Wednesday, March 20, 2013

A clover lawn

I think it is time for my ecologically barren lawn to change.

From the days when I considered clover to be a weed in the lawn, I know that the bees simply love it; and I think if you don't walk barefooted on the lawn, the chances of getting a bee sting are low.

This website promotes clover in the lawn.  Books tell us that until the chemical companies started selling herbicides, clover was considered an essential part of the lawn.

The NY Times had this in 1987:
A lawn of clover is unpopular nowadays; I had to visit several stores before I could find seed. A neighbor observed, after I sowed the seed, that it would attract bees. He was correct, of course. There have always been a few colonies of clover in my lawn, and the blossoms do hum with bees. But my family's 16 years in this house, no one has ever been stung by a bee, even though we sometimes go barefoot. My clover lawn is actually in the best tradition. When Andrew Jackson Downing, the renowned writer on agriculture and horticulture, told people in the late 1840's how to plant lawns, he specified a mixture of white clover and Rhode Island bentgrass.

''Sow four bushels of it to the acre,'' he urged, ''and not a pint less as you plan to walk on velvet!''

Downing had immense admiration for clover, and his reasons were excellent. Clover is not subject to the mildews and other blights that can affect the grasses of today. It stays green on a leaner ration of water than grass. Its dark-green leaves remain attractive in hot weather. Its flowers are pretty, starring the turf.

Its fragrance, especially when newly mown, is sweet. Children can look for four leaves among the usual three. Being a legume, it makes it own fertilizer, snatching nitrogen from the air. And because of my clover lawn, there will be more honey in some neighbors' hives.

I can think of only one reason why we all do not have lawns of clover. Certain herbicides used in this country in prodigious amounts since World War II will not kill fescue and other grasses, but they will kill dandelions and plantains - and white clover. But those of us who forgo this chemical warfare can have sweet clover lawns and all their delights.
I think a garden must have, to the extent feasible, birds, bees, butterflies along with the essential flowers, scents and foliage. If you can add to it that the luxury - flowing water, then the garden is complete.