How to Get Rid of Clover Without Killing Your Grass

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close-up of bright purple clover

Is clover taking over your backyard? While there are plenty of benefits of having clover in your yard, it can be frustrating for homeowners who are striving for an even, grassy lawn. 

Clover can be challenging to get rid of, but you shouldn’t have to destroy your lawn to win the war on clover. There are 7 ways to get your clover problem under control without risking the health of your beautiful green grass. 

How to get rid of clover

1. Rip it out

If your yard has a few small patches of clover, your best bet might be to simply pull it out of the ground manually. Grab a spade and use it to loosen the soil. Then, pull the clover out, making sure to remove all of the roots. The clover will quickly return if any roots remain. This is an easy DIY and natural way to kill clover without killing your grass.

2. Vinegar mixture

For a natural remedy, make a vinegar-based mixture to kill off the clover. This method can take a couple of weeks of frequent spraying but is a more environmentally friendly option compared to chemical-based sprays or broadleaf weed herbicides. 

How to make the mixture:

Ingredients

  • One cup of vinegar
  • One cup of water
  • One drop of dish soap
  • Spray bottle

Directions

  • Combine the vinegar, water, and dish soap in the spray bottle. Shake. 
  • Locate the clover and spray the patches, being careful not to spray the surrounding grass.
  • Spray regularly for a couple of weeks. In time, the vinegar will dry out the clover leaves and kill the plant. The dish soap helps the mixture stick to the clover.
  • Wait a couple of weeks and reseed with grass seed.

3. Nitrogen boost

Clover thrives in soil with low levels of nitrogen. A simple strategy to get rid of it would be to apply a nitrogen-rich fertilizer to the clover patches. This will deter it from growing and spreading. 

A quick and affordable option is to use a fast-release fertilizer, which is especially recommended if you have a lot of clover to get rid of. Or, you can use an organic fertilizer such as:

  • Cow manure
  • Bone meal
  • Liquid kelp
  • Blood meal
  • Guano
  • Earthworm castings

Organic fertilizer is better for the environment but is slower to kill the clover. Fast-release fertilizer will decrease soil quality over time. You don’t need to cover your entire yard, you could just apply it to the problem clover areas. Fast-release fertilizer and organic fertilizer can both be found at most garden and home-improvement stores. 

4. Say A.D.I.O.S. with an herbicide

If you really don’t want to risk damaging any of the grass surrounding the clover patches, it might be a good idea to use an herbicide. A.D.I.O.S. (Advanced Development In Organic Solutions) is an organic herbicide that gets rid of clover and provides weed control without the risk of damaging any surrounding grass growth. 

A.D.I.O.S. is non-toxic and safe to use even if you have pets and children who play in the yard. It’s also safe to use on properties near livestock farms and bodies of water. This organic weed killer also works to get rid of dandelion, yellow mustard, ground ivy, and other pesky weeds. It also might help you fight back against or even kill weeds such as ragweed, poison ivy, buckthorn, and similar invasive weeds.

A.D.I.O.S. can be ordered online or bought in-person at your local garden center or home-improvement store.

5. Adjust your mowing height

Clover prefers to grow in areas where the grass is less than 3 inches high. Set your mower to 3 inches or higher and let your grass grow out a bit to deter clover from growing and spreading. If you mow it at a higher setting, your grass will have a better chance of outcompeting the clover.

6. Corn gluten

Corn gluten can prevent clover from growing and spreading. It releases organic peptides, which deter clover seeds from sprouting. Don’t apply this if you recently seeded your grass, because it will prevent the grass seeds from sprouting as well. It won’t harm any living grass or affect grass growth. 

To get rid of clover with corn gluten, spread 20 pounds of corn gluten meal for every 1,000 square feet of clover-infested lawn. Water after applying, and allow to dry. 

Corn gluten can be ordered online or bought at any nearby garden centers. 

7. Smother it

Clover can’t survive without air and sunlight. If you have large patches of clover, you can get rid of it manually by smothering it. Locate the clover and place a garbage bag or plastic sheet over the patch, making sure to cover all of the clover plants and not too much of the surrounding grass. Use bricks or large rocks to keep the edges of the covering secured to the ground. In a few weeks, remove the plastic sheeting and reseed the area with grass seeds. 

This is not recommended for small or irregular patches of clover, because you will risk killing the healthy grass surrounding the clover.

What is clover?

Clover is a member of the pea family and is classified as a legume. It originated in Europe and it made its way to the U.S. in the late 1600s. Today, clover can be grown to use as forage or hay for wildlife or in food plots to attract turkey, deer, rabbits, and other wildlife. There are more than 300 species to choose from.

Clover has a deep root system, which makes it hard to get rid of. It is ideal as a grass alternative in clover-based yards because the deep roots help the clover stay green year-round in northern climates. Clover often has three leaves and can have pink or white flowers. 

FAQ

1. How do I identify clover?

The three most common types of clover you’d find in your yard are white clover, red clover, and strawberry clover.

White clover (Trifolium repens): White clover is a low-growing, hardy clover species, and is the most common type of clover found in lawns. White clover grows quickly and spreads fast. Its florets range in color from white to pink.
Red clover (Trifolium pratense): Red clover is taller and bushier than white clover. Its florets range from rose to magenta.
Strawberry clover (Trifolium fragiferum): Strawberry clover is similar to white clover but has white or pink flowers that are smaller than the white clover florets. 

2. Why is clover taking over my backyard?

Clover growth could be a sign that your lawn needs some extra TLC. 

Make sure you’re watering your lawn properly. Thirsty grass invites broadleaf weeds and stresses out your lawn. 

If you are suddenly having problems with clover plants growing in your yard, check to see if your lawn is suffering from one of the following:
Low nitrogen levels: Clover thrives in nitrogen-poor soil, while grass needs nitrogen-rich soil to survive. Use cornmeal or organic fertilizer to help boost nitrogen levels without sacrificing the quality of your soil. 
Compacted soil: Similarly, compacted soil does not make for ideal grass-growing conditions, but clover can tolerate the lack of nutrients. If you think your soil is compacted, you can loosen it by aerating.
Unbalanced soil pH: Most lawns prefer a soil pH between 6.0 and 7.0. Red clover can grow in soil with a pH higher than 7, and strawberry clover can grow in a range of pH levels, from 5.3 – 8.2. Get your soil tested and make the necessary adjustments to give your grass a fighting chance.

3. Should you get rid of clover?

Clover isn’t always a problem. There are many benefits of keeping or even planting clover in your yard. Clover helps reduce erosion, fixes nitrogen levels in the soil, is low-maintenance, helps the environment, attracts pollinators, and more. With clover, you can have a green lawn year-round. If you don’t mind having more bees buzzing around, it might be worth keeping the clover and mixing it in with your regular grass seed. 

Need a hand saying A.D.I.O.S. to your clover? Contact a local lawn care professional to help you get back to your luscious green lawn.

Main Photo Credit: Couleur | Pixabay

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