It may not have rained much this winter, but I’ve received a spate of emails in response to a recent column on clover’s water-saving benefits when used either as a lawn replacement or as a lawn improvement.
It must be emphasized again that Klee does not hold up well to foot traffic. So replacing it with a sod means you’ll enjoy the looks, its resilience to drought, weeds and dog pee, and its welcoming presence when it comes to pollinating bees. However, you won’t want to play badminton or croquet on it.
The effort involved in removing an existing lawn is considerable, which is a good argument for upgrading it with clover rather than uprooting it and planting a clover monoculture in its place. If you’re thinking of starting a bare ground lawn that only needs watering once a week but will still be able to withstand foot traffic, consider a seed mix that contains micro-clover, RTF (rhizomatous tall fescue) and perennial rye. You can find such a mix courtesy of ptlawseed.com.
Speaking of overseeding, I received an email from Locke McFarland, who gardens in Santa Ana, asking about this procedure on a Bermuda lawn, while Stephen Picardi asked about a St. Augustine lawn in Boca Raton, Florida. Bermuda and St. Augustine are known as warm season grasses as they grow in warm weather but go dormant when the weather turns cool. The evergreen clover would therefore prevent the grass areas of the warm season from turning brown in winter. It’s also worth noting that St. Augustine is not as aggressive as Bermuda grass, as the former spreads solely by aerial stolons or stolons, while the latter spreads by both stolons and underground stems known as rhizomes.
Due to the aggressive growth of warm season grasses at this time of year, it can be more difficult for clover to gain a foothold than when these grasses are dormant. However, keep in mind that during a warm winter, the dormancy period of warm-season grasses can be quite short, so you need to be extra vigilant during such a winter when it comes to timing your overseeding.
Correspondent McFarland also mentions “ficus tree roots in part of lawn a few inches below” and wonders at their compatibility with clover roots. Tree roots in lawns are a headache when they surface, but as long as they stay underground, grass and clover can grow over them. However, ficus roots, particularly those of Indian laurel (Ficus microcarpa nitida), which are ubiquitous in Southern California for hedges and privacy screens along property lines, should never be planted near lawns (or anywhere else, if you ask me). ) due to their very aggressive roots, which will eventually raise sidewalks, not to mention conquering lawns and plant beds.
Finally, “Can you rake mini clover (without damaging it)?” asks McFarland. “The ficus tree sporadically drops some leaves throughout the year.” Raking can result in decapitation or even uprooting of some shamrocks, but you should make up any losses quickly through regeneration, facilitated by the stolons of the shamrock growing on their considerable length have taken root invisibly.
Ryan Burns, a gardener in Lakewood, says he mows his Bermuda lawn twice a week and wonders if that would be too often if mini clover were growing in it. You can mow a Miniclover enhanced lawn up to once a week. Frequent mowing promotes firmer growth. I should mention here that clover also grows in somewhat shady spots, as I recently saw it thrive under redwood trees in Roxbury Park on Olympic Boulevard in Beverly Hills.
Robin Dwyer wrote via email: “Like many Riverside residents, I live next to a ravine full of hungry rabbits. Am I to assume that they’ll eat the clover to the ground like my grass?” It’s no secret that rabbits are very fond of clover. The question is, “How much are they going to eat?” I would send out a pound of clover seed over 1000 square feet as an experiment. Some gardeners with vegetable or flower gardens plant clover as a attractant, since rabbits would rather eat it than carrots or petunias, and this keeps their vegetables and flowers intact. Speaking of which, some vegetable gardeners frequented by rabbits hedge their gardens all the way around with lettuce, a rabbit favorite, so the veggies on the other side of the lettuce barrier are left alone.
Lisa Brown, who gardens in the Santa Rosa Valley in Ventura County, wrote, “I was wondering if you think mini clover is more drought tolerant than kurapia, and if they both have other benefits?” She also mentions buffalo grass “UC Verde ‘ to be considered for an area that can withstand foot traffic.
A ground cover with tiny leaves, both clover and kurapia are not known for handling heavy foot traffic. While you can accept moderate walking on them, you would not turn either area into a children’s play area. To replace a dichondra lawn decimated by flea beetles, Ronald Chong of Hacienda Heights planted a 600-square-foot area with 360 Kurapia plugs at a cost of around $700 last November. The kurapia has filled in nicely. The Kurapia variety he chose bears small pink flowers, but Chong notes that there is a white-flowered variety for a slightly lower price. You can purchase Kurapia plugs with flowers in both colors at kurapia.com.
Buffalo grass is native to the North American plains. However, a professor of organic gardening at UC Davis managed to breed a strain suitable for California gardens. ‘UC Verde’ uses 75% less water than tall fescue and 40% less water than Bermuda grass. She can grow in full sun up to 50% shade. If you want a natural meadow look, you can grow it six inches tall, but you can also keep it as low as an inch by mowing it every two weeks during the growing season. It experiences a hibernation and turns half brown during this season. You can prune it very low in November and seed with a cool season grass or better yet wildflower seed to give you a colorful expanse to look at before it turns green again in warmer weather. Plugs are available from ucverdeplugs.com.
You may also want to consider a seed mix called Fleur de Lawn, which is available through ptlawseed.com. It includes English daisy, white yarrow, white clover, strawberry clover, alyssum, baby blue eyes, and perennial rye and sheep’s fescue grasses. Mowed once a month, it grows to a height of five inches, but can be kept at three inches for a more manicured look. The yarrow allows the mix to grow in both shade and sun.
Speaking of which, the dwarf star carpet (Ruschia lineolata ‘Nana’) is a succulent groundcover that grows to two inches tall and serves as an evergreen lawn alternative that tolerates heavy foot traffic. White flowers with pink stripes bloom in late winter to early spring. Water consumption is up to 75% lower than with many types of grass. Find Carpet of Stars plugs at californialawalternatives.com.
If you’ve had success growing clover, kurapia, buffalo grass, star carpet, or any other alternative to a traditional lawn, you are invited to share your story with the readers of this column by emailing them to the address below .
Send questions, comments and photos to email@example.com.