How to Kill Clover in Lawns


Maintaining a pristine lawn often involves tackling the common issue of clover invasion. Clover, though considered beneficial for the environment, can be a nuisance for gardeners striving for uniform grass coverage. It’s important to address the problem methodically, employing a variety of strategies to control and eradicate these persistent weeds.

Understanding which type of clover you’re dealing with and the extent of its spread is crucial before taking action. A host of factors, including mowing habits and soil fertility, play a significant role in clover proliferation. Approaching the issue with both chemical and non-chemical remedies while keeping the health of your lawn in mind ensures a comprehensive strategy against clover.

Things to consider:

Understanding Clover in Lawns

Clover can be both a beneficial ally and a tenacious intruder in your garden. Recognising the role and species of clover in your lawn is essential for effective management.

Identifying Clover Species

Trifolium repens, commonly known as white clover, is a prevalent species found in lawns. It distinguishes itself by a trio of leaflets and often sports a characteristic pale chevron. The flowers range from white to a light pink hue, attracting a variety of pollinators such as bees. Identifying clover is the first step towards understanding its impact on your lawn’s ecosystem.

The Role of Clover in Lawn Ecosystems

Clover is a nitrogen-fixer, meaning it naturally enriches the soil with essential nutrients by converting atmospheric nitrogen into compounds that grass and other plants can absorb. This process can improve the overall health of your lawn without the need for synthetic fertilisers. While clover supports insects and contributes to a rich ecosystem, it can compete with grass for space, often resulting in a patchy lawn appearance. Balancing the environmental benefits with aesthetic preferences is key to managing clover in your garden.

Cultural Practices for Managing Clover

Effective management of clover in your lawn requires an understanding of best practices in mowing, watering and fertilisation, and improving soil conditions. By adopting these cultural practices, you can maintain a healthy lawn that suppresses clover growth.

Mowing Strategies

Mow your lawn at the correct height to discourage clover. Keep the mowing height to about 2.5-3 inches, as taller grass shades the soil, reducing clover germination and growth. Ensure your mower blades are sharp for a clean cut, which helps prevent disease and stress to the grass.

Watering and Fertilization

Water your lawn deeply but infrequently to encourage deep root growth, which can help outcompete clover for resources. Aim for 1 inch of water per week, either from rainfall or irrigation. Over-watering can promote clover, so adjust your routine based on weather conditions.

When fertilising, opt for an organic fertilizer tailored to your lawn’s specific needs. Clover thrives in low-fertility lawns, so a balanced fertilisation strategy in spring and fall can help grass plants stay robust and competitive. However, avoid over-fertilisation as this can lead to other lawn problems.

Improving Soil Conditions

Test your soil to determine the soil pH and nutrient levels; the ideal pH for most lawn grasses is between 6.0 and 7.0. If you have compacted soil, aerate your lawn to improve water and nutrient flow, which benefits the grass and not the clover. Use amendments as necessary to improve soil structure and fertility, which will help your grass grow more vigorously and naturally reduce clover occurrence.

Selecting the Right Herbicides

When tackling clover in your lawn, the correct choice of herbicide is crucial for effective control. Opting for the right type can ensure that your efforts are successful without causing undue harm to your grass.

Pre-Emergent vs Post-Emergent Herbicides

Pre-emergent herbicides are applied before the weeds surface. They work by creating a chemical barrier that inhibits seed germination. For clover, which is a perennial weed, pre-emergent weedkillers might be less effective since clover can regrow from roots as well as seeds.

In contrast, post-emergent herbicides are used after the weeds have emerged. They are absorbed by the plants and move within the tissues to exert their effects. To control clover which has already established itself in your lawn, a post-emergent herbicide that is specifically designed to handle broadleaf weeds like clover is essential. Examples include formulations containing chemicals such as 2,4-D, dicamba, MCPP, or triclopyr. Always follow the label directions for the best outcome.

Effective Use of Herbicides

Broadleaf herbicides are generally selective and target the unwanted clover without harming your grass. For an organic herbicide option, a vinegar solution can be applied, though it may require repeated treatments for full efficacy.

It’s worth noting that non-selective herbicides, including certain vinegar-based weedkillers or a product called A.D.I.O.S, may harm your grass if not applied with care. For a less aggressive approach, look for weedkillers such as certain organic lawn weedkillers which can suppress clover while being more environmentally friendly.

Utilise a targeted approach by following these steps:

  1. Identify the clover species in your lawn.
  2. Choose a herbicide that lists clover as a target weed.
  3. Apply the weed killer as per the manufacturer’s instructions, preferably in the summer when clover is actively growing.
  4. Monitor the lawn for clover regrowth and apply treatments as necessary.

Remember, the eradication of clover is not immediate and may require a season or more of consistent treatment for complete control.

Alternative Methods for Clover Removal

When striving to maintain your lawn’s aesthetics and health, there are a couple of alternative strategies you can consider for clover removal that don’t rely on chemicals: Natural Remedies and Smothering and Solarisation. Each approach can be effective if applied correctly.

Natural Remedies

If you wish to get rid of clover without using harsh chemicals, there are several natural remedies to consider. Applying a natural fertilizer like corn gluten can inhibit clover growth by providing the grass with necessary nutrients while preventing clover seeds from establishing. Vinegar, an acidic solution, can be used as a spot treatment for clover; however, it’s non-selective and can harm grass, so be careful.

  • Corn Gluten: A pre-emergent control method that may hamper clover seed germination.
  • Vinegar: Effective as a natural herbicide, apply it carefully to the clover, avoiding grass.

Smothering and Solarisation

Smothering the clover is a physical method of killing it by depriving it of sunlight and air. This can be achieved by covering the affected area with a material like a tarpaulin, ensuring it is well secured at the edges to block out light and moisture. This process, known as solarisation, utilises the sun’s heat under the covering to kill off the clover.

  • Materials: Utilise opaque material such as tarpaulins or heavy-duty plastic.
  • Duration: Keep clover covered for at least 2-3 weeks to ensure it is completely dead.

Remember not to leave these covers in place for too long, as they can also affect the surrounding grass. Rustic options like old carpet segments can perform a similar function. It’s also worth noting that dog urine, thanks to its nitrogen content, can have a similar, albeit lesser, fertilising effect to commercial products and may discourage clover over time if concentrated in a specific area. However, this should not be relied upon as a primary method of clover control.

Maintaining Your Lawn After Clover Removal

After successfully removing clover from your lawn, it’s essential to undertake proper lawn care to ensure the grass remains vibrant and clover-free. Prioritising re-seeding areas affected by the removal will restore the lawn’s aesthetics, while adopting preventative practices aids in deterring future clover establishment.

Re-seeding and Lawn Care

Once clover has been eradicated, re-seeding the lawn can help to prevent clover from re-establishing. Choose a grass seed suited for your local climate and specific lawn conditions. Spring or early autumn is typically the best time for seed dispersal, enhancing germination rates due to mild temperatures and adequate rainfall.

  1. Prepare the soil: Loosen the top layer of soil where clover was removed.
  2. Spread grass seed: Apply an even distribution of grass seed over the prepared areas.
  3. Lightly rake: Gently rake the seeds into the soil to ensure good seed-to-soil contact.
  4. Fertilisation: Apply a starter fertiliser to provide nutrients essential for new growth.

Remember, consistent watering is critical for new lawns. Keep the soil moist but not saturated to encourage effective grass seed germination.

Preventative Practices

To deter clover and other weeds from gaining a foothold in your lawn, establish a routine that promotes healthy grass growth. This includes regular lawn care practices that uphold the vigour and density of your turf.

  • Regular mowing: Keep your lawn at the ideal height, typically between 2.5 to 3 inches, to promote thick grass growth that can outcompete potential clover invaders.
  • Fertilisation: Apply a balanced lawn fertiliser according to the specific needs of your grass. Adequate nutrition supports robust growth, making the lawn less inviting to clover.
  • Aeration: Annually aerate the lawn to alleviate soil compaction, allowing roots to breathe and absorb nutrients effectively.
  • Watering: Water deeply but infrequently to encourage deep root growth, which is less susceptible to clover spread and better at absorbing water from deeper soil, reducing clover’s competitive edge.

By adhering to these lawn care strategies, you ensure that your yard maintains its resilience and aesthetic appeal, keeping unwanted clover at bay.

Frequently Asked Questions

In tackling the common issue of clover in your lawn, understanding the most effective methods and products is essential for preserving the health of your grass while removing unwanted weeds.

What treatments are effective for eliminating clover whilst preserving grass?

Various treatments are available that will target clover in your lawn without damaging the grass. Use a selective herbicide that is tailored to kill broadleaf plants like clover, while leaving the surrounding grass unharmed.

Which herbicides are specifically designed to target clover in lawns?

There are herbicides such as Doxstar Pro that are crafted specifically to eradicate clover. Such products are particularly effective if applied during the growing season when clover is most active.

How can one apply fertiliser to selectively suppress clover growth?

Boosting lawn fertility can suppress clover, as it prefers low nitrogen conditions. Ensure you’re using a fertiliser high in nitrogen on your lawn, which will encourage grass growth and naturally outcompete the clover.

Are there any natural methods for controlling the spread of clover in gardens?

Yes, there are natural methods such as manual removal or applying a vinegar solution to the clover. These can be effective if you prefer not to use chemical herbicides in your garden.

What steps should be taken to prevent clover from reappearing once it has been treated?

To prevent clover from returning, maintain a healthy and thick lawn through regular mowing, proper watering, and appropriate fertilisation. A dense grassy area is less inviting for clover to thrive.

Can lawn feed products effectively eliminate clover without harming other plants?

Lawn feed products that contain the right balance of nutrients, especially those high in nitrogen, can help to discourage clover growth without damaging other garden plants. Such products enhance the vitality of your grass and reduce the conditions favourable to clover.

About the author 


Hey there, I am founder and editor in chief here at Good Grow. I guess I've always known I was going to be a gardener. I'm on a mission to share my UK based weed control & lawn care tips with you all. If you have any queries please post in the comments below.

{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}

Related Posts

What Are Mulch Blades?
How to Kill Bracken
How to Kill Chickweed
How to Kill Creeping Buttercup
How to Kill Docks
How to Kill Hogweed