Monday, July 16, 2007

Clover update

In February or thereabouts, I bought some clover seed and planted it in the vegetable patch as ground cover where there was no veg. It took a very long time to sprout, in which time all sorts of other more invasive grasses and weeds thrived. Since the seed is also very fine indeed, it got washed away by the slightest rain, gathering in corners wherever the water tended to pool.

However, when the weather started to get warmer in April, the clover began to grow rapidly, forming a dense, juicy carpet. When you walk on it, it squashes down and looks like it's done for, but it's back up and fluffy again in a short while.

Not that you can see it well in this picture, but the clover is intimately coexisting with nasturtiums, shiso, Italian parsley, and lots of grass. This slope tended to erode in the rain while it was bare, but the clover and grass has helped to stabilize it. (Also visible is corn, pumpkin, and melon. There's clover in amongst that too.)

In other places, the clover didn't do so well. The area around the house has lousy soil. It's had chippings dumped on it, and heavy equipment has been driven back and forth on it. I broadcast clover seed on this area in the hope of greening it a bit, but the seed simply washed away. To prevent this, I scraped lines with a hoe, and broadcast the seed again.

The results are quite miserable. Although the clover is semi-established, it isn't luxuriant growth. Even clover needs a bit of soil to work with. So in an attempt to provide something nutritious for the clover to root down in, I brought down some leaf-mould and organic debris from the mountain to scatter on top of the hard soil. Onto this I broadcast yet more clover seed just as the rainy season was getting started. This time it's thrived.

I had hoped clover would form a dense ground cover that kept out other weeds. But the grasses are much faster growing and very robust. Even when the grass is torn out roots and all, it can recover somehow even when the clover is doing well. And clover is really a weed too. But by sowing clover, you get to choose one of your weeds, and add some diversity to what's growing. You also get another flowering plant for the insects that like them, although I've only seen one clover flower so far.

I understand from people who plant lawns that they only last 5 or 6 years before they go threadbare and need replanting. In the meantime they require constant weeding. I'm hoping that by opting for a weed lawn in the first place, I'll be saving us that trouble and expense.

Over the weekend, Typhoon No.4 swung by near Ehime and dumped gallons of rain on us. There were some good cloudscapes before and after.