Why Flint is planting clover, rather than grass, on vacant lots

The three-leafed white Dutch clover is a perennial often used as pasture crop. But now Flint and some other cities are using clover ‒ instead of grass ‒ on vacant lots as part of efforts to eliminate blight.

That’s because the hardy plant can go weeks with no mowing and look far more maintained than a typical grass-seeded lawn, according to a report by Detroit Future City, a nonprofit that aims to help revitalize Detroit.

MORE COVERAGE: “Amid Flint’s water crisis, a quiet success story”

Clover only grows to about 10 to 12 inches, a fraction of the height of uncut grasses and some other weeds. It requires mowing only once or twice a year, is drought tolerant and will thrive in sun or shade. It also helps the environment because it releases nitrogen into the soil and and its flowers feed pollinators such as honeybees.

Saginaw started planting clovers in 2013, after the city go,t $1.8 million in grants to demolish 200 vacant houses. The idea soon caught on in Flint where clovers are now part of a demolition program that has replaced roughly 30 percent of the city’s blighted homes ‒ nearly 1,800 ‒ with fields of white Dutch clovers.

It would cost about $7 million to mow all of the vacant lots in Flint regularly, were they filled with grass. But the Genesee County Land Bank Authority, which is in charge of the city’s blight elimination program, has only about $1 million a year for the job.

Luckily, clovers help stretch the mowing money.

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Thu, 11/19/2015 - 10:02am
Might want to check with DNR field biologists for what types of wildlife clover will attract due to often times clover is a sought after deer herd dietary staple. Unintended consequences after a few years may be elected leadership of a jurisdiction having to debate an urban wildlife management program (deering culling). The annual cost is not enormous, Ann Arbor recently appropriated $90,000/year for its enacted deering culling program, but the divisive nature of the community debate was awkward at best. Just a thought.
David Zeman
Thu, 11/19/2015 - 11:13am
Great thought, Mark. the law of unintended consequences strikes again.