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Into the Garden: Fields of clover -- in my yard?

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Every year, I resolve to redo the grassy areas in my yard.

I don't want to be a slave to the mower -- it takes a lot of time, uses a lot of gas and is just downright noisy.

I don't want to use chemicals -- to help it grow, or to stop weeds, or for whatever other reason; it's time-consuming, expensive and not eco-friendly.

I don't want to allow the area to go totally natural -- the space is too big; we love lawn games like badminton, bocce and cornhole; and I have to admit I like the look of a lawn.

But it's now a mess of weeds and bare spots and ruts and holes. It's in the sun and the shade and everything in-between. It's out in the open in full sun and it's under big ol' oak trees in full shade. What's a lawn-lover to do?

I received this email from Nature's Finest Seed CEO Rob Wendell.

"Prior to the 1950s, clover was a part of most grass seed mixes for lawns. Clover's ability to reseed itself and stay green was considered an advantage in the pursuit of a beautiful, green lawn. Over the years lawn seed mixes have generally dropped the clover and gone with all grasses, but this is not necessarily a good idea. Clover lawns are making a comeback due to clover's drought-tolerant and low-maintenance qualities.

"Clover used to be added in grass seed mixtures because it held so many nitrogen nutrients that helped lawn grow lush and full. In fact, every time you mow your lawn you are adding the clover clippings back into the ground and spurring incredible growth."

Wow. A weed that I should embrace? Gotta love this one. Wendell goes on to say that the white clover flowers are loved by bees, so you have to keep that in mind if you like to go barefoot in the grass. But more bees on your lawn mean that there will be an increase in cross-pollination of flowers, which is beneficial to your garden.

One of the overlooked benefits of a clover-filled lawn is that the clover actually crowds out a lot of the other weeds that are more harmful to your lawn. Clover takes up the space that various molds and mildews might otherwise occupy.

I am going to look into a grass mix with clover in it. I'm a product of one of those '50s neighborhoods and, now that I think of it, we did have a lot of pretty clover in our yard. It looked nice, smelled wonderful, and it didn't seem like my dad was a slave to the lawn mower.

Any thoughts from the lawn-lovers?

Steps to a new lawn

Here are the steps I'll take to renew my lawn when it's time. First, I'll mow it fairly short (3/4 inch) and remove as many weeds as possible. This will take an army, but I'm determined.

We will need to rent a dethatcher, a handy gadget that attaches to the back of the riding mower or ATV. It pulls up the tangle of dead grass that is at the roots of the grass. It's a good idea to run the dethatcher over the lawn twice, in opposite directions.

Next, we'll need to rent an aerator. This will give the roots air and make it easier for the soil to accept water and nutrients.

Next step is to overseed. More is not necessarily better -- typically, you can use half the recommended amount, going a bit heavier on really bad spots. Add fertilizer (slow-release organic is the best) and a thin layer of compost.

Here's the hard part for me: Keep the yard watered until rains start. We have a pretty good-sized area, and I hate to use that much water! I'll have to time this right to catch the rainy spring season just right so Mother Nature can help.

Reach Sara Busse at sara.busse@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1249.


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