How To Control Clover In Lawns

Clover is right at home in Carlsbad NM lawns as well as most lawns throughout the U.S..  Because of its perennial growth habit and rooting system, it is often one of the most difficult weeds to control. It can often take several herbicide treatments as well as other factors to completely eradicate it from your lawn. Aside from herbicide applications, we'll look at the other factors necessary for successful clover control.

While some folks find clover to be a desirable addition to their lawn because, as they will often say, "it is green", most folks don't. So at least for the context of this article, we'll consider Clover to be a weed since the true definition of a weed is any plant that is growing where you don't want it to.

So at least for the context of this article, we'll consider clover is a weed since the true definition of a weed is any plant that is growing where you don't want it to.

The following information will be helpful if you plan to do your own clover weed control or as well as give you tips as to your part to supplement the efforts a professional weed and pest service.

Aside from the use of herbicides, the key to successfully controlling Clover is a thick lawn that chokes it out, a good fertilizer program with plenty of nitrogen and low phosphorus, and a lot of persistence. In most cases, the use of weed killers and pre emergent herbicides alone will not eradicate Clover from your lawn. And definitely not in one treatment and one season.

Developing a timed herbicide application  program is necessary. However, it shouldn't be your only plan of action or main focus. As I point out over and over, your main goal and best defense against Clover and ALL WEEDS is a thick lawn with no room for weeds to grow.

So to start, and before a successful herbicide application program can begin, an evaluation of the overall health and state of the lawn is necessary. Some points to evaluate and get in order are -

  •  - Is the lawn too thin with a lot of bare spots? Could it benefit from overseeding to thicken up the turf? (NOTE: if you plan to overseed, a pre emergent application program will have to wait till later as pre emergents will prevent grass seed from sprouting as well as weed seeds.)
  •  - Are the nutrient levels in the soil right for controlling clover? As I stated and we'll discuss further, clover control requires high nitrogen and low phosphorus levels in the soil.

I'll not get too technical here. While there is a lot of science and technical information behind herbicides, the growth habits of plants, and other areas, we'll stick to the most important basics of just getting Clover and other weeds out of your yard.

Interesting Weed Fact - Up until the 1950's, clover was a common addition to many grass seed mixes. This is one of the reasons it is still so widespread in lawns today.

Is It Really Clover Or Black Medic?

Before we go any further, it may be helpful to determine whether you have clover, black medic which is often confused as clover, or both. While there are a few differences in the weeds, they both can be successfully treated and respond to most common herbicides so it really doesn't matter. They're both troublesome weeds that can throw off the texture and appearance of your lawn. And it's just good to know the difference so'll just know.

  This is Black Medic. It has the little yellow flowers. It is a long lived Summer annual that can last several years and through a few very cold seasons.  

Black Medic Weed


This is White Clover.

White Clover


So Why Is Clover And Black Medic So Hard To Control?

So you sprayed it or your weed control guy sprayed and it was gone. And then, after a few weeks or months, it started to come back. So you sprayed again, and again, and...


Let's start at the start and I'll say it again (I know, it's a bit repetitive). A thick stand of turf with plenty of constant nutrients is the best defense against weeds. This is especially true for plants like clover because it is a nitrogen fixing legume. It gathers nitrogen from the air and puts it back into the soil. It doesn't need or necessarily like a lot of nitrogen and is often a sign of a lack of nitrogen. So get on a good fertilization program to start. See - Fertilizing To Prevent Weeds In Lawns

Also, clover has a lot going on at the root level so it likes a lot of phosphorus. So a high nitrogen, low phosphorus fertilizer will work best for combating clover.

In order to control clover it's important to understand the nature and type of the plant. It's a perennial. As well, Black Medic is a long lived annual so it can respond in the same way. That means that it comes back every year from the root as well as from seed. So while a pre emergent herbicide application may address the seeds, it won't touch the root growth. And if  a post emergent weed killer was applied, many of the plants that hadn't appeared yet, won't be affected either.

So, with that said, it's important to be constant and address it as soon as you see it. This is where a lot of attempts to control clover fail. A lack of persistence. If you're doing your weed control yourself, just keep some over the counter herbicide that's labeled for clover and black medic on hand and give it a squirt as soon as you see it.

Pulling it and digging it up is almost pointless. Unless you get every bit of the root system, it will just regenerate. Spray it so as to get it all the way to the root level.

When Is The Best Time To Treat Clover?

Fall is the best time to treat your lawn for clover. There are a few reasons for this.

In the late Summer and early Fall, most if not all of the plant is actively growing with a lot of leaf surface above ground. And of course, the more of the leaf surface you can treat, the more of the whole weed will be killed to the roots.

As well, in the Fall, the plants are actively creating and sending lots of starches and sugars to the roots to store up for Winter dormancy. So of course, this is the best time to kill it at the root level.

Professional Clover And Weed Control

At Horizon, we understand that professional weed control for something like this can be outside the scope of many budgets. It can take, several treatments in one year, and the other factors we've pointed out to get some yards to the point of fewer necessary treatments.

Part of the purpose of this article is to help you help us to have more successful results. We're always willing to work with folks as a team or even educating them on a do it yourself plan of action. If you live in Carlsbad NM, Artesia NM, or other parts of Southeast New Mexico and need assistance with Clover or other weeds in your lawn, give Horizon a call today at 575-725-9331.

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