Clover yard Part 1

The day that my husband and I first visited the house at Shady Oaks Garden it was overcast and drizzling. We were impressed by the mature trees and the dark wood sided ranch home that blended in so well. The property had so much potential as well as heaps of mud. With four boys in this family, I feared it wouldn’t be long before the lower garden resembled a pig’s wallow.

The problem is multifactorial. Many parts of the yard are part shade or deep shade so grass doesn’t grow. The soil is clay, even heavy clay in places. The soil has been amended in the planting beds but the yard is just clay. Finally, the wet season in Oregon runs November through March and the soil is just saturated during those months.

Picking up yard debris was another prep needed before seeding.

While these are the practicalities of our site, I have other concerns with those large expanses of monoculture grass lawns. The maintenance to keep them beautiful, green, and weed free is in my opinion a waste of time and resources. My lawn wish list included:

  • Low water requirements. We are on a well and cannot afford to waste water on a lawn in the summer
  • Shade tolerant
  • Tolerant of a clay soil with bonus if it can improve the soil
  • Friendly to pollinators and wildlife
  • Low maintenance including low mowing requirements

It was time to convince my husband that we needed a different type of yard and to my surprise he agreed right away. Apparently he remembered the muddy mess when we first viewed the house in spring 2020. He came to the same conclusion that clover might be a good alternative for us. Luckily Oregon is a state where clover is grown commercially and my husband reached out to ask questions. In the end my husband settled on a blend of white clover and deep shade grass. His reasons were:

  • “I still had a bag of grass seed”
  • The clover seed is too small. It falls through the drop spreader by itself. He felt the combination had better coverage.
  • Solo clover might not be durable enough for our kids’s rough play

To prep the yard we raked the ground first. The main goal was to make the soil more friendly to planting, since it was hard and cracked from the dry summer. There really wasn’t much thatch to be removed. Then we used a drop spreader, be aware that a little clover goes a long way. Now we are three months in with mixed results so far. The clover has come up great in areas under the pines that were deep shade and pretty bare soil to start. It hasn’t come through as strongly in the areas where grass was already planted. This is where the soil was the firmest and the clover didn’t seem to germinate as well. If you look closely you can see it coming up, but it is competing with the grass that started growing again when the rain started falling. We will probably spread more seed in the spring to continue to increase coverage.

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