Wild blue violets in a lawn

Let the “weeds” grow in your lawn (or at least some of them)


Today I'm going to talk about two plants that are considered lawn "weeds." The two that I'm going to discuss are white clover (Trifolium repens) and wild violet (Viola sororia). Hopefully by the end of this article you'll agree with me that we should move these two from the category of foe to friend.

In the past I managed my lawn the typical suburban way--chemical fertilizer with a pre-emergent herbicide in the spring, followed by hefty doses of broad leaf herbicides throughout the summer to manage weeds. A few years ago I started raising free-range chickens in my backyard, so I decided to go chemical-free. As a result my lawn has more "weeds" than ever, particularly clover and violets. But I don't mind--here's why.

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Clover has many advantages. It fixes nitrogen which fertilizes the turf grasses. Also, thanks to its deep roots, it's more drought tolerant than turf grasses. It's also lower growing so it doesn't increase frequency of mowing. It's also less vulnerable to pests and its flowers are a source of food for bees. As an added bonus my daughter loves to pick the flowers for mini bouquets!

So why do we think of clover as a "weed?" It wasn't always this way. Clover was originally viewed as a beneficial amendment to lawns for all the reasons I outlined above. You can thank Dow Chemical for the change in attitude. They developed 2,4-D (a selective herbicide) that killed broadleaf weeds (including clover) but left grasses intact. In order to make this palatable, Dow had to convince people that clover was a weed that deserved to die.1

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Wild violet has many similar advantages. Like clover, violet is lower growing than grass, hardier, provides food for bees, and makes beautiful mini bouquets. In addition both the flowers and tender young leaves of wild violet are edible! They also provide many health benefits. Violet leaves contain large amounts of vitamins A and C, and rutin, which has antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and blood thinning benefits.

You may be wondering why I didn't mention dandelions. I do pull them by hand because I prefer the look of a dandelion-free lawn and don't mind the work. Although dandelions are also edible and have health benefits, I give them to my chickens as treats. They enjoy eating them more than I would.


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Suburban homesteader
Suburban homesteader

Covering things I'm interested in--raising backyard chickens, gardening, baking, and hiking

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