Have a Green Lawn this Summer

A closeup of a cool green clover lawn.

Love the idea of a green lawn but hate the idea of using all that water and fertilizer to keep it looking that way. Well you’ll be pleased to hear you can have a green lawn all summer without all that watering and fertilizing. Simply add some low maintenance, high output cover to your lawn, clover or fescue.


Nowadays, most Americans think of clover as a weed and try to get it out of their lawns with broad leaf herbicides. However, not that many years ago (50 to 75 maybe) clover was a common part of well-maintained lawns. Clover is easy to introduce, simply overseed your lawn with clover seeds (available at garden centers or on the Internet) and water them in for a week or so.

Common strains of clover (Irish, Shamrock or Dutch White) provide a lot of positive benefits for a homeowner when used in lawns, for example--clover puts nitrogen back into the soil, so it actually helps enrich the soil where it grows. It has a long root system making it very drought resistant. These same long roots form a symbiotic relationship with a bacteria that can fix nitrogen from the air. This means you don’t need to be continually fertilizing your lawn. (Even if you’re using organic fertilizer on your lawn now, you still have the expense and work of putting it down).

TIP: Our expert gardening advisor, Karen Thurber adds, "Clover is a legume. Like all legumes, they have the ability to form a symbiotic relationship with the bacteria Rhizobium. The Rhizobim bacteria infects the roots and forms nodules on the roots. The plant supplies the bacteria with energy, while the bacteria fixes nitrogen from the air and supplies it to the plant."

Clover is relatively bug free, so there’s no need to apply pesticides, and it resists spotting from dog urine--a major problem for some homeowners.

Finally, clover is slow growing, so you don’t need to cut it as often as grass and, when you do need to cut it, clover can withstand low mowing yet still remain green.


Depending on where you in the country you live, most lawns are made of a mixture of grasses that have relatively short root systems and need constant watering to stay green or they will turn brown during the summer. Fescue grasses on the other hand have long, deep root systems and are drought resistant, shade tolerant, and most important, stay green in the heat of summer.

TIP: Karen adds, "Fescue is a cool season grass that grows best when it is maintained at a higher height, around 3 inches. It is a drought tolerant grass that can become dormant in times of no water and grow again when water is available.

Fescue will require water to stay green in the hottest and driest times of summer. If you water, be sure to wait until the grass is showing signs of being dry, look for slight wilting or off colored grass; then be sure to water deeply. This will encourage roots to grow long and deep into the soil, giving you a more drought tolerant lawn. There are many varieties of Fescue, be sure to choose a variety that is best suited to your area."

Transitioning from a traditional lawn can be accomplished in a year or two by overseeding your existing lawn (no need to remove your existing lawn and start over). Fescue grows best when it’s planted in the late fall or early spring. To prepare your lawn for fescue planting, start by cutting it short, around 1 inch tall, then aerating with a spike aerator. Spread your fescue seeds and aerate once more to help cover the seeds with soil, then keep the seeds moist for a week or so.

TIP: Karen advises, "The seeded area must be watered daily, most likely a few times a day for the best germination. If you don't have access to a spike aerator, a rake can be used to loosen the soil."

Germination takes approximately 7 to 10 days. Fescue grows best in a well-drained soil, with a high organic matter. During the first season you need to keep the fescue well watered, but once it’s established you’ll find the requirement to water your lawn is reduced dramatically.

An added bonus is most fescue grasses are slow growing, so your won’t need to cut your lawn as often, meaning you’ll reduce harmful emissions and conserve energy while conserving water.