Do you have a clover problem? Clover is a nuisance weed when it appears in your lawn, and one that can be surprisingly difficult to get rid of.
It spreads quickly and can be hard to eradicate completely without tearing up your grass with it.
In this article, we will discuss several ways to get rid of clover in your lawn. Each method will be explained in detail, so you can choose the best option for your needs and your landscape.
Let’s get going.
What Is Clover, and Why Is It a Problem for My Lawn?
Clover, aka trefoil, is a type of legume that is often considered a weed. It is characterized by its small, round leaves and its ability to quickly spread through lawns.
While clover is not inherently harmful to grass, it can compete with grass for resources, leading to thinner, weaker turf.
In addition, clover is more tolerant of shade and low soil fertility than grass, which means that it can quickly take over a lawn that is not properly maintained.
For these reasons, many homeowners consider clover to be a problem weed and take measures to control its growth.
Now, clover is not inherently harmful, and plenty of people think it has a pleasant appearance especially when considered against other lawn invaders like dandelions and the like.
If you think a patch or two of clover is A-OK, you don’t need to do a thing: it won’t hurt you or your animals.
But be warned: this stuff is persistent and pervasive, and will eventually gain ground on and then supplant your grass.
If you don’t like the notion of having to replant your grass all over from scratch one day, maybe it is time to take action against clover in your lawn.
How Does Clover Get Established?
Overall, clover is an opportunistic plant that can be a nuisance anytime your grass is struggling. Clover does best in full sun and well-drained soil.
It is also fairly tolerant of cold temperatures, but it may go dormant in very hot weather. Clover is also drought-resistant and can thrive whenever a lawn is under-watered.
Clover also tolerates compacted soils and grows especially well in areas that are regularly mowed short.
Whenever grass is short, it cannot “shade out” the clover, allowing it to thrive and steal nutrients from the soil the grass needs in kind.
It also has the ability to fix nitrogen in the soil, making it a common sight in nitrogen-deficient lawns.
Concerning the acidity of soil, clover is more tolerant of acidic soils than grass, which means that it can quickly take over a lawn that is not properly maintained, and there are species that grow well in high and low acidity soils.
Basically, clover sort of waits for the slightest foothold in a lawn and then establishes itself, quickly outcompeting comparatively fussy, fragile grass and spreading from there.
One week you have a nice looking lawn, and the next you have a shaggy patch of clover!
Methods for Getting Rid of Clover
There are all kinds of ways to get rid of clover, and luckily enough it is one of the easier weeds to eliminate.
Depending on how much effort and time you want to invest, you might be able to avoid using chemicals or other substances that could harm surrounding grass and other plants.
Pulling it by Hand
While there are various chemical methods of clover control, the most effective way to snuff out clover immediately is to pull it out by hand.
This may seem like a laborious chore, but with a little patience and the right prep it can be easily accomplished.
Start by soaking the area with clover in water for at least an hour. This will help to loosen the soil and make the roots easier to remove.
Setup a sprinkler near the patch to make it easy on yourself. Next, use a small trowel or weeding tool to carefully loosen the soil around the clover plants.
Be careful not to damage the grass roots beneath, if grass is still present; with care, you won’t have a “scar” in your lawn to deal with.
Once it is loosened, grasp the clover plant firmly at the base and pull it out of the ground. If done correctly, the entire plant should come out easily, root and all.
With regular inspection, hand-pulling can be a quick and effective way to control clover in your lawn. As always, getting it when it is young, small and vulnerable is easiest!
Cut Your Lawn Taller
Many homeowners believe that a healthy lawn requires close-cut grass.
I like the plush, tidy look of a close-mown lawn myself, but I definitely don’t like having to deal with every kind of invasive weed in the aftermath.
As you might have already guessed, short grass can actually lead to problems with clover.
Clover is a hardy and opportunistic plant that can quickly take root and take over a lawn if the grass is cut too short.
The best way to control clover is to allow the grass to grow a little taller. Grass, as a plant, is able to thrive only when it is mature enough (read, tall enough) to overwhelm other ground covering species in the same space.
Allowing your grass to stay just a bit taller will shade the clover, preventing it from getting the sunlight it needs to live.
In addition, taller grass will help to crowd out the clover, preventing it from getting a foothold in the first place. Ultimately, this leads to a healthier lawn all the way around.
So, if you’re struggling with clover in your yard, give your grass a little extra time to grow and then raise the cut height on your mower.
It may be the best solution for getting rid of this pesky weed and require the least amount of effort.
Aerate the Soil
Clover competes with other plants for nutrients and water.
But, compared to grasses which generally need loose, aerated soil for proper growth, clover does not care so much. In fact, this weed is often found in compacted or poorly drained soils.
Aerating the soil in your lawn is a great way to improve drainage and help grasses to better (again, thus helping them outcompete the clover for the available resources).
If you have never aerated your lawn before, don’t worry. It isn’t hard to do over a small area, but a front to back aerating job might best be left to a professional.
Aerating the soil helps to loosen up the dirt and make it harder for clover to grow and thrive.
This can be done manually by punching holes in the ground with a spike or rake, or by using an aerating tool, which uses rows of spikes or tines to punch holes into the dirt.
Remember to aerate the patch where the clover is but also anywhere you want to keep your grass; we are trying to give the grass a hand, not just make things hard for the clover.
Once the soil has been aerated, you can then decide to wait and see if the grass overtakes the clover, or eliminate the clover directly.
You can use any of the other methods on this list for the purpose depending on our desires.
Overall, getting rid of clover in your lawn through aeration is an effective way to promote healthier grass in your lawn and give your lawn a vibrant and lush appearance overall.
Applying a Vinegar and Dish Soap Solution
While there are many herbicide products designed to rid your lawn of clover, these are often expensive or come with negative side effects, like killing grass.
For those looking for a more natural way to get rid of clover, I recommend applying a simple vinegar and dish soap solution.
To make it, simply combine equal parts vinegar (your choice) and water along with a few drops of dish soap in a spray bottle.
Shake it up, and apply directly to the affected areas of your lawn overgrown with clover. The vinegar will dry out the clover and alter the pH balance, killing it.
The dish soap helps to break down its waxy surface, increasing effectiveness and also helping it cling to the petals and stalks.
After only a few applications, you should notice the clover dying off.
This solution is totally safe for people and animals but it will kill other plants, including grass, so be careful not to get it on anything you don’t want to kill.
You will likely have a burnt or “bald” spot in your lawn after using this method to eliminate a big patch of clover, so be ready to re-seed as needed!
Choke it Out
It sounds so violent when you say it that way! Often, clover can be particularly stubborn and difficult to eradicate in neglected lawns, especially when it grows wherever grass is barely hanging on.
One effective method of removing clover is to cover it with opaque plastic sheeting and then tightly sealing the edges.
You can use rocks or loose soil to ensure the edges are tight against the ground.
This covering prevents the weeds from getting sunlight or air, effectively suffocating them and causing them to disappear over time.
While this may take some time, it is generally an effective and nearly labor-free way to get rid of unwanted clover without resorting to chemical herbicides or other harsh methods that can damage the rest of your lawn or pose a threat to people or animals.
The downside is, of course, that any grass under the plastic will suffer the same, slow fate, and you will likely have to re-seed if you don’t want a dead spot in your lawn.
But you know what they say; the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few. I suppose that counts for grass, too.
With just a bit of patience, this method might rid your yard of that pesky clover patch once and for all.
Apply Corn Gluten
There is one all-natural method that is effective in killing clover without damaging your grass: Corn gluten.
Corn gluten is a by-product of the milling of corn and wheat, and it contains a natural herbicide called glyphosate.
When applied to a lawn, corn gluten will kill existing clover plants and prevent new ones from sprouting.
It is important to note that corn gluten must be applied before the clover plants start to grow in the spring, so timing is essential.
It works because it disrupts the growth cycle of the plant, and is dramatically less effective at eliminating mature clover.
The good news is it will not kill your grass, and in fact, can actually provide a natural fertilizer for your lawn as the corn gluten breaks down.
While there are many methods of getting rid of clover in your lawn, corn gluten is one of the most effective and least harmful to your grass, and is 100% safe for people and pets.
Unfortunately, sometimes lawns can become overrun with clover, or you just don’t have the time to root it out without causing more harm.
When speed or ease is of the essence, reach for herbicide.
While there are a number of ways to remove clover from a lawn, using herbicides is definitely the most effective from the standpoint of raw potency.
Herbicides work by killing plants that they come into contact with, and they can be selectively applied to target specific spots without damaging the rest of the lawn.
In most cases, herbicides are applied either as a liquid or as a granular product.
However, most wide-spectrum herbicides will just as readily kill your grass as they will clover, along with other plants, so be sure to apply them as specifically as possible.
Another option is to find a weed – or clover-specific herbicide.
These products are designed to target specific types of plants without harming others, however, they can be more difficult to find and may not be as effective as a broad-spectrum herbicide.
As with any chemical application, it is important to follow the manufacturer’s directions carefully and take appropriate precautions to avoid harming people or animals.
When used correctly, however, herbicides will definitely get rid of clover and with regular use they will keep clover “outbreaks” under control.
Save Your Grass by Getting Rid of Clover
Clover can be a pest to eliminate, but with good info and the right tools at your disposal you can handle it.
We’ve outlined seven such methods above, including manual removal and DIY clover killers that should help you get rid of clover in your lawn for good.
Remember to take precautions when using any herbicides. Good luck and here’s to a greener, healthier lawn.
Tom has lived and worked on farms and homesteads from the Carolinas to Kentucky and beyond. He is passionate about helping people prepare for tough times by embracing lifestyles of self-sufficiency.