After ripping up our entire front lawn to put in garden beds, we still had a lot of unsightly brown dirt everywhere. Looking for ideas, we took a tour of a neighbor’s backyard and noticed that they had planted clover seeds in their garden paths and mulched with straw.

Later, I read in Gaia’s Garden that clover can serve as a perennial groundcover for garden paths: “The greenery suppresses weeds, the shade holds moisture in the soil, the blossoms attrach beneficial insects, and nitrogen fixed by the clover boosts the growth of other crops.” What a perfect solution, we thought. That way, we don’t have to plant and mow grass, and we’ll still get some greenery in our garden paths.

So we spent a morning raking over the dirt, setting in stepping stones, sprinkling white dutch clover seeds (Trifolium repens) and covering it with a fine sprinkling of straw. I’m not sure if the clover will thrive in the hot sunny front lawn - I thought they enjoyed shade better - but it was an experiment worth doing. Another option if this fails is to plant creeping thyme.

clover and mulch

One point to note about mulching with straw: you want to buy heat treated straw, and never fresh hay. Straw is composed of the stems of grain plants and does not carry exotic weeds and grass seeds. Hay is composed of the whole grain stalk, seeds and all.