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It’s not a weed; it’s bee food!

Field of clover
A clover-filled lawn helps the bees and also the soil. (Photo: Debbie Arrington)

White clover adds nectar, nitrogen to lawns

In my lawn, everything’s coming up clover, and that’s a good thing.

Most turf weed killers target clover; its distinctive leaves stand out in a world of single blades. But clover brings some benefits to that turf space that grasses can’t: Food for bees and nitrogen for the soil.

White clover ( Trifolium ) flowers profusely, supplying pollen and nectar to bees. Honeybees love it. White clover actually is a source of popular clover honey. Low-growing Dutch and New Zealand white clover are most popular for lawn use; both varieties blend well with turfgrasses.

Typical turfgrasses provide no such food source to bees. Instead, the monoculture of fescue or bluegrass does little to support beneficial insects. So, clover is a definite plus from the bee perspective.

In addition, clover can thrive in poor soil with less water and tolerates drought better than most turfgrasses. The reason? Clover is a nitrogen-fixing plant, meaning it can supply its own nutrients – and less additional fertilizer is needed.

Clover grows more slowly than turfgrasses, and needs less mowing. It also can grow in shade where grasses often struggle and stays green almost year round.

As a perennial, clover may die back in winter, but re-emerges quickly in spring. One reason clover is so difficult to remove from a lawn: It has deep and hardy roots. That same trait makes it a survivor.

Clover may be a solution for spots where other lawns refuse to grow – or sunny turf spaces, too.

Clover needs less water, less fertilizer, less mowing while helping bees and staying green. That’s not a weed; that’s a useful plant.

And I feel lucky to have a clover-filled lawn.


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Dig In: Garden Checklist

For week of Sept. 24:

This week our weather will be just right for fall gardening. What are you waiting for?

* Now is the time to plant for fall. The warm soil will get these veggies off to a fast start.

* Keep harvesting tomatoes, peppers, squash, melons and eggplant. Tomatoes may ripen faster off the vine and sitting on the kitchen counter.

* Compost annuals and vegetable crops that have finished producing.

* Cultivate and add compost to the soil to replenish its nutrients for fall and winter vegetables and flowers.

* Fertilize deciduous fruit trees.

* Plant onions, lettuce, peas, radishes, turnips, beets, carrots, bok choy, spinach and potatoes directly into the vegetable beds.

* Transplant cabbage, broccoli, kale, Brussels sprouts and cauliflower as well as lettuce seedlings.

* Sow seeds of California poppies, clarkia and African daisies.

* Transplant cool-weather annuals such as pansies, violas, fairy primroses, calendulas, stocks and snapdragons.

* Divide and replant bulbs, rhizomes and perennials. That includes bearded iris; if they haven’t bloomed in three years, it’s time to dig them up and divide their rhizomes.

* Dig up and divide daylilies as they complete their bloom cycle.

* Divide and transplant peonies that have become overcrowded. Replant with “eyes” about an inch below the soil surface.

* Late September is ideal for sowing a new lawn or re-seeding bare spots.

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