Micro clover (sometimes spelled as microclover) is a small variety of white clover well worth consideration for spring lawn renovation. Bred for low height and small leaves, it can be used as a standalone ground cover or as 2% - 5% of a lawn mix. When used in a lawn mix, it not only supplies continuous nitrogen but helps suppress weeds.
Standard-size white clover (Trifolium repens) has been used with lawn seed for a very long time, but it sometimes begs the patience of lawn keepers.* Standard white clover can overcome grass species and crowd them out. It goes to flower quickly and attracts bees.
Micro Clover Tolerates Regular Mowing
Diminutive micro clover, by contrast, is shorter than most turfgrass species. It tolerates regular mowing and when a lawn is consistently mowed to 3", micro clover produces few or no flowers. Low-growing but broad-leafed, micro clover shades out some pernicious lawn weeds. It is relatively indifferent to dog wastes, unlike grass. It stays green in winter. Micro clover tolerates drought better than grass and, being deep-rooted, it can help control erosion.
Micro Clover and Organic Lawns
Micro clover is popular among the organic lawn care crowd because it’s a self-perpetuating source of nitrogen to lawn grasses—a sort of free lunch after the initial planting. A recent fact sheet from Penn State University estimates that micro clover can reduce nitrogen applications by 1 to 2 pounds per 1000 square feet annually. In fact, grass clippings, combined with micro clover, may supply all the nitrogen that’s needed. Annual soil tests will tell how well nitrogen needs are being met.
Micro clovers are conventionally bred; they are not genetically engineered (also called non-GMO).
Micro clover overcomes most drawbacks associated with the standard-size white clover, except for the fact that it is susceptible to broadleaf weed killers. (Clover is a broad leaf plant, not a grass.)
Micro clover seed can be purchased coated or uncoated. The clay coating includes an inoculant to help the plants get a head start, especially important where clover has never been planted before. Coated seed should be less than six months old for the coating to be effective. (Don’t store it for a year and expect to get the benefits!)
Troy Hake, president of Outside Pride of Independence, Oregon, says the clay coating is compatible with organic lawn care programs. Outside Pride introduced its variety, Miniclover®, in 2013.
An uncoated seed is probably fine where clover (of any size) has been planted before.
Where to Buy Micro Clover
It is sold under several names, including Microclover®, Miniclover®, Microgreen Microclover, and Micro Clover. In addition to Outside Pride, several other companies sell the seed, including Pro Time Lawn Seed, Portland, OR, Hancock Seed of Dade City, FL and Good Nature Organic Lawn Care, Cleveland, OH.
Earthturf, a Portland, OR, company offers several types of lawn seed mix with micro clover
* The advice to use clover in lawn seed has been around a long time. Earthturf, a Portland, OR, seed provider that includes micro clover in its lawn mixes, shows a 1912 New York Times clover endorsement on its website.
Note: Microclover® (Trifolium repens var. pirouette) was initially developed in Denmark by DLF Trifolium and introduced in the US around 2005.