ROANOKE, Va. (WFXR) — We’ve talked about ditching the manicured lawns here on “All the Dirt” but Shawn Jadrnicek from the Virginia Cooperative Extension is telling us about what to replace it with. 

He’s giving us all the dirt on adding white clover to your lawn! 

“White clover was introduced to North America from Europe and has naturalized throughout North America.  It’s a perennial that spreads by aboveground stems called stolons that run across the ground and then root.  It can also spread by seed,” says Jadrnicek.

White Clover

White clover has a stigma as a weed but Jadrnicek says it was once a common component of lawns. Since the advent of chemical technologies, homeowners can now selectively remove it from lawns without hurting turfgrasses.  “So with these new chemicals we have at our disposal it’s possible to remove it so you can have a pure stand of grass in the lawn,” explains Jadrnicek, “However it does well mixed in with a lawn because it’s low growing and has some ecological benefits.”

Let’s talk about the benefits of white clover. Jadnricek says white clover feeds bees and native pollinators with the nectar and pollen in its flowers. Birdes even eat the seeds and leaves and deer will munch on it as well. “It’s also a nitrogen fixer which means that it has the ability to pull nitrogen out of the air to fertilize itself and the plants around it. To do this it uses special bacteria that live in root nodules. The bacteria pull or fix the nitrogen out of the air and feed it to the plant and the plant in turn feeds and houses the bacteria,” explains Jadrnicek.

If you’ve decided white clover is right for you, Jadrnicek says it’s very easy to plant and doesn’t take a lot of seed. “I like to plant it at a rate of five pounds per acre and use a hand spreader to put the seeds out,” says Jadrincek “The seed usually comes pre-inoculated with the bacteria used to fix the nitrogen.” He also suggests mixings the seeds with sand when you plant it because you have to plant such a small amount. The best time to plant is mid-September to mid-October.  You can also plant it in the Spring and Summer but it may take some irrigation to get it established.  Jadrnicek says there are also more drought and heat-tolerant varieties, but he likes to plant a variety called Durana.