Today’s pics are of a clover-laden lawn, left to grow, and what a reward. The lawn was buzzing with bees within a couple of days of the clover appearing. We did mow after a couple of weeks but the clover reappeared the next day as it is resistant to cutting and trampling, and bees were soon back on it, doing their thing. I couldn’t capture the sound but each bee was buzzing away and this was just my little square of nature – did you know 97% of meadow has been lost since the 1930’s so surely our gardens can help capture a tiny bit of that back? The eco-system needs all the help we can give it, especially as our gardens – no matter how small – can provide more natural environments than the UK national parks can?
It fixes nitrogen in the soil, and can be seen as an effective weed-suppressor in lawns (assuming it is appreciated in its own right for bee forage) , and is considered to be a beneficial component of natural or organic lawn care due to its ability to fix nitrogen and out-compete lawn weeds. In grass-clover farmland swards, infrequent cutting (3 times per year or less) leads to domination by the grass, and is ideal for grazing animals. Frequent cutting (6 times per year or more) such as for lawns allows the white clover to dominate.
Also known as Milky Blobs and Bee Bread, the leaves are a staple food for wood mice and the flowers are abundant in pollen for butterflies and bees and clover helps the soil; it really isn’t a weed (What is a weed anyway? They’re natural wildflowers people don’t want, usually). The word ‘weed’ is a big no-no in my house!
Today many gardeners, especially organic gardeners, believe that clover deserves to be reconsidered. There’s a saying that a weed is just a plant growing where you don’t want it. Why would someone want clover to grow?
- to attract pollinators. Bees love clover’s white or purple flowers, as do a particular species of wasp, which do not sting but do eat aphids.
- to “fix” nitrogen. Clover is an example of a nitrogen -fixing plant, or one that pulls nitrogen from the air and stores it in its roots. As the roots die and decay, the nitrogen enters the soil, where it can be used by other plants.
- to create a low-maintenance lawn or groundcover. Clover does not need to babied with pesticides, fertilizers or supplemental watering the way typical grass lawns do. It also requires infrequent mowing, though mowing to remove spent flowers keeps it looking most attractive. If you worry about bee stings, you may also want to mow to reduce blossoms.
- to eliminate the need for lawn herbicides. Clover does not need herbicides used on grass lawns. It can outcompete typical lawn weeds. Keep in mind that herbicides formulated for lawns would kill the clover itself.
Let. It. Grow.
Pics not best quality but to be fair, the bees were moving. A lot! (©Emma Powell).