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Clover in yard keeps pests out of garden

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By Cheryl Steenerson

This Sunday is the full flower moon and Mother Nature has gone all out to decorate. I simply love watching all the wildflowers show their colors on the farm and along the roadside.
While most of the wild phlox purples have faded, hairy vetch still offers its royal colors.
The snow white blossoms of the brambles are hanging all for all their worth. Add to that the fields of white clover surrounding the wild roses, all in a sea of green, and my canvas is complete.
All these spots of color aren’t just eye candy, they’re soil indicators. Certain native plants, some may call them weeds, give you all kinds of information garden growers need to know. They can make your life easier and save you some cash to boot.
Pick up a guide to the wildflowers and ferns of Kentucky, my favorite is by Mary E. Wharton and Roger W. Barbour, and take a walk around your yard. Large populations of the same “weeds” tell you the different types of soils that they are thriving in and that can tell you what types of plants will do well there.
A healthy, fertile soil, with a pH of 6.2 to 7.0, will sprout burdock, chickweed, chicory, dandelions, lamb’s quarters, pigweed, pokeweed, purslane, and Queen Anne’s lace. That’s perfect for heavy feeding vegetables like broccoli, corn, lettuce, melons, peppers, squash and tomatoes.
A poor soil will have broom sedge, dog fennel, wild radish and sheep sorrel, capable of supporting beans, beets, carrots, peas, sage and thyme. Potato vine and yarrow tell you it’s a perpetually dry soil.
That’s not good for much, unless you like potato vines.
Compacted or heavy clay soil is identified by wild garlic, broadleaf dock, plantain and spurge, another no-grow type of soil. All this information is yours without lifting a shovel or bagging a sample.
All you had to do was take a walk.
Several folks have commented on all the white clover this year. I still remember my barefoot summers and an almost weekly occurrence of bee stings that went with them.
When I was growing up in Indiana, it was normal to see yards filled with white clover.
The bees and butterflies loved it. Even us kids sucked on the flower heads because they were so sweet. White clover thrives best in cool, moist conditions with soil that has ample lime, phosphate and potash, it will also grow in clay, silt and sandy soils.
White clover is a legume and a valuable forage crop for all types of wildlife and livestock. I don’t know about you, but I’d much rather have the deer and rabbits munching in the yard instead of the garden, so I’m thrilled to see all the clover. I may even pluck a flower to suck on while strolling about the yard. I think I’ll keep my sandals on though.
Now, get out there and secure all the fencing. Put in those plants and lay down the mulch. We’re starting our engines earlier than the Indy cars and it’s a long race to the finish, though it will go by in a flash.
Keep a watchful eye on the weather. It has snowed here on Mother’s Day, even if it has been more than a decade ago. When you get a moment, take off your shoes and wiggle those toes in the clover. Just be sure to look for bees first.
Happy growing.

Cheryl Steenerson is a gardening columnist for The Anderson News.