What if you could have a lawn that rarely needed watering, was naturally weed free, never needed fertilizer, aerated the soil on its own, was soft to walk on, attracted beneficial insects, seldom needed mowing, stayed a luscious green even after Rover peed on it and as if all that wasn?t fantastic enough, what if your lawn was capable of fertilizing itself?

Well, back in the 1950s those were the precise qualities of a prestigious lawn plant marketed to savvy consumers. What happened to it? It was too easy. It worked so well people decided it was a weed and ushered in the era of finicky grass seed, lawn fertilizer, weed killers, sprinklers and lawn mowers that we know and hate today. Our planet came out the loser but hey, profits at garden centres sky rocketed, so there you go. What was the name of this miraculous plant cum weed? Clover.

With its deep root system clover tolerates compacted soil better than grass and is able to tap into moisture at lower levels which is why it requires far less watering. These qualities make clover highly competitive and able to choke out weed competition, so you can put that toxic weed killer back on the shelf. And forget the fertilizer too. Clover has the clever ability to snatch nitrogen right out of the air and pull it down into nodes along its roots, making it self-fertilizing. How cool is that?

Clover?s small sweetly scented flowers attract bees and other beneficial insects. We have been taught to view the white clover blossoms as an eyesore, but if you take the time to get down to earth and really look at them (and be sure to have a sniff while you?re down there; but watch out for Rover?s leavings) they are really quite pretty. When you consider that a third of our food is a direct result of the bee?s pollinating abilities, it makes sense to start making our planet more bee friendly instead of presenting them with a sterile square after sterile square of toxic soup we call lawns. The only drawback would be if you?re allergic to bees and enjoy running barefoot in the summer. In this case simply mow off the blooms and your lawn will be naturally bee free.

Dutch White is the most commonly used clover for lawns, growing only four to eight inches high. Dutch White Clover seed can be obtained at the Fort St. John Seed Co-op (250-785-3904) for three dollars a pound or you can order white clover online from the Ontario Seed Company at www.osc.com or by mail at PO Box 7, Waterloo, ON N2J 3Z6P. Telephone: 519-886-0557, Fax: 519-886-0605. It?s way more expensive though at $5.95 for 500 grams or $18.99 for only 2 kg!

LEAVE IT TO NATURE Left to its own intelligent devices, nature will choose the most suitable blend of grasses and herbs for your lawn, most likely including Alsike, the clover that naturally invades lawns in the Peace Country but can grow far taller and will require more frequent mowing than the Dutch White. When clover first begins to naturally invade your lawn, it will form several patches of solid clover stands that can be perceived as unsightly. However, left to do its thing it will eventually distribute itself evenly, along with a pleasing mixture of grasses and herbs that are resistant to drought, all naturally custom designed for your particular yard?s needs and guaranteed to stay a lovely green throughout the summer. To make sure your natural blend does not include any noxious weeds be sure to check out www.weedsbc.ca

I?ll leave you with the following excerpt harvested from the book ?New Way to Kill Weeds? by R. Milton Carleton. ?The thought of White Dutch Clover as a lawn weed will come as a distinct shock to old-time gardeners. I can remember the day when lawn mixtures were judged for quality by the percentage of clover seed they contained. The higher this figure, the better the mixture?I can remember the loving care which old-time gardeners gave their clover lawns. The smug look on the face of the proud homeowner whose stand was the best in the neighbourhood was something to behold.?

Shannon McKinnon gardens and writes from the Peace River country. She can be reached at contact@shannonmckinnon.com