6 reasons you shouldn't kill your clover (© Paul Lampard / iStock)

Once upon a time, before the advent of synthetic weedkillers for the lawn in the late 1940s, most American lawns contained white clover. Because no weed-control formula could be developed that left grass and clover but killed everything else, clover was lumped in with the weeds in subsequent marketing campaigns.

A scientist who helped develop 2,4-D, the most common synthetic herbicide, to the turfgrass industry was publicly apologetic because the new product had the unfortunate side effect of eliminating clover. “The thought of white Dutch clover as a lawn weed will come as a distinct shock to old-time gardeners,” Dr. R. Milton Carleton wrote in his 1957 book, “A New Way to Kill Weeds.” “I can remember the day when lawn mixtures were judged for quality by the percentage of clover seed they contained. The higher this figure, the better the mixture.”

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Today’s newfound emphasis on natural lawn care has folks taking a second look at clover as a primary lawn plant. Clover’s benefits include:

  1. It’s low-growing and needs little mowing.
  2. It’s evergreen even in the coldest climates.
  3. It’s drought tolerant, requiring little if any supplemental water once established.
  4. It’s a fertilizer factory for grass and other plants because it can store atmospheric nitrogen in its root systems.
  5. It masks the presence of other weeds in the lawn.
  6. It resists insects and diseases, especially the white grubs that can be a major lawn nemesis.

Paul Tukey is the founder of Safelawns.org.

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