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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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Garden Checklist for week of April 14

It's still not warm enough to transplant tomatoes directly in the ground, but we’re getting there.

* April is the last chance to plant citrus trees such as dwarf orange, lemon and kumquat. These trees also look good in landscaping and provide fresh fruit in winter.

* Smell orange blossoms? Feed citrus trees with a low dose of balanced fertilizer (such as 10-10-10) during bloom to help set fruit. Keep an eye out for ants.

* Apply slow-release fertilizer to the lawn.

* Thoroughly clean debris from the bottom of outdoor ponds or fountains.

* Spring brings a flush of rapid growth, and that means your garden needs nutrients. Fertilize shrubs and trees with a slow-release fertilizer. Or mulch with a 1-inch layer of compost.

* Azaleas and camellias looking a little yellow? If leaves are turning yellow between the veins, give them a boost with chelated iron.

* Trim dead flowers but not leaves from spring-flowering bulbs such as daffodils and tulips. Those leaves gather energy to create next year's flowers. Also, give the bulbs a fertilizer boost after bloom.

* Pinch chrysanthemums back to 12 inches for fall flowers. Cut old stems to the ground.

* Mulch around plants to conserve moisture and control weeds.

* From seed, plant beans, beets, cantaloupes, carrots, corn, cucumbers, melons, radishes and squash.

* Plant onion sets.

* In the flower garden, plant seeds for asters, cosmos, celosia, marigolds, salvia, sunflowers and zinnias.

* Transplant petunias, zinnias, geraniums and other summer bloomers.

* Plant perennials and dahlia tubers for summer bloom.

* Mid to late April is about the last chance to plant summer bulbs, such as gladiolus and tuberous begonias.

* Transplant lettuce seedlings. Choose varieties that mature quickly such as loose leaf.

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