It was nothing I did. It just happened. I never used an herbicide on the lawn in my Baltimore backyard, and never used fertilizer. And so we have plenty of clover (photo above, and yeah that’s my paint-smeared shoe on the left), and it pleases the bees and the city rabbits.
This is how the University of Maryland extension describes the conditions that favor clover growth: “Poorly maintained lawn and garden areas.”
I know you can plant clover. In fact, from my reading on the subject, clover is making a modest comeback among eco-conscious homeowners. But, again, this is not something I did. So the bees and rabbits that visit my yard are the beneficiaries of benign neglect.
Nowadays people are obsessed with perfect lawns and see clover as a weed.
But, once upon a time, clover was included in seed mixes. The yard of my boyhood home had a mixture of clover and grass, and plenty of honey bees. The White House lawn once had loads of clover — and the presidential sheep loved it.
I often have dozens of honey bees at a time working in the yard. The importance of those pollinators is well-established. Bees are a key factor to diverse and healthy ecosystems, and they play a huge role in our food supply. Their colonies in North America are in decline, and scientists track that troubling trend to several factors, one of them being the use of pesticides.
Americans have used all kinds of chemicals to kill insects. We kill weeds to have perfect lawns. And there is a decided preference for big, treeless, obsessively-mowed perfect lawns in suburban areas.
I’m writing this to suggest an alternative — clover — and what I’m suggesting would result in savings on the cost of fertilizer, pesticides, herbicides and, if you plant more trees, gasoline.
You might end up saving bees, too.
As for bunnies: I understand that gardeners aren’t crazy about having them around. But having a yard full of clover — and a dog — can keep the bunnies away from most of your lettuce. Life, she is one big balancing act, no?