Have you converted to a clover lawn?
January 26, 2013 9:20 AM   Subscribe

We're starting a new backyard from scratch in the spring (new home with only dirt). We want a backyard that is compatible with our dog, and a toddler.

The yard isn't large, about 1200sqft, and we're in hardiness zone 4a. We're planning on having trees around the outside for privacy, but we're not sure what to do with the rest of the yard. In our last house, our dog destroyed the grass, so we would like to avoid that happening again.

Is a clover lawn the best option? We've considered artificial turf, but it's not cheap. Are there any other low maintenance options? Do you have any examples or pictures that would help us?

I've seen this question, but am looking for more information.
posted by blue_beetle to Home & Garden (8 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
FWIW, we are in southern Ontario and I love our Wild Thyme lawn. It was expensive (about $400 in seeds for maybe 2K sqft) and it took 2 years to really get going but it is low maintenance and absolutely lovely to walk on. Smells fantastic.
posted by njk at 9:58 AM on January 26, 2013

I live in the willamette valley in oregon, pretty much the ideal grass growing region in the country. The biggest farms around here all grow grass seed. Just to let you know my enviroment that no doubt impacts my advice.

I have the best luck with a mixed lawn, grass and clover. Some years the grass does a little better, some years the clover. I do have to mow it (both plants but mostly the grass grows taller faster) but it doesn't require much fertilizer, about 1 bag every 2 years or so seems to keep it green and lush and I might be overdoing even that low level. I leave the clippings on the lawn and cut it tall, i leave the mower at the highest settings. It doesn't require much water at all, and I don't mind it turning a little brown during our warm, dry summers here. My biggest problem is the occasional dandelion outbreak with which i use a sparse amount of chemicals and mostly just mow more frequently to prevent them going to seed and the peter out eventually.
posted by bartonlong at 12:00 PM on January 26, 2013

Over at Garden Rant, they've written a lot about alternatives for the usual turf lawn.
posted by mon-ma-tron at 12:07 PM on January 26, 2013

We have a grass-clover mixed lawn, it is very hardy and holds up well to extensive toddler usage (zone 5). It requires basically no maintenance but mowing ... the clover shades the grass roots so the grass doesn't dry out as much in drought (we don't water ever), and the clover helps add nitrogen to the soil so we don't fertilize ever, and our lawn is beautifully green. I can't tell you how it would hold up to a dog but we've had ours for 8 years now and it's a very low-maintenance, easy, hardy solution for us.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 12:27 PM on January 26, 2013

I planted one side of my yard with clover. It worked, and it was quite lovely and low maintenance, but there were 2 problems that would make it less than ideal with kids around:

1. When it's in bloom, it attracts a lot of bees. Kids playing among lots of bees, and walking barefoot on them, could invite regular calamities small and large. Be prepared to deal with bee stings, or at least with kids freaking out about BEES.

2. Moles really do love clover. They know how to find it and they'll move in and take over. That area of my yard became quite treacherous to walk on, with all the underground tunnels. Sprained ankles to go with the beestings! The dog would no doubt find the tunnels very exciting, and would probably do lots of digging trying to find the critters.

Clover is very nice for areas that you want to just look at, but it's less great for regular use by kids. I'd investigate wild herbs like thyme or oregano, or wild strawberry. Anything that blooms will probably create some bee issues, though. Damn old grass does have its good points.
posted by Corvid at 1:09 PM on January 26, 2013

I live in GA, zone 8b. My lawn is centipede grass with all kinds of weeds. All I do is mow every couple weeks. Never had any problems with bees in the lawn except where there are patches of clover that can bloom since they're in the shade. This article is worth reading. The author lives in Montana.
posted by gray17 at 3:55 PM on January 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

We have a mixed grass and short clover lawn. We did it to encourage the grass without using fertilizers. We had a lot of kids playing on the grass and it held up even though our soil condition is poor and compacted in areas. Corvid is right - it does attract bees. We actually had a honey bee nest the first couple of years after we seeded the clover. Kids did get stung but the bees were usually out in early morning and early evening in our area. Mid-day not that much. We didn't get moles but we did get rabbits which drove our dogs crazy. Also I think the deer like it. OTH we never had that much green before in our yard. It has held up well although every year I go to the local seed store and buy some more. I throw handfuls out here and there. It does need to be cut and that usually cuts down the blooms that the bees like. We cut about every other week - the grass is usually more the reason.
posted by lasamana at 5:49 PM on January 26, 2013

We have a clover lawn, in most spots, and there is a clear difference between where the grass has clover and where it does not. The clover areas are greener, hardier, and seemingly more tolerant of tough conditions like drought. We also use all natural fertilizer applied heavily in the fall and lightly in the spring, with no additional feedings. We are in NJ, but I don't think your experience would differ much. The clover has survived some deep freezes below 0 F. It is visible, so if you want the fairway perfection type lawn I would just go with heavy chemicals, but although visible it is unobtrusive and the lawn remains attractive with even fairly heavy clover. Our bigger issue is with other weeds and the few times I have resorted to chemicals to fight them I have had to reseed some areas with clover. The one caveat is that clover seems to stain clothing more permanently than grass.
posted by caddis at 5:14 AM on January 27, 2013

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