Bee pollinating on flower.

Creating a Bee-Friendly Lawn Part 3: Planning for Planting

In Part 1 of our series, we discussed pollinators’ importance within our ecosystems, and their recent habitat loss due to human activity. Part 2 detailed how the best way to create a bee-friendly lawn is to mix grass, such as fescue, with flowering plants like clover.

In this final post, we’ll be discussing logistics. This covers big-picture planning for your new lawn and what to expect as you transition.

Let’s get started!

Planning & Considerations

Use Your Resources

Programs exist to support homeowners who try pollinator-friendly plantings. Check with your city and county to see what’s offered in your area.

 The University of Minnesota’s Bee Lab offers pollinator information, and our state’s Board of Water and Soil Resources runs Lawns to Legumes, which offers:

  • Potential reimbursement of the cost of planting a bee-friendly lawn.
  • Workshops and webinars on how to create a bee lawn.
  • A Pollinator Toolbox that includes yard signs and press releases to raise awareness (also offered at UMN’s Bee Lab).

 For comprehensive information on planting a bee-friendly lawn in Minnesota, read the BSWR’s Planting for Pollinators and the Bee Lab’s Flowering Bee Lawns Toolkits.

Go Beyond Flowers

Bees also need trees and shrubs, which offer forage resources and places to nest in addition to nectar and pollen. Other places to nest include bare ground, mouse or beetle tunnels, hollow flower stems, logs, tall grasses, or twigs. Leaving part of your yard undisturbed can provide nesting areas; you can also see the Fish and Wildlife Service’s Midwest Plant Guide for trees and shrubs that will attract bees in each season.

 Start Small

If you’re not ready to transform your yard, easily convert small or unused areas to bee-friendly alternatives. Border gardens, saucers with river stones and water, and plantings in easements or slopes are ways to incorporate bee-friendly elements into an otherwise traditional lawn.

Prep Your Yard

There are two methods to create a bee-friendly lawn. The easiest option is to overseed (adding seeds to established lawns). The other way is to completely remove your existing lawn using sod cutters or other methods, then adding seeds to the bare soil. This requires more work up front as well as more raking and watering before the seeds germinate.

 Whichever method you choose, it’s best to do it in late fall when it’s cold enough for the new seeds to stay dormant but warm enough that the ground isn’t frozen. This gives seeds the best chance to germinate in spring.

What to Expect as you Transition

 A New Maintenance Routine

Once your yard is established, transition to bee lawn maintenance. Keep your grass tall – over 3”. To keep bees healthy, avoid using pesticides and insecticides. If you must use them, use products that are low toxicity and use them when bees are least active (early morning) and avoid spraying anything on flowering plants.

For the most part, though, bee lawns take care of themselves. No watering, fertilizer, or chemicals – easy!

 Pushback from Neighbors

Our culture has a history of coveting short, manicured lawns as entertainment space, so societal pressure to keep a traditional lawn can be intense. Yard signs and good communication are key. Remember, manicured lawns may look lovely, but they create a food desert for pollinators. Explaining this may interest your neighbors in creating a bee lawn too!

If you’re ready to create a bee-friendly lawn, Organic Lawns by Lunseth can help. Contact us to get started on your bee lawn today!

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