In Part 1 of this series, we covered why pollinators are important and the effects we can expect from their loss of habitat. As we mentioned before, a perfectly manicured lawn may look lovely, but it creates a food desert for pollinators.
Luckily, there are ways to compromise, so you can still have a beautiful yard that’s also filled with pollinator-friendly turf alternatives. We’ll cover that here.
Get Started with a Grass/Flower Mix
Researchers from the University of Minnesota recommend creating a “flowering lawn,” which includes a mixture of flowering plants and turf grass, rather than a manicured lawn. In addition to being pollinator-friendly turf alternatives, flowering lawns are typically stronger and more resilient to issues like compacted soil, drought, flooding, or low sun or nutrients. Because they can grow where grasses typically wouldn’t, they also cover more ground, which reduces soil erosion and nutrient runoff.
Many plants can be used in flowering lawns, so you’ll want to be sure to find the right mix of grasses and flowers.
In Minnesota, we recommend overseeding your lawn grass with fescue, which has long roots and a slow growth period, both of which make it very easy to maintain. It also has thinner blades than the standard Kentucky bluegrass. And that thinness allows more sunshine through to the ground, allowing your bee-friendly flowers the opportunity to germinate.
You can keep your existing grass by continually overseeding it so that pollinator-friendly plants will grow right alongside your current lawn.
Choose Your Flowers
Once you have your grass chosen, it’s time to figure out which flowers to plant. Native Minnesotan flowers like ground plum, lanceleaf coreopsis, or calico aster tend to grow quickly, but they can be hard to find at nurseries, and they have low germination rates since they’re not domesticated.
Non-native flowers can be perfect for lawns, too, particularly if they’re non-invasive. Some flowers, like dandelions, are immediately seen as a nuisance or a weed, and they may not be good simply for that reason.
Two recommended options are (1) Dutch white clover (in the pea family, and originally from Europe), which is great for bees, thrives in lawns, and is less expensive than the next option; and (2) creeping thyme (in the mint family, and also from Europe), which grows a little more slowly than the clover. The thyme also has an herbal smell, similar to the thyme used in cooking. Both are extremely pollinator-friendly.
At Organic Lawns by Lunseth, we use the following formula: fescues + creeping thyme + dutch white clover + self-heal.
Ready to Get Started?
We’ll cover how to plan for your new lawn and what to expect as you transition in Part 3 of this series. If you have any questions or want to create a pollinator-friendly lawn today, reach out to us today.
We are here and happy to help!