How to Kill Clover

Consider clover's benefits before deciding to get rid of it

White clover in bloom.

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You may be determined to kill the clover in your lawn, but, before you do so, consider the many good qualities of clover (Trifolium repens). It stays just as green as grass does during the summer, and perhaps more so because it has better drought-tolerance, does not require fertilization, and does not suffer discoloration from dog urine. It crowds out weeds, which allows you to cut back on the use of herbicides. Harmful insects leave it alone and beneficial insects (such as honeybees) are attracted to it. It is soft to walk on like grass but, unlike grass, it does not need to be mowed often, nor does the soil underneath clover become compacted due to heavy foot traffic.

Reasons for Killing Clover

With so much going for it, you may wonder why some homeowners consider clover a weed. But they do, and here are some of the reasons they would give:

  • Lawn purists often crave uniformity in a lawn. They feel that a lawn should be composed of nothing but grass, giving it a clean, even look.
  • Clover puts out a flower that attracts bees. If you have small children playing on the lawn, this can lead to their being stung by bees, which can be an unpleasant experience for them.
  • Likewise, due to the fact that clover attracts bees, adults allergic to bee stings may wish to kill the clover in their lawns if they are active on their lawns during the summertime.
  • If you will be putting your property on the real estate market soon, you should be tailoring your landscaping to what the average buyer wants. Most people prefer the look of a lawn with no weeds, including clover weeds.

However, there is a way to deal with the concern over bee stings without killing your clover. To be on the safe side, simply make sure to mow during the blooming season for clover (without flowers, there will not be any bees).

How to Kill Clover

There are two broad classes of techniques for killing clover. The first requires the use of a chemical herbicide. The second can be called "organic" in the sense that no chemical herbicides will be used. Organic methods for controlling clover are primarily preventive in nature.

Some people wish to avoid using chemicals, whether as a matter of principle or because of health concerns. For instance, if the patch of clover that you are killing is right next to your tomato garden, it is prudent to use an organic method to kill it. Likewise, if children or pets will be playing on the lawn, avoid using chemicals. Choose from the following methods to kill clover once you determine your own personal preferences and landscaping needs:

Spray Broadleaf Herbicide

If you do not mind going the chemical route, what you need to apply to an existing clover patch is a broadleaf herbicide meant specifically for use on the type of grass growing in your lawn. This information, along with how much herbicide to apply and when to apply it, should be located on the label of the bottle. The idea behind such herbicides is that they will kill broadleaf weeds, but not your grass.

Pull Clover Out

The most obvious organic method to use to kill clover is to pull it out by the roots. As is the case whenever you do manual weeding, this chore goes more smoothly if you wet the soil first.

Apply Corn Gluten Over Your Lawn

One organic way to prevent clover from invading your lawn in the first place is to apply corn gluten over your lawn annually in spring. Corn gluten functions as an organic pre-emergent herbicide. It inhibits recently-germinated seed (including clover seed) from forming roots.

Implement a Grass-Growing Lawn Care Regimen

More generally, instituting a lawn care regimen that favors the growth of grass over the growth of clover serves as an organic way to control clover. The idea is to get your grass to grow so vigorously that it does not give clover a chance to become established. For example, clover, as a nitrogen-fixer, does not need fertilization help from you to grow well, but your grass does. So be sure to fertilize your lawn on a schedule. Along the same lines, grass, unlike clover, requires you to be attentive about watering and pest control, so be sure to provide both faithfully. The soil underneath the clover does not get compacted when you walk on it constantly, but the soil underneath grass does, so if you anticipate heavy foot traffic across a certain area of the lawn, build a walkway. Finally, mow high, so that the grass will cast enough shade to discourage the germination of clover seed.