Why Clover is your Friend
UPdate Spring 1999

1.      Clover is not a weed.  This plant naturally takes nitrogen out of the air
and transfers it to the soil where your grass can utilize it.  Don't kill
clover with herbicides, such as 2,4-D in Weed-n-Feed.  You'll save money in two ways: the clover will supply free fertilizer and you don't need to buy any harsh lawn chemicals.  Caution: even lawn care products listing
so-called "inert," "other," "unknown," or "unlisted" ingredients, or are
described as "organic-based," can contain pesticides, heavy metals, hormone disrupting chemicals, non-benign surfactants (soaps), and other toxic materials.  Buy only products which list all their ingredients.

2.      In spring, sprinkle any bare lawn patches with a seed mixture of
ryegrass, with 10% (by volume) Dutch White Clover seed, and 30% (by volume) of a LOW MAINTENANCE GRASS SEED MIXTURE, such as "Greenfast," or "Shady Nook" (available at Halifax Seed) and some soil or compost.  "Low maintenance" mixtures (or "low input" mixtures) can thrive on low nutrient levels.  This is what you are looking for.  Fine fescues require less moisture and nutrients, and tolerate shade better than many Kentucky Bluegrass varieties.  Clover looks more uniform and quite beautiful when it is spread evenly throughout the lawn by dispersed seeding.  Add lime inspringtime, if desired.

3.      Hand weed for plantain and dandelion, etc., at least twice a year: once in May and once in the Fall. Some gardeners use vinegar to kill weeds, or hire students to do the work. You can also use a "Bernzomatic" propane weed torch sparingly on the growing points (this is a wand used while standing up; Lee Valley Tools, Bayers Lake).  More "No-Bend" weeding tools are offered at this website: http://www.webcreations.com/notstooped/   Adding six inches (or more) of any clean, seed-free mulch will suppress weed growth in unplanted areas and nourish the soil at the same time, but be careful of
unlabelled herbicide-soaked bark mulches.  Insist on buying only those
untreated with herbicides or other pesticides.  Ask the NS Department of
Environment to insure that pesticide treated mulches are LABELLED properly!

4.       Mow the grass frequently (once a week), even if growth is slow, but do not cut shorter than three inches.  The generous height keeps the turf
healthy and resistant to drought and weed invasion. Let the clippings lie.
They will feed and nourish the lawn for free.  Thatch build-up is usually
only a problem in very dry climates or where lawn chemicals have killed off earthworms and other organisms in the soil that break down thatch naturally (and keep chinch bugs in check).  The health of your soil will gradually improve when you stop using chemicals and pesticides.

5.      Around the end of October or early November, apply a "dormant feed" organic fertilizer such as fully mature compost, or "Eco-Val 4:4:8."  The combination of (1) dormant feed fertilizer, (2) recycling of clippings and leaves by mulch mowing, and (3) clover, should be enough to keep your lawn as green as those fertilized several times through the season with chemical fertilizers, but without their negative effects.  Although they produce a quick temporary green, fast release (or so-called, high-grade) chemical fertilizers, cause shallow root growth, thatch build-up, essential trace nutrients to be rapidly washed out of the soil, and the die-off of
earthworms and other natural soil organisms (that attack chinch bugs, and aerate the soil for free).  If they contain pesticides, these chemical lawn products increase the morbidity and mortality of pets, increase the risks to human health (especially for children), and can result in pesticides (unlicensed for indoor use) entering the home where they bond semi-permanently with carpet dust, and remain there for up to one year, causing further inhalation exposures.  For further information on non-toxic landscape information, explore RATE's website and
informative links (http://www.chebucto.ns.ca/Environment/RATE/).