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The weed that Minnesotans love to hate, creeping charlie is generally not recommended for a bee lawn. While it provides some nectar for bees, it is not a reliable food source. It is very invasive and can outcompete better quality bee lawn flowers such as white clover. Plus your neighbors may be unhappy if you are encouraging it to grow next to their yard. Most people with yards probably have several different spots for a bee lawn - backyards, front yards, boulevards, strips between houses, or other areas. Just because you commit to having a bee lawn doesn’t mean you need to convert your entire lawn immediately. It’s okay to start with one area at a time.Once you have a good idea of which plants you want in your bee lawn, the next step is to decide when to establish it and which establishment method to use. Based on the experiences of UMN researchers, the best times to establish are spring or late fall, and the methods are either overseeding or renovation.Does the whole process of overseeding or renovation followed by seeding sound too daunting? Or maybe you are short on time. The good news is that in response to the increasing demand for bee lawns, there are sustainable and organic landscape contractors that can do the installation for you. Check out the Purchasing bee lawn seed webpage for more information.In most cases, established bee lawns should need little to no supplemental fertilizer. Not more than one light application of lawn fertilizer in the fall, if that, should be enough to keep your bee lawn healthy. This would be similar to the application rate of a low-maintenance regular lawn.Many herbicides designed for regular lawns have the potential to kill your bee lawn flowers. If using weed-and-feed products, be aware of which active ingredients they contain. Some contain crabgrass pre-emergent herbicides, which can be a safer option as far as non-grasses are concerned, while others have ingredients called broadleaf herbicides that are designed to harm non-grasses such as your bee lawn flowers. If you must use herbicides:You may wonder about attracting all these bees to your yard — will having a bee lawn mean greater chances of getting stung? Most native bees are docile and unlikely to sting. Some stinging insects such as non-native yellowjacket wasps can be aggressive though! Learn more about wasps and whether they pose a hazard in your yard and should be removed. Most wasps are beneficial so try to let them be when possible. The authors would like to acknowledge the bee lawn research of graduate students Ian Lane, James Wolfin, and Hannah Ramer, along with the Bee Lab, Turfgrass Science and Forest Resources groups. Funding for this work was provided by the Minnesota Environment & Natural Resources Trust Fund as recommended by the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources (LCCMR).Most lawns in our climate consist of a mix of turf grasses, primarily Kentucky bluegrass. A bee lawn includes low-growing flowers as well as turf grasses. Bee lawns have many benefits, including providing foraging and nesting spaces for insects, reducing the amount of water, fertilizer and mowing required, and a greater ability to withstand periods of flooding or drought. These are tough, pesticide-free plantings that look green most of the season, but have periods of flowering that can be delightful and are important to many species of bees. Bee lawns are especially appropriate if your lawn is basically aesthetic (that is, it functions as a green space between your house, garden and the street). Those whose lawns are largely recreational (that is, children playing) may prefer to plant a pollinator pocket garden.
The University of Minnesota Bee Lab recommends a mix of non-native, but bee-beneficial flowers, such as Dutch white clover, creeping thyme and lanceleaf self-heal as well as fine fescue grasses for bee lawns. While dandelions and creeping Charlie have some pollinator benefits, they aren't recommended due to their tendency to invade lawns and choke out other flowers. University of Minnesota studies found that lawns with bee-friendly, flowering plants saw more bees and more variety of bees than traditional lawns. Having Dutch clover alone in a lawn attracted 55 species of pollinating insects, according to one study. To add a bee lawn to your property, you can either replace the current lawn with a planting mixture of seeds of fescues and flowers. Or you can add flowers to your current lawn. The benefits of a fresh start approach are that you will have the correct mix of grass seed and flower seed and they will grow up together. Supplementing your grass with flowers is less expensive, but the flower seeds must compete with the grass and may not fill in as well. If you decide to take this approach, scalp or mow grass 1 inch or shorter, aerate and then add flower seed.But all the time, money and effort Americans spend creating a perfect lawn for themselves isn't so perfect for bees. In reality, it’s a food desert. Luckily for homeowners and bees, there’s a happy middle ground, one that can provide an attractive look for homeowners as well as foraging opportunities for bees. It’s called a bee lawnThe University of Minnesota is playing a leading role in developing appropriate ways for homeowners to help pollinators by growing bee-friendly flowers from seed — not transplants — in their lawns. Mary Meyer, a professor and extension horticulturist at the university’s Landscape Arboretum, and James Wolfin, a University of Minnesota graduate student in the departments of entomology and horticulture who is researching bee pollinator habitat enhancement, have suggestions for creating a bee lawn that can make everyone happy — homeowners, neighbors and the bees. 3. Modify your lawn management. Let your bee lawn grow higher than you would let a typical lawn grow, and mow it at a higher level than you have mowed previously. (In fact, fellow MNN writer Russell McLendon wrote a great overview of how to handle the tricky dance of mowing for bees in Why 'lazy' lawn mowers are heroes for bees.) But, Wolfin advised, still use the one-third rule — never mow more than one-third of the plant. Typically, homeowners set mower heights at 2.5 to 3 inches. With a bee lawn, Wolfin recommends letting grass and flowers reach a height of six inches and then mowing them back to four inches. You can still have a bee lawn at a lower height, but there may be fewer blooms, he said. (Source: www.treehugger.com)