Are you a turf purest, or do you like your lawn to be a little more bio-diverse? While many like the look of a perfectly manicured green grass lawn and take a pride in the amount of time they spend grooming their gardens, it’s not a priority for other gardeners.
There’s no two ways about it; a pedigree lawn requires hours of maintenance and a lot of discipline. You’ll find your evenings taken up with mowing and aerating, de-thatching and weed killing. It’s no mean feat.
Of course, there’s a lot to be said for an immaculate lawn, but lots of us just don’t have the time to snip and treat enough.
What makes a bee lawn?
Lawns are more or less exclusively for the benefit of people. There’s not much desirable wildlife that uniform blades of grass attract. But that doesn’t have to be the case. Enter the bee lawn.
Bee lawns are specifically cultivated to encourage bees and other pollinators such as birds to visit your garden and enjoy your lawn’s offerings. They feature an array of plants and flowers, and not just grass.
Before we were committed to the high-maintenance look, many turf mixes included clover seed as well as grass and this meant we saw a lot more bees. As this fell out of vogue, clover disappeared and our bees vanished with it.
We know bees like flowers, but not all flowers are suited to being in a lawn. Many plants die if subjected to footfall, while others won’t be able to cope with the stresses of a lawn mower (and we wouldn’t recommend giving up lawn maintenance all together).
When is a weed not a weed?
To encourage these lovely little pollinators back into your turf, all you need to do is reintroduce the elements which they’re interested in. Clover, thyme, and even dandelions can serve a purpose if you’re looking to attract a little more nature to your life.
These broad leaf flowering plants can be mown to keep reasonably tame but they don’t need anywhere near as much maintenance as an ornamental lawn. In a purely grass lawn anything remotely resembling diversity would be considered a weed, but if you’re trying to garner the attention of bees and birds than they’re warmly welcomed.
You will need to cut back or stop using herbicides if you want your bee lawn to thrive; many of these products are specifically designed to rid you of the very plants you’re trying to cultivate. If there are any unwanted perennials still popping up, simple apply a spot treatment.
How to achieve a bee lawn
It might seem as though your best option will be set the lawn mower blades high and let nature take over. This is a fairly unreliable approach, and while you might see a few more bees, there is unlikely to be an influx.
Instead, over seed your lawn using suitable plants such as white or alsike clover. Both of these varieties grow relatively short, and produce flowers which bees can’t resist.
Your lawn mowing can be reduced to once every few weeks depending on the weather conditions. By setting your blades reasonably high (around three inches) your new lawn flowers will thrive, and your grass will remain healthy. You are even likely to see an increase in drought resistance, and other, unwanted weeds are less likely to spring up.
These lawns aren’t suitable for everyone, but if you’re a keen gardener with a vegetable patch which needs pollinating, you could soon see a difference.
Remember that you don’t need to dedicate every grassed area to our fuzzy friends. Those who have taken up the bee lawn mantle often choose to leave their front lawn — that is, the one which will be seen more by neighbours and passers-by — as it is, and make their back lawn a bee haven.