How to Get Rid of White Clovers Without Destroying the Lawn

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Choose from natural or chemical methods to control white clovers (Trifolium repens) without harming the grass in your lawn. To help control white clovers in a lawn, you can apply fertilizer, dig up the plants or spray the lawn with a selective weedkiller.

Tip

    • White clovers are beneficial weeds. They provide nectar for bees, which are essential for many plants, and they improve soil fertility and structure.       
    • White clovers are perennial, broad-leaved weeds that grow in U.S.
      Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 3 through 10, and grow 3
      to 6 inches tall and 12 to 18 inches wide. Late spring through early summer, white, globe-shaped flowers appear above the three-leaved stems.                                                                

Applying Fertilizer

A lawn infested with white clovers is probably low in nutrients. Grass grows poorly in low-fertility soil but white clovers thrive and out-compete the grass. Fertilizing the lawn improves the growing conditions for grass, which can then grow strongly and overcome white clovers.

Fertilize the lawn with 1 pound of actual nitrogen per 1000 square feet when the grass is actively growing. Evenly apply the fertilizer using a lawn spreader, and water the lawn afterward. Apply fertilizer four times per year over the growing season at evenly spaced intervals.

Tip

  • To calculate the amount of fertilizer to use to supply 1 pound of nitrogen, find the list of three figures on the fertilizer label, such as 20-5-10. The first figure is the percentage of nitrogen. Convert this figure to a decimal point. For example, 20 would become 0.20. Then divide 1 by the decimal point, so in this example 0.20 divided by 1 equals 5. To supply 1 pound of actual nitrogen from a fertilizer that contains 20 percent nitrogen, you must apply 5 pounds of fertilizer to 1,000 square feet of lawn.

Warning

  • Don't apply fertilizer when the grass has stopped growing and is dormant. Excess fertilizer is harmful to grass, and heavy rains wash it into oceans, rivers and lakes, where it becomes a pollutant.

Digging Up Clumps

White clovers grow in wide, shallow clumps with a central tap root. Digging up the plants and removing their roots helps control white clovers but has no effect on the grass.

Grasp a clover clump in one hand, exposing the base of the plant. Push a trowel deep into the soil next to the plant's base, and lever the trowel upward. The clover roots should lift out of the soil. Remove the other clumps in the same way, and dig up new clover plants as soon as they appear.

Sow grass seed on any bare patches of soil that remain after removing the white clovers.

Applying Herbicides

Quinclorac, triclopyr, aminocyclopyrachlor and fluroxypyr are of the some broad-leaved weed herbicide ingredients that control white clovers. Broad-leaved weedkillers rarely harm grass, though they can be harmful to ornamental plants as well as people and pets. The best time for controlling white clovers with herbicides is when they're small and actively growing.

Warning

  • Check the label before applying herbicides to your lawn. Some aren't suitable for certain grass types. For example, a herbicide containing 4.85 percemt 2, 4-D, 1.61 percent quinclorac and 0.45 percent dicamba is harmful to St. Augustine grass (Stenotaphrum secundatum), which grows in USDA zones 8 through 10, and other lawn grasses.

Water a dry lawn 24 to 48 hours before applying a herbicide. Put on long pants, a long-sleeved shirt, shoes, socks, safety goggles and gloves, and cover plants growing near the lawn with cardboard before applying a ready-to-use broad-leaved weed herbicide. Evenly spray an herbicide containing 4.85 percent 2,4-D, 1.61 percent quinclorac and 0.45 percent dicamba on a still, dry day when temperatures are below 90 degrees Fahrenheit.

Tip

  • If the lawn is Bermuda grass (Cynodon spp.), apply the herbicide when temperatures are below 85 F. Bermuda grass grows in USDA zones 7 through 10.

Warning

  • Don't mow the lawn for one or two days after applying the herbicide.

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