“It’s summertime summertime sum sum summertime
Summertime summertime sum sum summertime” — the Jamies, 1958.
- Just like that, it’s summer in southern Wisconsin this beautiful Sunday, Memorial Day weekend.
A goodly rain Saturday preceded today’s sunshine and temperatures in the 80s F. (05-24-2020)! We thank the WI State Journal for heckling Dane County’s paranoid coronavirus lockdown.
Dane County is now an island of strict regulation. … [It] appears to open the economy slower than what the Democratic governor would have allowed. And it provides less clarity and hope for a return to something approaching normal. … We understand the need for caution to prevent a sharp increase in cases. But that concern must be weighed against the livelihoods of small business people and the larger economy.
⇒ OFFICIAL ANNOUNCEMENT: The head groundskeeper here at Blaska Policy Werkes hereby declares the Experimental Work Farm (and Penal Colony) open for business! (Face masks optional.)
Back in the fields from their unpaid furlough, quarantine, and lockdown, the unlettered field hands — blinking in the unfamiliar sunlight — worked the verdant lawns surrounding the Stately Manor. As they toiled, the field hands sang their old-timey, call & response hymns (from the Steely Dan catalog):
I’m a fool to do your dirty work
Oh yeah 🎶
I don’t wanna do your dirty work
No more 🎶
I’m a fool to do your dirty work
Oh yeah 🎶
They were implementing Blaska’s grand experiment. The chief agronomist is re-introducing white clover to the lawn. (You heard us right!!!) The learned agriculturist was gob-smacked by the natural beauty of the lawn across the street, the small white blossoms poking their heads above the green grass of that home.
Once upon a time (before the music died), all lawn seed contained white clover (Trifolium repens) as a matter of course. The widespread adaptation of selective herbicides in the 1950s doomed clover. Blaska wants it back. White clover is a good symbiotic best buddy to lawn grass.
- Fixes its own nitrogen and lends some to the Kentucky bluegrass, fescue, and perennial rye.
- Grows a beautiful dark green with demure white blossoms.
- Crowds out dandelions, creeping charlie, etc.
- Deep roots aerate our soggy clay soil.
- Less subject to drought.
- Stands up to foot traffic.
- Attracts bees (and we need more bees) and allows earthworms to thrive.
Get small and go green
We’re not Mr. (Totally) Natural, Flakey Foont. We spot-sprayed Bonide Weed Beater Ultra (available at Jung’s) on the mats of invasive chickweed and let it do its grim work. Followed that two days later with an over-seeder rented from Home Depot ($69 for four hours). The gas-powered machine scratches the soil like a de-thatcher but don’t bother using its seed bin. White clover seed is just too tiny. Didn’t work the entire lawn; clover migrates.
“As long as the roots are not severed, all is well. And all will be well in the garden.” — Chance the Gardener.
We planted “micro-clover” — said to grow half as high as normal “Dutch” white clover — 2 to 3 inches as opposed to 4 to 6 inches, once it’s “trained” by mowing. But it’s also more expensive. The heartless overseer of the Work Farm procured two one-pound bags of mini-clover (v. Pipolina) via mail order at $26 each (versus $15 for the regular white clover). Comes coated in inoculant to give it a good start. Good luck finding micro-clover in area garden centers. Mail order sources we could find are:
The field hands manually sprinkled the tiny seeds over the worked-over lawn, then allowed Saturday’s heavy rain to implant the seed in the shallow earth. (Can’t be planted more than one-quarter inch deep.) The chief agronomist timed planting just right; spring or early summer around here. Grows in zones 3 to 10 (Madison WI is zone 4). Should germinate in 7 to 15 days if kept moist. Weatherman looks like he’ll help.
Must admit, a similar attempt on the more wooded, north-facing front lawn a few years ago failed. Clover grew but didn’t come back the next year. Clover needs full sun or, at minimum, partial shade.
Because it makes its own, we intend to fertilize with low-nitrogen amendments, probably Milorganite, which adds tilth to the soil, as well. We also keep our lawns at least 2 inches high (no scalping!); shades the roots. Helps lawns survive Wisconsin’s torrid summers. Cool-season grass like ours appreciates cool feet, which is why Ireland is so green.
More knowledgeable sources than than moi:
- “Clover, friend or foe?” (Answer: Friend)
- “How to establish a clover lawn”
- “Micro-clover, a new clover to discover.”
Blaska’s Memorial Day weekend Bottom Line: We trace our love of the soil and growing things to father, who survived the Great Depression, fought in the Second World War, farmed the land, served in the state legislature, raised a family and a considerable amount of hell.