Our honey bees have always given us good tasting wildflower honey, but this season I wanted to increase, if possible, the clover content in our honey harvest.
I decided to plant a lawn of White clover (Trifolium repens).
Reading online, I learned most landscape experts say this is a doubtful enterprise. Clover, they say, is best as a contributing species in a lawn mix. There is little encouragement for planting clover on its own. Still, I was determined to establish a clover lawn as an alternative to conventional grass turf. These grass mixes often contain a high percentage of Kentucky blue grass which demands lots of mowing (ugh) and water (oh-oh). Living on a well, running a lawn sprinkler is not an option for us. Good news? Clover is highly drought-tolerant.
This little plant has other fine qualities. It will grow even in poor soils and shade, and is a top choice for “living mulch”, according to Sustainable Agriculture, Research and Education (SARE). Clover nourishes itself by fixing nitrogen in the soil. This all-important nutrient is, in turn, available to nearby plants. With tough stems and a shallow, dense root mass, clover protects soil from erosion and suppresses weeds.
White clover – also called Dutch White, New Zealand White, Ladino – is lower growing than other clover types and it does well when mowed. Best of all, it thrives in cool, moist conditions (like the growing conditions we've had this summer).
I actually began this 'project' in 2011. After preparing the lawn with a layer of new topsoil, I seeded with white clover in late summer. Going into the fall, I got partial germination; come spring 2012, the clover continued to germinate and grow – albeit in patches – over the summer.
August was exactly the time I expected to mow the clover. It has survived its first trim; the lush cuttings have made a nice contribution to the compost. And imagine only mowing once or twice a year! In coming years I expect I will need to reseed the lawn because clover does have a more patchy growth habit than other lawn species. Fortunately, white clover is readily available at farm or garden supply centres. Sweet!
Photo credit: All photos 'There Blooms a Garden'
Did you know? ...
The cooler times of year – spring and fall – are the best times to seed clover. Red clover (Trifolium pratense), white clover (T. repens), and alsike clover (T. hybridum) are the major species grown in Ontario.