Which ground cover can act as a lawn, a pasture and a green manure, while simultaneously looking great? Which ground cover has the ability to feed your livestock, stop erosion, and rejuvenate your soil as it grows?
One of the most flexible ground covers available, strawberry clover is an incredibly adaptable plant that offers a wide variety of benefits to anyone who plants it. So what are these benefits? And what negatives do you need to keep in mind? Let’s take a look.
Strawberry clover, like all clovers, is a nitrogen fixer. This means that it will deliver much-needed nitrogen to a depleted or less fertile soil. For this reason many farmers use it as a ground cover at the base of fruit trees in orchards, vines in vineyards or in paddocks between cropping seasons. Its natural shade tolerance ensures that it will grow well when planted beneath other trees, vines and shrubs.
It can also be used as a green manure cover crop, delivering a variety of other nutrients to surrounding plants in its role as live mulch. Strawberry clover also works to loosen heavy soils, which aids in getting the nutrients to find their way to other plants’ roots.
Strawberry clover is a tough nut, able to handle soils and conditions that would have other ground covers wilting. It copes very well with salty and alkaline soils, and is very resistant to flooding. While it’s a cool season ground cover, it’s also somewhat drought resistant. Strawberry clover is also very resistant to the cold, having evolved in the cooler climes of the northern hemisphere. If you’re in an area that is prone to frost your strawberry clover will not be affected.
It makes for a very palatable and nutritious meal for most grazing animals, can be used as hay, and also encourages birds, butterflies, bees and other beneficial insects to inhabit your property. By planting strawberry clover you’ll have a greater chance of enjoying a complete and healthy ecosystem on your land.
As a thick growing ground cover with a dense sod, strawberry clover will choke out most weeds and unwanted plant life in the area that it’s planted. The dense cover will also protect your land against erosion from wind, water and animal traffic.
You can use strawberry clover as a companion grass to your lawn, as it will offer nitrogen and other nutrients to your turf while not competing with it for space. The bloom of strawberry clover can also give your grass a bit of an X-factor, making for a beautiful look.
When all of these qualities are taken into account, strawberry clover can almost cancel out the need to spray fertiliser, herbicides and pesticides in any area in which it’s planted. For those who would like to operate as chemical-free as possible, it is a fantastic solution.
The cons of strawberry clover generally centre around the fact that it has been bred for cool climates. While it’s a fantastic ground cover option for those in southern Australia, it won’t do particularly well in the subtropics and tropics. While somewhat drought tolerant, anywhere that experiences extended dry periods (i.e. most of Australia) will necessitate the irrigation of strawberry clover. It also tends to wilt in the heat, so areas that experience excessively high temperatures won’t be suitable for it.
The other main con is its inability to repair itself. While it is thick growing and will feed a lot of animals, it does take a little while to recover. The same goes for clover that’s used as a companion grass in lawns – it might take a while to bounce back in high traffic areas.
But at the end of the day, if you find yourself in an area that suits strawberry clover, the pros certainly outweigh the cons. If you’ve got any other questions about whether strawberry clover is the right choice for your situation, don’t hesitate to contact the friendly team at McKays.