Clover is a winter-germinating weed, and will thrive and spread in spring when soil temperatures are mild and warm and plenty of sunlight reaches the soil surface.
A common weed in Australia, clover has the very recognisable three green serrated leaves topped by white, ball-shaped flowers and creeping stems. Clover is a legume plant that draws nitrogen from the air to store in its roots. It spreads easily throughout lawns via stems attached to the soil which grow into new plants.
Clover can often be quite difficult to get rid of, as it reseeds itself every year and will continue to come back. It spreads easily in a few different ways, and can even propagate from its own clippings.
It might surprise you to know that some people actually choose to add clover to their lawn. This is due to the fact that clover prevents weeds, fertilises your lawn by adding nitrogen, attracts bees, is soft to walk on, makes your lawn appear greener and shades the soil well.
However, if you prefer the look of a smooth, velvety lawn without the distraction of clover flowers and wide leaves, you’ll need to thoroughly remove this prolific weed. Here’s how to do it.
How to remove clover
The most effective method of preventing clover from dominating your lawn is to maintain a dense and healthy lawn. Thick lawns are more easily able to crowd out weeds such as clover and prevent them from taking hold.
There are also a few strategies you can try to get rid of existing clover in your lawn without using herbicides.
Fertilise your lawn
Clover will flourish in lawns which have low nitrogen and fertility levels. Unfertilised grass gives clover an advantage – as it can produce its own fertiliser, whereas grass can’t. If there is sufficient nitrogen in your soil to keep your lawn healthy, the clover will struggle to survive.
It can be tempting to set your mower blades lower than normal to scalp the clover, but this will only stress your grass instead. Low-growing clover with its shallow roots has no problem being mowed short, although your grass won’t love it.
Remove it by hand
Clover can be removed by digging its roots out of the soil with a gardening tool or fork, or with a sharp knife. Make sure you carefully remove the weed from the lawn area so that it doesn’t re-propagate from discarded pieces. Loosen the soil around the plant to break up any remaining stubborn roots and make sure you get everything out. Clover will begin to spread and grow in spring, so try and remove it before it flowers.
Pulling weeds might be doable in small lawns, but if you have a large area of grass, this may not be practical. If all else fails and you have to resort to a selective herbicide, clover can be effectively killed with a broadleaf weed or clover-specific selective herbicide sprayed onto the lawn. Available at your local garden supply store, these will do the job quickly and easily.
Make sure you read the label for the specific details on how much you should apply and the appropriate aftercare treatment. If you’re unsure whether your lawn will tolerate chemical treatment, apply the herbicide to a small, out-of-the-way section of your lawn and monitor it over a few weeks. If there are no problems, go ahead and treat the entire lawn.
Clover infestations are quite controllable with a little bit of care and effort. Spring is the time to get on top of this dominant weed before it spreads and becomes a bigger problem. Give these strategies a try now and you’ll be enjoying a clover-free lawn over summer.