Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Audacity of Hope

White clover. Growing all by its lonesome, without human intervention.

This is good news – though technically it's further evidence of my lawn care company's ineffectiveness. Read on.

I have learned some crazy things during this organic lawn experiment. The strangest – why everybody's lawn had trifolium repens when I was a kid and now almost nobody's does.

For generations, clover was considered a lawn crop. In fact – decades ago, clover seeds were included in lawn grass seed mix. It's attractive. It mows well, it thrives just about everywhere, it stays green in all kinds of conditions – and it's one of those special plants that pulls nitrogen out of the air and puts it into the soil: nature's fertilizer factory.

Then, in the 1950s, the chemical industry started looking for a commercial market for the toxins they developed during WWII. 2,4,D is what started the 'weed & feed' revolution. The Agent Orange of its day, it was developed to kill vegetation on overseas battlegrounds. After the war, the manufacturers saw a huge market opportunity in farming and turfgrass. It was the first known chemical that would kill broadleaf plants (non-grass) and leave the grass pretty much alone.

One problem: it killed clover, a traditional turf crop. Solution: launch a propaganda blitz to convince the turf-growing public that clover is a "weed," to be eradicated along with the dandelions and chickweed. And the steadfast servant started disappearing from American lawns.

Here's the cool part – organic grass farmers like me know it's not a weed. We scoff at the system – we're revolutionaries, crazy enough to actually plant clover in our yards. At $10 a pound, clover seed ain't cheap, but it's germinating on my lawn as I type this (you mix it into your grass seed by the tablespoon, so a little goes a long way.)

Hee hee ... it's just one more way to thumb our collective nose at the agri-chem industry. There's some out there growing wild and – with any luck – there's going to be even more come spring.

Clover. My small protest. My subversion. My audacity of hope.

1 comment:

  1. Love this post! We have lots of natural clover growing in the lawn, and my husband is convinced it should be eradicated (but alas is too lazy to do anything about it). I will show him your post, because he doesn't believe me!