We’re planted in low clover

“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.)


StatelyMadisonManor 

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.
MiniClover 05-2020

Shown with already growing, volunteer Dutch white clover

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:  

Needs sunlight

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:  

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.

What are you growing?

About David Blaska

Madison WI
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13 Responses to We’re planted in low clover

  1. Lars says:

    Just planted 5 Serviceberry trees. Spring, beautiful white cluster of blooms. Fall vivid red and gold foliage. 10 Norway spruce. That is all.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Cornelius Gotchberg says:

      FWIW, The Gotch gets his trees/shrubs @The Bruce Company.

      When you purchase MYKE Fetilizer (OMRI rated) at the same time, they’ll warranty your plantings for five years.

      It’s cheap insurance; we lost 8 trees @ $79.99 each over the last two years which we can now replace at no cost.

      The Gotch

      Like

    • David Blaska says:

      I am partial to serviceberry trees/bushes. Where did you get yours? Looking for a Spring Sensation crabapple. Saw them at Arboretum; dwarf and compact. Can’t find them anywhere.

      Like

  2. westsidesue says:

    It was fun to read about you getting “rolled over in the clover” (you might have been too rural and or young to remember the ditty and it’s slightly off-color implications, which we recited as preteens with evil grins at top volume throughout our urban neighborhood). But I digress. I love reading about people planting things and your story was timely and informative, and NOT FAKE NEWS. We’ve opted for the easy way out, having no expanse on which to plant and soil that is primarily sandy; and invested in two lovely raised (and on wheels) garden beds with which to grace the pool deck. Hoping for a tomato or two, and maybe a bit of lettuce or carrot. Happy weekend to you and your tribe!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Cornelius Gotchberg says:

      The Gotch envies your planting zone (8 or 9?)! You can probably plant nearly anything nearly any time of the year, am I right?

      Working for Northrup King in its packet garden seed division along the eastern seaboard and TX back in the mid 70s, everyone had two gardens; spring & fall.

      If you have any, you do have to dig up your daffodil/tulip/hyacinth bulbs and refrigerate ’em, don’t you?

      And melons LUV sandy soil, but they also like to crawl.

      Good luck with the box, we bought an elevated one for some of our lettuces and spinach, and they’re thriving.

      The Gotch

      Like

    • David Blaska says:

      Remember the song. (Blush.) Just planted second row of Hilda romano pole beans. First planting May 13 just beginning to emerge. (I always rush the season.)

      Like

  3. Cornelius Gotchberg says:

    But for a few minor tweaks, the Gotchberg Organic Gardens and Lefty Conversion Therapy Emporium is ding nigh finished with the spring fieldwork-n-planting.

    It’ll be a while before we’re eating anything, but the first should be Daikon Radishes, Salad Bowl and Gourmet Blend Lettuce, Space Hybrid Spinach, & Tatsoi Rosette Bok Choy, all (along with Cilantro) direct seeded on Earth Day and reaching for the sky.

    We did buy Cherokee Red, Sylvesta, & Parris Island Cos Lettuce seedlings which should be ready soon.

    We doubled our pepper acreage (~50 plants) and are trying a few new varieties of tomato (53 plants, down from 61 per La Jefa): Mortgage Lifter, Black Krim, Big Beef Hybrid, Purple Cherokee, Jet Star, Super Sweet 100, & Brandywine.

    The Talk O’ The Town is the progress of the garlic crop…thus far; ~ 380 tres thick stalks and tall, wavy fronds seemingly well ahead of schedule. It’s pert near time to XSCAPE, and the the lovely and long suffering Mrs. Gotch just roasted the last of 2019’s crop on Friday.

    Fenced in the entire Kale Patch this year, wascally wabbits usually only go after the good stuff (Lacinato/Tuscan), but we aren’t taking any chances.

    The Gotch

    Liked by 1 person

  4. madisonexpat says:

    Kale?! Aieee! I’m more afraid of kale than I am of Corona.

    Like

    • Cornelius Gotchberg says:

      Shoot ex; Kale’s a gosh dang SUPER FOOD!

      Were you to sample the lovely and long suffering Mrs. Gotch’s fabulous Kale Crisp, her Krispy Kale home-made pizza, or her Kale pizza/spaghetti sauce, it’s not outside the realm of possibility you might think otherwise.

      The Gotch, privy to any-n-all, ergo, is not an impartial judge…

      The Gotch

      Like

  5. Lars says:

    I got my Serviceberry trees from the Arbor Day Society.

    Like

  6. SimpleLiving says:

    Up in Adams County we have a fine growing pasture and beds ready to plant. Got everything in before the rain.

    Like

  7. dad29 says:

    Dane County is now an island of strict regulation.

    Oh, really? Visited a friend in Waunakee today, was told that NOBODY in their subdivision gave a rat’s patoot about Dane County’s rules re: visiting friends, yadayada.

    FWIW, in my area, very few appeared to give a damn about “da rules” either.

    Like

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