What Kills Clover But Not Grass?

kill clover but not grass in your lawn

People want nothing but the best for their lawns. Some people are obsessed with the condition of their lawns and water their grass frequently, they check for holes and weeds daily and I’ve even seen a few people measure the height of their grass!

Even if the person is not the type to obsess over their lawn, the average person still spends a lot of time on their lawn performing lawn care such as mowing, raking, and other lawn care activities.

Neither the person who is obsessed with their lawn or the average person wants to deal with weeds. Even if the weed has beneficial qualities for their lawn, they want it gone as it can take over the lawn and either stunt or kill the grass off entirely.

Clover is one such plant that many people consider to be a weed that has multiple benefits but will take over the grass if given the chance.

Luckily, there are several ways to remove clover from your yard without the use of chemicals.

So the next time someone asks you, “What kills clover but not grass”, you’ll have an answer for them and you can tell them why clover is growing in their yard to begin with.

Check out my article on the pros and cons of clover lawns.

Why Do I Have So Much Clover In My Lawn?

There are several reasons why there is so much clover growing in your lawn, only part of which can be under your control.

These reasons are:

  • Cool temperatures
  • Over-irrigation
  • Poor nutrients
  • Poor soil

Cool Temperatures

This reason is out of your control, but it is something to keep in mind come springtime. Soil microbes might not be active enough to move nitrogen onto grass and clover thrives in areas where there is a lower amount of nitrogen.

Too Much Irrigation

Another issue with the nitrogen in the soil. Heavy rains and over-watering can strip the nitrogen away from the soil. If you water automatically with sprinklers, make sure that they don’t overlap.

Poor Soil

Be sure to take soil samples and send them in for testing just to make sure the potential problems with the soil aren’t too severe. Be sure to aerate the soil regularly to ensure that the soil and the grass have better airflow. There is also a method called top dressing where a thin layer of soil is added to the lawn.

Lack of Nutrients

Since clover thrives in areas where there is less nitrogen in the soil, and grass thrives in areas where there are higher levels of nitrogen in the soil, one reason why clover is growing in your yard is due to a lack of nitrogen. Make sure to feed your lawn a slow-release organic fertilizer.

Chemical fertilizers make the problem worse by leaching nutrients away from the grass.

clover grass

Will Clover Take Over My Grass?

Yes. If left to its own devices, clover will take over your entire lawn if steps are not taken to stop it.

While clover seed used to be a standard addition to lawn grass seed until the 1950s, it is now considered a weed that doesn’t belong on a perfect lawn. With don’t the exception of an occasional garden area, most people don’t want any other plants growing in their lawn other than the grass that has to be maintained and mowed regularly.

How To Kill Clover Without Chemicals

With chemical treatments, it is too easy to leach nutrients from the lawn and make things worse. Luckily, there are ways to get rid of the clover without resorting to chemical treatments.

Mow High, Tall grass is happy grass.

If the grass is mown under three inches, it becomes stressed, but the clover loves being short. When grass is short, the clover can thrive and take over the grass. When grass is tall, it can take over the space and smother the clover which will eventually make the clover disappear.

This next method only applies to large patches of clover since doing this with smaller patches will kill the surrounding plants and grass. To deprive the clover of sunlight and oxygen, place some dark plastic sheeting on top of the clover. This can be done with shopping bags or even a trash bag. This method takes a few weeks.

Feed The Lawn

  • Since clover thrives in areas with lower nitrogen levels, the simplest solution for ridding your lawn of clover is to fertilize your lawn to raise the nitrogen levels.

Water The Lawn

  • Another simple solution to kill clover is to deeply water your lawn. Not over-water, but deeply water to make sure the grass hydrated enough to grow and combat the clover.

Give Your Grass A Hand

  • The easiest solution I always like to do is go in there myself and yank out the clover by hand. With this method, be sure to remove all of the clover, even the root. If the roots are not removed, the clover will come back.

Corn Gluten

  • Looks like clover is a plant that needs a gluten-free environment. Corn gluten is a method that does not affect nearby plants but will inhibit the growth of the clover. It makes it more difficult for the clover to sprout as it drys out the seeds.

Vinegar And Dish Soap

  • The most popular method. This is normally done with a spray bottle and getting really close to the clover so it doesn’t affect the grass or other plants.

kill clover but not grass

Does Vinegar Kill Clover?

While vinegar and dish soap is a popular method for getting rid of clover, vinegar on its own works well too. I’m a bit wary about using the types bought from a restaurant supply businesses or farmer’s stores as the acetic acid content is higher, which makes it unsafe for human contact.

As mentioned with the vinegar and dish soap method, use a spray bottle and get really close to the clover to spray it.

Believe me, you don’t want this getting on the grass or your other plants.

Not only will it make your grass ill, but it would even kill it, leaving bald spots on your lawn.

Depending on the type of clover you have, sometimes multiple applications may be needed to rid yourself of the clover. With weeds, it is generally best to wait until they are in their active growth stage. If you don’t catch them in their active growth stage, then multiple applications may be needed for the best results.

Does A Combination Of Vinegar, Epsom Salts And Dawn Dish Soap Really Kill Weeds?

A combination of a highly acidic liquid, something people use to soak their feet in that is also known as magnesium sulfate and something that has been used to clean oil off birds after an oil spill. Yeah, I definitely think this combo will really kill weeds.

For best results, mix a few tablespoons of Epsom salts with warm water, two tablespoons of vinegar and a tablespoon of Dawn dish soap. Put this mixture into a spray bottle and spray the weeds. To avoid affecting anything nearby, be sure to get close to the clover as possible.

I know this particular method might not be in the “what kills clover but not grass” category normally, but as long as the application is carefully applied to the clover the grass will be fine.

Although, one note to make is that, due to the nutrients found in the salt, Epsom salts might actually make the clover grow faster and thrive better. Take that with a grain of salt.

How Long Does It Take Clover To Establish?

It normally takes clover about two or three days to sprout and a little over a week to germinate. Depending on the species of clover, it takes them a few months to become established and bloom, usually in the summer.

clover flowers in grass

Does Clover Spread Quickly?

Yes. Without a doubt, yes. Once clover is established, it will come back over and over until measures are taken to ensure that it won’t. Also, clover is a type of plant that will self-seed. This means they spread their seeds into the soil, instead of spreading their seeds into the wind to see where they end up.

Why People Want Clover

Above, I had mentioned that there are people who want clover as a lawn for several reasons. Even though this is about what kills clover but not grass, I still feel as though it is only fair to share the reasons why people would want a clover lawn.

  • Clover lawns can tolerate droughts better.
  • Clover lawns attract bees
  • Clover lawns are resistant to pet urine
  • Clover lawns are inexpensive to maintain and rarely have to be mowed.

When it comes to knowing what kills clover but not grass, people have many options open to them. They can either get in there with their bare hands and pull the clover out by the roots, they can fertilize and water their yard to bring up the nitrogen levels and make sure their yard is hydrated.

They could even make sure to mow their grass high and not cut their grass below three inches.

Awareness of what your lawn needs and when your lawn needs it goes a long way when it comes to preventing issues like invasive clover patches. Once I learned how to properly take care of my lawn and when to fertilize it and how much water to give, I no longer had a problem with clover.

The best way to get rid of something is to prevent it from becoming an issue.


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