Thirsty Gardener is moving to a new home and the lawn is kind of sparse and clumpy right now. There's a good irrigation system on a timer so I should just set it and forget it, grow it and mow it. But as I said 26 years ago when we moved here from Connecticut: I didn't come to the high desert to water the lawn.
Lately I've discovered a miraculous tiny plant, clover. Stories abound right now of people converting their yards to this sexy little ground cover and I was curious. Let me share with you what I've learned so far.
Clover is a legume. Right?! So it imparts nitrogen to the soil and fixes it there. No more lawn fertilizer. I can't begin to explain the scientific process by which this occurs but I believe the experts. Look it up.
A fast-growing and fairly thick ground cover, clover keeps the ground cooler in summer. This helpful quality also lowers moisture evaporation. Clover is drought tolerant, so it requires less water itself. It also puts down deep roots and, as we New Mexicans know, that increases the plant's longevity in our brutal heat.
You don't have to rip out an existing grass lawn to convert it to clover. Rake over any thatch and remove it to aerate the soil. Clover seeds can be mixed into sand or fine soil first to make it easier to sow them. Broadcast seed over the surface and water it in.
Cover doesn't get very tall and only needs manual push-mowing (no gas guzzlers for us) four times per year if you blend it with the grass that's already there. Eventually, it will choke out competing plants, including weeds - that's right, clover has a natural, built-in herbicide. Or, if your neighbors won't complain, sprinkle some wildflower seeds in there and just let it grow into a meadow.
The deep roots of clover keep the soil aerated and attract earthworms, The flowers attract pollinators like bees and butterflies. You're doing your plot and your neighborhood and the earth a whole bunch of good.
One caveat: Use red clover seeds or micro-clover or a mix. White clover is a more-than-mild cyanogenic and so is poisonous to dogs.
One iffy thing: Clover is not ideal for high foot-traffic areas, like around play areas and BBQ grills. However, its good looks make it superb for an ornamental yard.
One cool fact: Dog urine does not stain clover as it does lawns.
One funny fact: Companies that make herbicide call clover a "prolific weed" and sell products to remove it from your lawn.
I'm going to try this magical plant, see what it does for my front yard and keep you informed. In the meantime, write to me about your latest garden adventures at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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