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Turf grass replacement advice? #817109

Asked December 01, 2022, 10:35 AM EST

Do you have any information re: replacing a turf grass lawn with clover, micro-clover, or other plant(s)? I'm trying to find a low/no-mow alternative which doesn't require watering. Clover seemed promising, but someone just told me it's non-native/prone to invasion by undesirable/invasive species. If there is an acceptable/native clover which would work, can I just overseed my existing lawn with it? I have some grass, some moss and lots of weeds. Mostly sun, some shade under 2 large maple trees.

Washtenaw County Michigan

Expert Response

Hello,

PLEASE READ THIS ARTICLE - FIRST!!
Article: Low maintenance lawns in the Midwest - Bob Bricault, Michigan State University Extension - February 13, 2014 - There are several factors to consider when lowering the maintenance needs of your lawn.
Click on this link: https://www.canr.msu.edu/news/low_maintenance_lawns_in_the_midwest

PLEASE READ THIS ARTICLE - THIS WILL ADDRESS YOUR WATERING CONCERNS ALONG WITH SOME POINTERS
Article: Smart watering for lawns: Don’t let the lawn squeeze you dry - Gretchen Voyle, Michigan State University Extension
Click on this link: https://www.canr.msu.edu/uploads/files/Smart_watering_lawns9-12RS.pdf

Two words that don’t go together in a garden’s vocabulary are “shade” and “lawn.” Grasses used in lawns fancy themselves as prairie plants – the more sun they can get, the happier they are. There is no such thing as a shade-loving lawn grass. There are some that could be considered tolerant, but that is much different than loving. Check out the alternatives!!
Article: Shady lawn alternatives - Gretchen Voyle, Michigan State University Extension - January 30, 2014 - Make your shady area the most beautiful place in your yard.
Click on this link: https://www.canr.msu.edu/news/shady_lawn_alternatives

Here are some references on seeding micro-clover.

The preferred time is late summer to early fall to avoid competition with lawn weeds. But it can be seeded in spring if you don’t apply crabgrass pre-emergent or broad leaf type weed killers to the turf. Use the same over-seeding techniques as you would with grass seed: https://www.canr.msu.edu/news/tips_for_reseeding_lawns_in_the_spring

Reference on Micro-clover:
https://extension.umd.edu/resource/lawns-and-microclover

Micro-clover
Another, newer type of clover gaining in popularity is micro-clover. This clover variety was developed specifically for lawns and has a tidy, compact shape that is easy-care in most parts of the United States. It has the same benefits as Dutch white clover, while growing more uniformly and requiring less care. For more information, see How to Grow Micro-clover at this link: https://learn.eartheasy.com/articles/how-to-grow-microclover/?_ga=2.221411739.241377274.1648653694-1912434313.1636570955

White clover, Trifolium repens, is hardy to USDA Hardiness zone 3.. Microclover is a small-leafed variety of white clover called ‘Pirouette’ or ‘Pipolina’. Overseed in spring or fall in the sunny parts of your lawn. It may not do well in part to full shade, according to some studies.

Pros: It blends well with cool season lawns. Clover fixes nitrogen, and so reduces the amount of nitrogen fertilizer you need to apply for the grass. If allowed to flower, it provides an important food source for bees and other pollinators.

Cons: It will be killed by common lawn broadleaf weed killers. And it goes dormant and the tops die back in winter, but it resprouts from the crowns in spring. It is not tolerant of heavy foot traffic. It prefers full sun and will dieout in too shady areas. The ‘cons’ are why it is recommended to mix clover with a grass lawn, rather than trying to grow 100% clover as a lawn. Here are a few links to articles, with some details on pros-cons, and seeding rates.

MSU Extension is not permitted to recommend retailers or brand names. Use the scientific name given above to search for seed sources online, and check with farm supply-type stores. We do have a nice article that discusses turf seed, and these principles can be applied when shopping for clover aeed:

https://www.canr.msu.edu/resources/purchasing_quality_turfgrass_seed_read_the_label
Melville Kennedy Replied December 01, 2022, 7:20 PM EST

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