lawns and gardens across the world. All of that being said, for the majority clover is seen as a nuisance that needs to be controlled, so we will now explore how this can be done.
The Natural Home of Clover?
Although clover, like other weeds, travels far and wide, we regularly see clover amongst the grass on lawns in our gardens. We’ve explored some of the benefits of clover, but it’s also true that clover and grass do not make good partners in general.
When together, clover and grass tend to form big clumps on a lawn that look like patches, which leads to an appearance that is less than aesthetically pleasing. Moreover, the vast majority of grasses require nitrogen fertilizers in order to thrive.
But if you add nitrogen to clover, it will cause it to struggle, and it will eventually die out. As we will see later, nitrogen-based fertilizers are actually widely used to remove nuisance clover from lawns.
General Tips for Preventing Clover
Possibly the easiest and the most environmentally friendly way to prevent clover from taking over your lawn is to fertilize regularly. As has just been mentioned, clover really struggles to thrive in nitrogen-rich soils, whereas grasses thrive in them. So by consistently adding nitrogen-rich fertilizers to your lawn, not only will you work towards preventing clover from growing, but you will also feed your grass, making it healthier in the long term.
However, when applying nitrogen-rich fertilizers, one thing to consider is which type of grasses are native to your lawn. It’s important not to exceed the maximum amount of nitrogen suggested to feed your lawn, as this can harm the long-term health and stability of your garden.
Another easy and environmentally friendly way of preventing clover from thriving on your lawn is to cut your grass long. Because clover is really small, not normally exceeding three inches in height, it can be easily shaded out by surrounding grasses. Mowing tall is an excellent way of hiding unsightly clover without splashing out on expensive herbicides.
Killing Clover: What methods are successful?
We can find many natural herbicides on the market when looking for a solution to nuisance cover, and many of these are effective. That being said, most of them are non-selective, meaning that when applied to a lawn, it will not only kill clover, it will kill not only clover but also many other weeds and any other desirable grasses that are in the vicinity.
Post-emergent, lawn safe herbicides are perhaps the most effective way to kill clover. The difference between these herbicides and many of the natural herbicides on the market is that post-emergent herbicides don’t kill your grass and are selective when killing weeds. This is a popular starting point for people who are attempting to remove clover from their gardens.
Many post-emergent brands of herbicide are available to purchase, but it’s crucial that you pick the right one. Two of the best and most popular brands are Ortho and Tenacity. Although these two brands are quite different, they are both relatively straightforward to use and produce great results.
If you are looking to prevent clover from becoming a problem instead of trying to remove it, then many pre-emergent herbicides will work. These effectively reduce clover’s spread and prevent it from germinating, but it’s important to note that they do not kill existing clover. The use of pre-emergent herbicides is also beneficial for your lawn health in other ways. They also prevent the spread of other weeds such as crabgrass and dandelions, which often ruin the aesthetics of people’s gardens alongside clover.
If you don’t wish to turn to herbicides to kill or prevent clover from spreading, then an excellent way to protect your lawn is to maintain a healthy lawn throughout the year generally. One way to achieve this is to identify bare spots as and when they arrive and treat the sites with a simple yet effective lawn care programme.
Can I Remove Clover Naturally?
While it is possible, removing clover naturally without the help of herbicides is an incredibly tricky process. This is mainly because the roots are well spread beneath the soil and because it is customarily intertwined with grass, making it extremely difficult to separate the two.
If you want to attempt to remove clover naturally, then it’s best to start early and incorporate it into your lawn maintenance process. Keeping an eye on your lawn and regularly checking for clover patches is essential, as the sooner you spot it, the easier it is to remove. When you notice a clover patch, you should remove them by gently loosening the soil around them and then plucking it upwards. It’s essential to get all of the roots.
Are There Any Other Ways I Can Kill Clover?
If you don’t want to use herbicides on your lawn, and you have tried to kill it without any luck naturally, then there are other ways that you can kill clover, and we will share some of them with you now.
Many DIY gardeners have had success with corn gluten when trying to kill clover. You can buy corn gluten at most garden centers, and it’s an excellent product for lawn health. Releasing organic dipeptides into the soil, corn gluten can target clover without negatively impacting nearby plants.
Sometimes home solutions can be effective at removing clover. For example, if you mix any type of vinegar with a small amount of soap, it can kill clover when applied generously. However, if you’re trying this method, you need to be careful of the plants surrounding the clover, as it can damage them.
Another alternative approach to removing clover that has been successful for some is depriving it of sunlight. Of course, this is a sure-fire way to kill all plants. If you cut a square from a bin bag and place it on top of the clover clump, it should die out.
Be mindful that you will need to tie the bag down to stop it from blowing away. You should also only attempt this if you can cover a large patch of clover because if you cover grasses and other plants, you will kill those around it at the same time.
Killing Clover: Timing is Crucial
If you’re going to be successful at killing clover, and other weeds for that matter, it’s vitally important that you kill them at the right time of the year. They need to be in a stage of active growth, which for clover, means daytime temperatures should be at least 60 degrees Fahrenheit.
Therefore, for most people, you should aim to remove the weeds in the Spring, when temperatures are not too hot or not too cold. If it’s too cold, the herbicide will not penetrate the soil; when too hot, the herbicide can damage many of the desirable grasses around the problem weeds.
In addition to timing, you mustn’t apply herbicides to wet lawns. Predominantly, this is because surface water will dilute the herbicide and render it less effective than it would be if it were at full strength.
One final thing to consider when applying herbicides is the length of the grass. It’s much better to apply herbicides to your lawn when it is longer, so if you’re planning to spray, don’t mow your lawn until after. This is because there is a larger surface area to target if the grass is longer.
Conclusion: How to Get Rid of Clover
As has been explored, there are many ways to kill clover and remove it from your lawn. Generally, suppose you want to maintain a beautiful, weed-free lawn. In that case, it’s good practice to look after it over an extended period and regularly apply nitrogen-rich fertilizers generously.
If clover becomes a particular problem for your lawn, you could use various herbicides or home-made remedies to treat your lawn and remove the nuisance weed. Just be sure to be careful when applying herbicides, as you don’t want to kill your healthy desired grass, at the same time as your pesty weeds.