There are plenty of manual and natural ways to remove clover from your backyard. While herbicides get the job done quickly without harming your grass, they lower the quality of your soil and can be damaging to the environment.
Instead of reaching for the weed killer to kill clover, why not use a natural remedy? Read on to learn 6 ways to eliminate clover without sacrificing your yard or the environment.
- 6 eco-friendly ways to get rid of clover
- What is clover?
6 eco-friendly ways to get rid of clover
1. Pull it out
Only have a couple of small patches of clover popping up in your yard? The easiest and most natural way to get them out of your backyard is to simply rip them out.
- Use a spade to loosen the soil.
- Pull the clover out, making sure to dig out all of the roots.
If any roots remain, the clover problem will likely return. Manually removing your clover is an easy DIY and natural way to kill small patches of clover plants.
2. Make a vinegar mixture
Vinegar is not only a natural cleaning remedy, you can use it to help get rid of your clover. Using several applications over a couple of weeks, you can spray a vinegar-based mixture onto the clover to dry it out and kill it.
How to make the mixture:
- One cup of vinegar
- One cup of water
- One drop of dish soap
- Spray bottle
- Combine the vinegar, water, and dish soap in the spray bottle. Shake.
- Spray the patches of clover, being careful not to spray surrounding grass or plants.
- Spray regularly for a couple of weeks. Over time, the vinegar will dry out the clover leaves and kill the plant. The dish soap helps the mixture stick to the clover.
- Once the clover is gone, reseed with grass seed.
3. Adjust your mowing height
Clover plants can easily take over your yard if your grass is too low. The legume prefers growing in a lawn where the grass is cut lower than 3 inches. To prevent clover from popping up and spreading throughout your backyard, set your mower to 3 inches or higher.
You’ll deter clover and give your grass a fighting chance by cutting your grass at a higher setting. The taller grass blades will block out sunlight, slowing the clover’s growth.
4. Smother it
Like most plants, clover needs air and sunlight to survive. If there are large patches of clover taking over your yard, your best bet might be to get rid of it by smothering it.
- Locate the clover plants
- Cover with a plastic sheet or garbage bag
- Secure edges with heavy objects, such as bricks
- Wait a few weeks, then remove the plastic sheet
- Reseed with grass seeds
This is a natural, manual way to get rid of clover without putting in too much effort. Because you risk smothering some of your grass, this method is recommended for large patches of clover, not small or irregular patches.
5. Apply corn gluten
Corn gluten is a product of milling corn and is also an organic pre-emergent herbicide. While it won’t fully kill all of your existing clover patches, it will prevent them from reproducing and spreading across your yard by drying out the clover seeds.
Corn gluten prevents clover seeds from sprouting by releasing an organic dipeptide. For this reason, don’t use corn gluten if you recently spread grass seed. The corn gluten will prevent the grass seeds from sprouting, but otherwise will not harm your existing grass or affect its growth.
To get rid of clover seeds with corn gluten:
- Spread 20 lbs. of corn gluten meal per every 1,000 square feet of clover-infested lawn
- Water area where corn gluten was spread
- Let it dry and wait for results
Corn gluten can be found at your local garden center or ordered online.
6. Give your lawn an organic nitrogen boost
Clover thrives in nitrogen-poor soil. You can deter and even get rid of clover by applying an organic nitrogen-rich fertilizer to the patches in your yard. This will prevent it from growing and spreading.
Organic fertilizer options include:
- Cow manure
- Earthworm castings
- Bone meal
- Liquid kelp
- Blood meal
Organic fertilizer might take longer than fast-release fertilizer to kill the clover, but it is better for your soil and the environment. Various kinds of organic fertilizer can both be found at most home improvement and garden stores.
What is clover?
Clover originated in Europe and made its way to the U.S. in the late 1600s. It’s a herbaceous plant of the pea family and is classified as a legume. It’s distinguished by its three small rounded leaves and pink or white flowers.
Today, clover is typically grown for agricultural purposes — primarily to use as forage or hay for wildlife. You can even grow clover in food plots to attract turkey, deer, rabbits, and other wildlife.
Clover has a deep root system, which makes it hard to get rid of. However, this makes it beneficial to clover-based yards. The deep roots help the clover stay green year-round in northern climates.
There are more than 300 species of clover to choose from, but only a handful are commonly found in backyards. The most common types of clover you’d find in your yard are white clover, red clover, and strawberry clover.
Common types of clover
White clover (Trifolium repens)
White clover is the most common type of clover found in lawns. It is a low-growing, hardy clover species that grows quickly and spreads fast. White clover can be found with pink or white flowers.
Red clover (Trifolium pratense)
Red clover is similar to white clover but is often taller and bushier. Red clover florets range from rose to magenta.
Strawberry clover (Trifolium fragiferum)
Strawberry clover is extremely similar to white clover but has white or pink flowers that are smaller than the white clover florets.
Clover growth often signals a larger issue with your lawn’s health. If your lawn is lacking
nutrients or experiencing environmental stress, it’s inviting clover in to help handle the issue.
If clover is suddenly popping up all over your yard, make sure your lawn isn’t suffering from:
—Compacted soil: Compacted soil makes it difficult for air, water, and nutrients to reach your grass roots. However, clover can not only tolerate but can thrive in these depleted conditions. Aerate your lawn to loosen up the soil and give your grass a better chance.
—Poor Nitrogen levels: Grass needs nitrogen to survive, but clover can thrive in nitrogen-deficient soil. Try using organic fertilizer or cornmeal to boost the levels of nitrogen in your soil without sacrificing soil quality.
—Unbalanced soil pH: Most lawns prefer a soil pH between 6.0 and 7.0. Any pH level higher or lower than that will cause issues. Get your soil tested and make the necessary adjustments to give your grass a fighting chance.
Pro Tip: Thirsty, stressed-out grass invites broadleaf weeds into your backyard — make sure you’re watering your lawn properly.
It takes less than a week for clover to germinate, and it will sprout two to three days later.
While herbicides are fast-acting and can get the job done without harming your grass, they can leave long-standing detrimental effects on your backyard and the environment.
Herbicides pollute the air, water, and soil. Chemical herbicides can evaporate, and rain can carry herbicides into local waterways, harming the ecosystems that the chemicals are introduced to. They can stay in the environment for a long period of time, from several months to several years.
Herbicide exposure is dangerous for humans, as well. They can irritate your skin and airways, cause birth defects, and have been linked to cancer.
Clover isn’t always a problem. There are many benefits of keeping or even planting clover in your yard, including:
—Attracts pollinators such as bees and butterflies
Clover can give you a green lawn all year round, and for this reason, many homeowners use it as a grass alternative. Some even grow it as a cover crop or living mulch for their gardens. If you don’t mind the look of clover or the sound of bees buzzing around, consider keeping clover around or even planting more by mixing it in with your regular grass seed.
The chances that you’ll find a four-leaf clover are 1 in 10,000.
Need more than luck getting rid of your clover? Contact a local lawn care professional to help you get back to grass.
Main Photo Credit: Bellezza87 | Pixabay