What is clover?
The first step in learning how to remove clover from your lawn, is to be able to identify the plant itself. Clover is a low-growing, perennial weed easily identified by its three leaves. There are three main types of clover.
- White or Dutch clover (Trifolium repens). This can be identified by its white or pink flowers). It spreads with low growing, creeping stems. The flowers tend to appear during the summer.
- Lesser yellow trefoil (Trifolium dubium). This is the yellow form of clover.
- Trifolium arvense. This form of clover has woolly leaves and flower heads.
How to remove clover from the lawn – non-chemical based
Clover is a difficult weed to remove from lawns. This is due to it’s low growing form, making it difficult for it to be removed by mowing. It’s also difficult as it’s roots knit tightly into the soil at multiple points on the soil.
Once the clover has died or been removed, it is likely that bare patches will develop on the lawn. Reseed these patches in the early autumn.
Remove clover by hand
Small clumps can be removed by hand. To do so, try to place a small hand fork under the root structure. Work the fork under the root as it spreads over the ground and gently raise the roots until the entire plant can be removed in one go.
Remove clover by mower
If the clover is sufficiently raised from the soil and your mower is set to a very low setting, it might be possible to rip the clover out of the soil. This will be quite destructive to the grass, so be prepared to have a bare spot on your lawn. Damping the soil six hours before mowing may help the mower remove the clover as it will loosen the roots from the soil.
Remember to collect any clover clippings in your mower box so to prevent the spread of the weed to other areas of your lawn and garden.
Remove clover with vinegar
Vinegar can be used as an organic weed-killer. Household vinegar has an acidity of about 5%. Unfortunately, the acidity levels aren’t high enough for it to have much effect. A vinegar with acidity between 10-20% will be necessary. These can be purchased online.
This weed-killer is non-discriminatory in what it kills so measures need to be taken to ensure that it doesn’t kill your grass too. Painting the solution on to the clover with a brush will help prevent contamination with the grass.
Caution must also be taken when handling vinegar of this strength as it can cause irritation of the skin.
How to remove clover from the lawn – chemical based
If the outbreak of clover is quite extensive, using non-chemical methods to remove clover from the lawn might not be possible. Instead, an application of chemicals might be necessary.
Herbicides that include the chemical 2,4-D, mecoprop-P will be able to control clover. After an application of such a weedkiller, the clover should begin to dry out and wrinkle. Thin leaved plants such as grass should be unaffected by this treatment.
Herbicides that contain the chemical triclopyr are also very effective at removing clover from your lawn. Again, just make sure that you select a weed killer that doesn’t kill grass as well as clover.
As clover has a waxy surface, the wax acts as a level of protection that will prevent weedkillers from penetrating into the leaf structure. This will reduce the effectiveness of the weed killer. Therefore, applying a surfactant before a weed killer is recommended. A surfactant acts as a wetting agent that spreads out a liquid across the surface of the clover leaf. This will increase the amount of contact between the weed killer and the clover thus increasing the chance of killing the weed.
Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions when applying herbicides. Take care not to apply the herbicide to other plants as this is likely to kill them too.
Once the clover has died, it is likely that bare patches will develop on the lawn. Reseed these patches in the early autumn.
How to prevent clover from developing in the lawn
Following these tips will help prevent your lawn from suffering from clover.
- Fertilise the lawn. Keep the lawn fertilised to keep the grass long and strong. Clover does not require nitrogen to be present in the lawn for it to appear. It actually adds nitrogen back into the soil.
- Don’t cut the grass too short. A longer grass blade will be able to shade out clover, thus tipping the balance towards your grass. Cutting your grass short will stress your grass which will lead to low growth and a higher chance of clover being able to take hold.
- Water the grass regularly. Keeping your grass watered will lower prevent your grass from becoming stressed. Be careful not to over water your lawn though.
- Don’t collect grass clippings. Allowing your grass clippings to naturally decompose into your lawn will add nitrogen back into the soil. This will act as a natural fertiliser.
- Cutting length of the grass. Never cut your grass by any more than 1/3 of its current length. This will stop the grass from becoming stressed.
- Decompaction. Decompact the soil once a year by aerating the soil.
If your lawn already contains some clover and you would like to prevent it from spreading any further, apply a corn gluten solution directly to the clover leaves and flowers.
Corn gluten works by releasing organic dipeptides into the soil. These will dry out the clover seeds and prevent them from germinating elsewhere in your lawn.