Clover lawn?
May 14, 2019 10:46 AM   Subscribe

Is clover a good replacement for a grass lawn? Seeking advice, resources, and subjective opinions.

I'm hearing a lot about clover lawns, and am curious about all aspects:

- clover species to use or avoid
- clover seed suppliers
- clover lawn maintenance and mowing
- durability for playing kids
- durability for dog urine
- bee stings
- overall yes/no feelings.
- other alternatives

I live in Toronto, about 5 km north of Lake Ontario (US Zone 5).
My yard is mostly sunny and has clay-based soil.
Currently the yard is full of patchy grass and a bunch of hard-to-kill nuisance plants including dandelions, prickly canada thistle, and plantain.
I would prefer something low maintenance.
I like pollinators- and I like my toddler even more, so I would prefer to avoid bee stings.

Grateful for any advice!
posted by nouvelle-personne to Science & Nature (9 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
One downside is that while it's flowering, it attracts a million bees. We had to change our plans once my kids started refusing to set foot on it for fear of getting stung again.
posted by snickerdoodle at 11:13 AM on May 14, 2019 [4 favorites]

Doubling down on the so many bees! The kids got stung and refused to walk on the grass at all. It’s also a pain to dig up. We dug and then laid down newspapers, added more topsoil and are still getting clover after 5-7 years. I wouldn’t do it again (also Toronto - yard is still full of plantain and bindweed at the edges, now we just mow it all and call it a lawn)
posted by five_cents at 11:18 AM on May 14, 2019

Seconding concerns re bees. Although it's been 50+ years since my last sting, I never go barefoot in my yard.

This may be ecological heresy, but I've been wondering if creeping charlie might be a workable substitute. It's already taken over huge sections of my backyard, is almost pretty (at least for now), and doesn't appear to attract bees like clover.
posted by she's not there at 11:24 AM on May 14, 2019

We have had good results with microclover - a smaller, lower growing variety. Fills in the lawn nicely. The major downside is it loses it's leaves in winter. (Vancouver - you may not care if it's covered in snow)
posted by cfraenkel at 11:35 AM on May 14, 2019 [1 favorite]

Clover -- I think microclover -- was used in a net zero (so resource efficient) house on an episode of This Old House; I think it was this one. They visit a clover farm and talk about advantages, though probably held back on the cons a bit.
posted by supercres at 11:44 AM on May 14, 2019

Clover WILL attract bees and wasps - if you're really afraid of bites and stings then an alternative lawn might not be for you.. But, as an anecdote and assuming you and your toddler aren't allergic, I grew up on an acreage and I have been stung by at least a dozen bees and 30+ yellowjackets in my life, mostly as a kid, and I am not the least bit afraid of either anymore. (last year while biking a wasp flew into my mouth and bit me 4 times on my tongue and I didn't even panic or crash! I just bit him and spat him out!) which has been kind of a nice side effect of my childhood.

Clover isn't as durable as grass by a long shot, so you should probably look into a blend anyways if you're wanting foot/pet traffic on your yard! Also clover can look pretty raggedy in fall/winter/spring in canada, so a blend is good for that as well.

West coast seeds has developed several blends for the lawn, all of which are rated for your hardiness zone, most are a mix of fescue and clover as a base, sometimes with other flowering plants, sometimes not! I'd give them a browse! Clover isn't great for overseeding though, so you'll need to rip out your lawn to start.
posted by euphoria066 at 11:51 AM on May 14, 2019 [2 favorites]

Clover stays nice and lush and green in hot hot summers when you can’t keep grass alive. Also I found that the bee situation is kept under pretty good control by mowing frequently enough to keep flowers down.
posted by snowmentality at 12:58 PM on May 14, 2019 [1 favorite]

I’m trying eco grass (a now mow fescue mix) from seed this year in a regraded portion of my yard. It doesn’t flower so doesn’t necessarily benefit pollinators, but it supposedly doesn’t need watering after the first year, has deeper root structure for better stormwater absorption, and you can choose to mow it or not. I literally seeded it two days ago (Minnesota, zone 4), though, and can’t give any personal experience feedback. But there are some vendors online with photos of succcessful eco grass lawns in Canada.
posted by Maarika at 4:30 PM on May 14, 2019 [2 favorites]

I am in southwestern Ontario and have been over-seeding my grass and weed lawn with clover for a couple years. I get bags of white clover seeds from thelocal high-end garden centre. The clover grows a little slower then the grass in the spring so there are some bare-looking spots right now. I think my grass is generally healthier now because the clover is nitrogen fixer. My kids happily play on it all summer and the only really damaged spots are under the swings (understandably).
posted by wollaston at 8:20 AM on May 16, 2019

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