Clover and Microclover Lawns – what’s the big deal?
There was a time when most lawn seed mixtures had at least a small percentage of Common White Clover. (Or “Dutch Clover” as it was called in the past.) However, the Common White Clover lawn dwindled out of fashion and is making a comeback!
Today, Microclover is new on the scene and also gaining popularity. So why are Clover lawns back in fashion? And how is Microclover different from Common White Clover?
In this post, we’ll discuss the following points:
- What is Common White Clover?
- What is Microclover?
- How is Microclover Different from Common White Clover?
- How to Grow
If Clover lawns aren’t your thing, why not check out our wildflower garden post here?
1. What is Common White Clover?
Common White Clover is a hardy flowering perennial legume. It’s a bit of an MVP when it comes to lawns because of its many strengths:
It thrives under wear and tear. It tolerates both full sun and semi-shade. It grows well in poor soil and drought. Like a conventional lawn, it thrives under regular mowing and remains soft, green, and walkable. Unlike a conventional lawn, it is not bothered by grubs. Clover flowers help to support pollinator health and other local wildlife. Clover fixes its own nitrogen (no fertilizer needed!) and looks pretty to boot! It is low in price, quick to establish, and overwinters well. We’ve even heard some feedback from dog owners who swear Common White Clover resists dog urine better than anything else they’ve tried!
In addition to its popularity in lawns, Common White Clover is used as a cover crop in farming and a forage for animal grazing.
2. What is Microclover?
Microclover was originally developed as a way to boost hardiness in sportsfield turf mixtures when added at a rate of 5% of the total mix. However, due to some of its other characteristics, homeowners have begun experimenting with Microclover at higher seeding rates in lawns, sometimes even as a monocrop!
In many ways, Microclover is very much like Common White Clover. That’s because Microclover is actually Common White Clover that has been selectively bred to express a dwarf growth habit when regularly mown. Hence the name: micro-clover!
So just like Common White Clover, Microclover shares the following traits: It thrives under wear and tear. It grows well in poor soil and drought. Like a conventional lawn, it tolerates regular mowing and remains soft, green, and walkable. Unlike a conventional lawn, it is not bothered by grubs. Microclover flowers help to support pollinator health and other local wildlife. It fixes its own nitrogen (no fertilizer needed!) and looks pretty to boot!
3. How is Microclover Different from Common White Clover?
Difference #1: When regularly mown, Microclover is smaller, shorter, and more compact than Common White Clover. Over time, this might mean less frequent mowing is required to maintain a manicured lawn appearance. It is important to note that some amount of regular mowing will always be required to keep Microclover trained in its dwarf growth habit. Otherwise, it will become more like Common White Clover, both in appearance and behaviour as the years go by.
Difference #2: Microclover is known as a “shy bloomer” and will flower less often than Common White Clover. This is an aesthetic preference for some who wish to enjoy the benefits of Clover without losing the appearance of a more conventionally manicured lawn. However, it is important to understand that “shy bloomer” does not mean “non-bloomer.” There will be flowers. This shy blooming trait also means that overseeding for the first 1-3 years may be required, as self-seeding is greatly reduced and establishment is generally slower than Common White Clover.
Difference #3: Based on feedback we’ve received so far, Microclover does not seem to tolerate semi-shade or sloped conditions as well as Common White Clover. When attempting to establish Microclover on a slope, we recommend avoiding slopes with northern exposure.
Difference #4: The final notable difference from Common White Clover is the price. Like most selectively bred, specialized seed, Microclover is higher in price.
* Bonus Point: We haven’t had enough feedback yet to say whether Microclover resists dog urine as well as Common White Clover. If you have any experience with this, please share in the comments below!
4. How to Grow Common White Clover and Microclover
Good seed-to-soil contact is required for any successful seeding. Begin with a finely prepared seedbed that is as free of weeds & debris as possible and firm with a stiff rake or roller. From mid-April to mid-June, scatter the seed on the surface and gently rake. Warm spring rain and snow-melt will be enough to initiate germination. Then, water regularly until fully established. Late summer sowing should only be done a minimum of 6 weeks before freezing to ensure the root structure is large enough to properly establish before winter. Late fall seeding around mid-October until winter arrives generally ensures that no seed will germinate until spring, as the soil is too cold. Avoid using nitrogen fertilizer.
Additional notes for Microclover: Microclover seed is very small and is coated in pale grey clay to assist with handling. Even so, you may find it easier to mix with dry sand to help sow evenly. Use a quantity of sand that you are confident permits even sowing over the entire area. Dividing the seed/sand mixture and making two light passes of the area is encouraged. Patience is needed. Mature establishment will take two to three growing seasons. Repeated seasonal sowings are usually needed for the first three years, as ‘Pipolina’ isn’t a prolific bloomer, which reduces self-sowing.
~Sow Common White Clover at a rate of 250g per 90 m2 (or 1/2 lb per 1000 ft2). For larger areas, sow at 9 kg per hectare (or 8 lb per acre)
~Sow Microclover at a rate of 25 g per 50 m2 (or 538 ft2) when over-seeding into a turf-based lawn. When attempting a mono-culture, sow at 2kg per 90 m2 (or 1,000 ft2)
Problem: My Clover or Microclover has grown taller/larger than expected!
- There has been irregular or lack of mowing (this is especially true for microclover because it requires regular mowing to train the dwarf growth habit)
- There may be an excess of nutrients in the soil, particularly nitrogen
- The weather may be warmer and/or more humid than usual
Problem: I don’t see good germination from my seeds!
- The soil may be too cold (10C is the absolute minimum but closer to 16C is ideal)
- Seed is buried. Seed must be sown on top of soil
- Heavy rains may have washed out ungerminated seeds
- It might be too early to tell (soil must be above 10C for 7-10 days for optimal germination to occur)
Problem: Growth/Re-growth is sparse!
- Area does not get enough direct sunlight
- Establishment is still in progress. Overseeding may be beneficial
- Irregular/inadequate watering
- Heavy traffic in early establishment may be causing stress
- An especially brutal winter may have damaged the plants
Problem: My yard is weedy after sowing Clover/Microclover but it wasn’t before!
- Soil across the earth is full (and we mean full) of dormant seed. Exposing bare soil to sow something new will always stimulate germination in some dormant seeds. Prepared seedbeds are also the perfect place to germinate weed seeds that are carried in by wind or animal droppings. Hand-pull weeds and do not fertilize.
- For information about our germination and purity standards, check out this post on quality control
Don’t hesitate to email our in-house garden team at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions that might come up along the way.