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Fertilizing with a manure spreader to reduce clover?

 
Julie Eaton
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My lawn is taken over with white clover! I've read your responses to other posts which suggest I need fertilizer. My question...Can I use manure? We live in the Virginia countryside and have plenty of excellent manure (chickens and horses) that we usually spread on our pastures with a manure spreader. No neighbors to annoy. I am not horribly patient, so if the fertilizer you recommend will work better or faster, I would probably use that in the areas nearest the house. Otherwise, the manure is free so that would be my preference.
 
David Hall
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For one thing manure is not fertilizer. At best it is the raw material for compost. Pile it all up, mix it every now, keep it moist and then, and when it smells as fresh as a forest floor after a spring rain, then it is ready to apply. If you want to apply it to a lawn use no more than 1/4 inch at a time. That amounts to 1 cubic yard per 1,000 square feet. The reason for not applying more is you can very easily smother the grass. Only the blades sticking up out of the compost will survive. The other reason why not to use more is that you are basically wasting your time and getting your hopes up. Compost is not a fertilizer either. It has very little protein or nitrogen in it. In fact you have to use it at the rate mentioned to get enough nitrogen to do anything. The weight of a cubic yard is 700 pounds so you are using it at a rate of 700 pounds per 1,000 square feet. The much better solution is to apply something with a lot of protein in it. Protein is made of amino acids containing nitrogen. When the protein is "rotted" by the fungi and bacteria in the soil, that protein is decomposed into primal elements and recombined into plant food by the microbes. This is how Mother Nature has done it for billions of years. When you apply something like alfalfa pellets, ground corn, soy bean meal, cottonseed meal, or other ground up grains, nuts, seeds, and beans, then you only have to apply at a rate of 20 pounds per 1,000 square feet.

Simply applying fertilizer to clover will not get rid of it, but it will improve the health of everything growing there. Whether your lawn can stomp out the clover is very iffy. I've been moderating several lawn forums for 10 years and am afraid to say that getting rid of clover organically is not as simple as fertilizing. The only non-chemical method I've heard of that works reliably is manual pulling. Even the run-of-the-mill chemical sprays don't work reliably. Ortho had to develop a stronger version of Weed-B-Gone, but I'm not going there.

On the other hand, many people have learned to live with a grass and clover mix. I know of a private golf course just north of Lake Erie that has a bentgrass/clover mix. They use no chemicals at all. No fertilizer either because the clover brings fertilizer to the soil. It is mowed only once a week on Friday in advance of the players showing up early Saturday. Greens are mowed to 1/4 inch and the fairways are mowed to 2 inches. Roughs are mowed to 3 inches. The greens are very firm but not rock solid like they were before when they used chemicals. All the players love the new course.

The problem with clover it it gets clumpy. If you seed the entire lawn with clover, it then looks very even and even plush.
 
Matu Collins
Posts: 1976
Location: Southern New England, seaside, avg yearly rainfall 41.91 in, zone 6b
69
bee books chicken forest garden fungi trees
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What is wrong with clover? I'm racking my brain to figure it out. Low-growing, green, mowable, hardy, nitrogen fixing... the only thing I can think of is if you like to walk barefoot and are afraid of stepping on a bee.

I do know that back in the day clover was routinely a part of lawn seed mixes but that when the broad leaf herbicides came out, there was an attempt to convince the public that clover was on the list of bad guys. The tactic worked better with dandelions, it seems, than clover. Most people I know don't mind the clover in their lawns.
 
Matu Collins
Posts: 1976
Location: Southern New England, seaside, avg yearly rainfall 41.91 in, zone 6b
69
bee books chicken forest garden fungi trees
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In reply to the actual question, no, I wouldn't spread manure on the lawn. For a lawn, if I was going to fertilize it, I would use something finer and ready for spreading. Manure, especially chicken, is too strong and will burn plants. Also, it would be clumpy and poopy, so if the lawn is used for kids running around as mine is, it wouldn't be nice. I don't ever fertilize or water my lawn, I just let the clippings lie and let the clover and other things grow and it is green and lush as can be.

If you are bothered by the clover but have some patience and time, leaving it and observing over time will be interesting. You could see a new mix of grasses come up in the clover and the rich soil it is creating for you.

 
Matu Collins
Posts: 1976
Location: Southern New England, seaside, avg yearly rainfall 41.91 in, zone 6b
69
bee books chicken forest garden fungi trees
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I have a low-work idea. Get some grass seed that is right for your climate. Let the clover get a little tall. Watch the weather report. When rain is expected soon, mow the clover short as can be. Sow the seed.

The grass may get a chance to come up while the clover is recovering from being shorn.
 
Kari Gunnlaugsson
pollinator
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well, i don't get the bit about manure not being fertilizer, or compost not being fertilizer...they are both important ways to cycle nutrients..

but then, i don't get the part about white clover in the lawn being a problem either...

often a grass / legume mix will oscillate back and forth...when the legume has fixed lots of nitrogen and enriched the soil the system will shift to grass-dominant as the grass outcompetes...then as nitrogen declines the grass will get less competitive and it will flip back to legume-dominant...of course the timing, height and frequency of mowing will also affect which species is favoured and you might want to play with that..

honestly, it if was me and i had some spare minutes, i'd find a nice shady spot to lay down with a cool drink and watch them both grow and just enjoy whoever seemed to be winning this summer
 
No. No. No. No. Changed my mind. Wanna come down. To see this tiny ad:
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