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So I have a fenced in back yard that has a less than perfect lawn; it exists in stark contrast to my very nice front lawn. I've been considering next year trying my luck at planting grass and improving it, but it's being taken over by clover.

After some reading I've found I might not actually mind a clover back yard -- it requires very little care and very soft. It's green and fluffy and from a distance looks like grass, additionally it attracts bees (good) and isn't affected by dogs as hard as regular grass is (also good!). It seems perfect for a backyard that I'd like to look nice but doesn't have to be held to exacting HOA standards.

Unfortunately, the only thing separating my back yard and my front yard is is a privacy fence and plants are quite happy to just grow around it. If I were to have a fescue front yard and a clover backyard, what would be my best strategy for keeping them separate?

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I use a somewhat labor-intensive way to protect my fenced yard from my neighbors' weeds that might work for you - it depends on the type of privacy fence you have. My yard is bordered by a solid, cedar, fence that begins about 1-2" above ground level. If yours is similar, this will work. If not, then you can stop reading...

Fortunately, clover's stolons hug the ground and don't go much underground, so you can install standard edging under the fence. Make sure it extends from the a couple of inches below ground level to just under the bottom of the fence. This will keep the clover from moving to the front yard. Personally, I use 8" wide aluminum flashing because I have to prevent much deeper-rooted weeds from crossing under my fence, but you can get away with standard black plastic edging if you want.

Note that you must be able to have at least half of the edging below ground level and, if you use plastic, you must stake it with the 12" metal stakes that should be supplied with the edging. If the gap between ground and fence is too high, then you'll need to use flashing like I do. You don't need to stake it if you have 4" below ground level.

Don't buy the edging in box stores though! It's garbage. Buy only straight, 20 foot pieces from a garden center or nursery that caters to the landscaping trade. Since you'll be presumably installing a straight run, this will be FAR easier to install than the curled up thin and wobbly plastic available at box stores. Also - there is a trick to joining two pieces that prevents them from ever moving apart, so comment on this answer and I'll explain it then.

  • Oh yeah - I applaud your acceptance of white clover! I don't need to protect my vegetables from rabbits because rabbits LOVE white clover better than anything else. I do keep it away from my garden beds, though. – Jurp Jun 5 '18 at 20:13
  • Clover is also a cover crop. That means it needs to be turned over in the spring BEFORE the flowers go to seed. I would get a sod cutter and remove the back yard crops of weeds and clover and install grass sod. Truly easier, less expensive in the long run. Front lawns are sort of under the nazi rule of your development, grins! They will fine you if you have a luscious dark green clover 'lawn'. Cutting that short will 'scalp' your clover crop. Edging with cheapo anything always looks like a bandaid and very ugh. – stormy Jun 6 '18 at 1:21
  • Send a picture. Please. Also note that one doesn't walk barefoot through a clover lawn in flower. Ouch. Bees. If you want to play volley ball or badminton you'd have to reseed. Picture please, this is so tough to 'imagine' and 'assume' and answer questions without. – stormy Jun 6 '18 at 1:25
  • Stormy, white clover was a part of all American lawns until after WWII, when chemical companies began marketing broadleaf-killing herbicides and it suddenly became a lawn weed. You must be a high-end landscape architect if you think edging with contractor-grade plastic looks "el cheapo". And finally, the lawn will cover the edge of the plastic anyway, effectively hiding it. As for my flashing solution, in a garden situation one mulches to the top of the aluminum or uses plants to cover it. You could also spray paint it black, I suppose, but as I never see it I don't bother. – Jurp Jun 6 '18 at 11:03
  • You bet I WAS high end. I work for the common peoples, honey. Edging is what the human eye sees of a lawn. If that edging is anything other than perfect it ruins all the effort, investment and expectations of a lawn. The ONLY edging I would allow, sorry but I did have a bit of say, is a trench between beds and the lawn. Functional, not a distraction, beautiful curves, stable radii, aids drainage and mixing of plant material from lawn to bed. Easy peasy. That black plastic edging or anything thinner than a 2X4 will always look unprofessional. I am very opinionated. I earned my opinions! – stormy Jun 6 '18 at 23:45
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I actively plant white clover in my raised bed as a cover crop amidst the tomatoes. As you mentioned bees abound and that's fantastic. I harvest regularly and just toss the leaves back in the raised bed, much like comfrey. I find it to be a gentle plant that conforms to regular harvesting if you don't mind the extra work. Note that I live in CA, which tends to dry and this advice may or may not apply.

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