Creating a bee friendly lawn

Creating a bee friendly lawn


The following is a production of the
University of Minnesota Welcome, this is a video about creating a
bee lawn. But before we get into the specifics of
the bee lawn, I think we need to look at the lawn in general. So, we want to look at how we actually use the surfaces that we create with grass. And we will want to evaluate that in a particular way meaning, do the inputs required to maintain a particular type of lawn surface Is that justified by the use of the particular surface So we’ll go into that We’ll take a brief history of lawns to see how we came to this particular position in our country at this time. We will try to evaluate in an ecological perspective What it takes to maintain certain lawn surfaces but not just in our own backyards but in the country as a whole in the cumulative of all the lawns that
exist in the country. Then we’ll take a look at the bee lawn and why it can be considered to be a very ecologically wise choice. And then we’ll talk about different ways
that you can pursue the bee lawn and move your
lawn in that particular direction. I’m standing here in a baseball diamond and this is where bluegrass, Kentucky bluegrass, is at its
finest. You can see this is a pure grass stand. It has no weeds. This is an expensive
surface to maintain. It requires water, fertilizer, herbicide to keep those weeds out, and
constant mowing. And for this kind of surface, this is the
right grass It tolerates a lot of foot traffic. – is durable in that way – This is the right place for a bluegrass lawn. But, we will go to another part of the field and we’ll look at something that’s a
little different. On the other side of the baseball fence
here, so let’s go have a look. But, on this side of the fence away from
the field this is a whole different class of lawn. You can see there’s quite a few
different weeds There’s clover, there’s Plantain, and other weeds. the grass is not as green as it is over
there and you would be led to think that this
is an area that has not been fertilized it certainly hasn’t
been treated with any broadleaf herbicides and yet it’s a it’s a
functional walking space but not up playing field type of place So notice the distinction between the playing field and those areas just outside the playing field. Now let’s go see how many people manage their lawns. Do they manage their lawns like this? Or do they manage their lawns like that? Again I’m standing here next to my neighbor’s lawn which is a serviced lawn And you can actually see the sign here telling people to keep off because this one has been chemically treated. But you can see that this lawn is much
closer to the the quality of the playing surface on the soccer fields Lawns were indication status in eighteenth century England. And this concept traveled to the colonies and was embraced
by such leaders as Thomas Jefferson and George
Washington. Lawns were still a sign of prestige in nineteenth-century America, but upkeep
was expensive requiring gardeners with scythes or herds of livestock. And such things remained beyond the reach of most people Until ….. the invention of the lawn mower! And its improvements by the middle of the century. Jump ahead another 100 years to the
middle of the 20th century, and lawns have spread and become commonplace throughout
America. Improvements in agricultural technology were applied to the lawn business leading to the … industrial lawn. This being a space maintained as a
monoculture requiring many the newly developed inputs in the form of fertilizers and
pesticides and lawn maintenance equipment . There is no doubt that the lawns surrounding your home can create a very pleasing space. However, it’s coming more and more into
focus that there is a cost associated with the creation of that space. And that’s what we’d like to take a look at in this section. Unfortunately, there is a dark side to
this. And that comes in the form of not just
your lawn or my lawn but the cumulative effect of all of these high input lawns across the whole country. First, turf is a monoculture and as a monoculture it is
contributing to the lack of biodiversity and impacting ecological stability. Turf occupies some 2 percent of the continental United States or or 40.5 million acres Second, maintaining turf at the level of a playing surface requires significant amounts of chemical
and fossil fuel inputs and, is the largest irrigated crop in the country. The bee lawn is very interesting in its characteristics. It is a low input surface one of whose goals is to increase biodiversity and by doing so we are reversing a trend of creating sterile monocultures that are basically deserts for bees. In essence, the plight facing bees is one of the indicators of the human impact on biodiversity. I’m standing here on the border between my property and my neighbors and my property is more like what you’d expect from a bee lawn, and my neighbor’s property is is serviced lawn and as you look down the way you can see there’s a pretty clear line where Where over there no weeds because it’s been treated with broadleaf herbicide and over here a vast
array of different plants clovers, dandelions, Plantains and such. And it will also provide forage for
bees. So now, having placed the bee lawn within a context of history, within a context of various management
schemes, and within a context of ecological impact It’s now time to talk about how we would go ahead and create a bee lawn. In this section we want to look at how you might transform your present
lawn into a bee lawn through the incorporation of clover. And I’ve asked our turf expert Sam Bauer who has done research on this topic to take us through the process step-by-step So let’s go see what Sam has to say. My name is Sam Bauer I’m an Extension educator
I deal with turfgrass science turfgrass management lawn care issues now bee lawns have obviously become a
hot topic over the last couple years with the interest an improving habitat for
pollinators and pollinator decline has certainly been
an issue for us so where at the turfgrass research center
here. We’ve outlining area that would be very typical of Kentucky
bluegrass with a little bit a fine fescue in it a home lawn type of situation so our goal
with the area that we’ve mapped out here with the flags is to try to incorporate some more
pollinator friendly plants the main one now we’re focusing on here
in this case is white clover now white clover is a legume species
we’ve mixed it with turf in the past because it does add nitrogen back to the
soil it’s very pollinator friendly it
tolerates mowing which is obviously one of the more important factors that
we look for in a flowering species it has to survive
mowing up its going to withstand a lawn type of environment
so there a couple things we need to consider when we think about incorporating white clover some of these other flowering plants into our lawn the first thing is we really need to
stress the grass out or handicap the grass because as it sits a dense lush canopy of Kentucky bluegrass or fine fescue. It really prevents the establishment of
white clover. So we’re going to handicap this grass and
and I say that and the way we’re going to do that
is we’re going to scalp it down with the mower. So we’re going to take our push mower
we’re gonna drop it from three inches down to about an inch in height and what that’s going to do is – it’s
going to remove a majority of the vegetation of this bluegrass and the vegetation
on the surface is really what prevents the establishment of clover so once we
get rid of that then the second factor we really need to
think about is how do we promote the establishment of these
clovers and we need to think about you know
obviously seeding the clovers in there and using the proper seeding rate and then we’re gonna irrigate the clover seed to encourage establishment as we’re converting our bluegrass lawn to a clover lawn. we’re going to go through the whole process of scalping it down. We’re going to rake up the tissue and then were going to sprinkle
the clover seed in there after we’ve done all that we’re gonna set up an irrigation sprinkler and water in that to encourage establishment and the watering program you want to probably
continue that for at least 10 days or possibly two
weeks. on a daily type of cycle to encourage
adequate establishment of that white clover seed. So what we have here is just your
standard type of push lawn mower It’s 22 inches wide it has four tires on it and you know now
typically when we’re mowing our lawns we would have the set at about three
or three and a half inches so very high the way you control the height on these
type of lawnmowers is by adjusting these wheels either up
or down so I’ve adjusted the two on this side as high as they’ll go it’s usually about
an inch is about the highest those tires will go
and give you that one inch height of cut so simply we’re going to take these
other tires on the other side we want to be sure that all the tires
are equal otherwise you get kind it is funny you know different kinda scalping look
so we have the three there set right now we’re
just going at the fourth one here and adjust that down. So now our mower is
all set to go at an inch height. You maybe want to do a
little test area to be sure it’s exactly what you’re looking for one other thing to keep in mind when
you’re going down this low with the mower and cutting off that much
vegetation is you really want to go slow because
it’s going to tend to bog the mower down quite a bit you may want wanna be lifting the mower up to to let it shoot out some of those grass clippings as well to be sure that it’s not bogging the mower doesn’t stall that mower down. Just finished scalping the grass here
now the height you can see is about an inch or so now our goal was to try to get a little
bit soil exposed in this situation to try to allow an opportunity for some of this
white clover seed to actually establish you can see here now when I rub my hand
across as we have quite a bit a soil exposed here and the bluegrass is certainly handicaped
to the point where there will be an opportunity for that white clover to
establish now depending on the density of grass
that you have in your lawn that simple scalping process may or may
not be enough to expose some soil and give that our white clover an opportunity to
establish so the machine that we have here this is called the power rake if you have a really dance lush lawn and
you need to further handicap that lawn above and beyond that scalping process this type of unit would be a very good
option for you. You can rent these at your local rental centers and what this has is it has these knives
on a horizontal shaft and these knives cut into the ground and
they’ll do a better job of preparing that seed bed for that white clover seed now on this power rake unit there are a
couple different adjustments that you need to think about the first adjustment is this screw here
so this will set the depth of those tines if you get too aggressive what will
happen is the machine a bog down and it will wanna kill on you. and you’re probably be chewing
up too much of your bluegrass and really you won’t have much of
that come back so be sure you have this set the proper
height to where you just get a little bit of soil exposed now also this is the transport and
operation lever so currently we have it in transport
mode when you lift that lever up what happens is the unit actually goes down into operation mode there so now we’ve gone over the area with the
small power raking unit you can see it leaves us quite a bit debris in some
soil on the surface here so again we’re just gonna rake up this
debris and get a nice seed bed here for that white clover and ideally you try
to leave as much loose soil on the surface there as you can I’m
trying to only get off just some of this the grass
clippings here some of this vegetation so now you can see we actually have quite a bit of soil exposed here the bluegrass is severely handicapped
which allows the opportunity for that white clover to establish if you look at the surface we have some
loose soil just a perfect situation for a seedbed for that white clover so now we can start
the seeding process following that seeding we’re going to
be irrigating so we have our white clover seed here we
have a pound of it now our area that we’ve established is 200 square feet now depending on the
amount of white clover that you actually want to establish in your lawn I recommend a seeding rate anywhere from a quarter of a pound per thousand square feet all the way up to one pound so in this
case we’re gonna do that one pound per thousand square feet seeding rate so that being
are two hundred square foot area we’re gonna want to seed at about a fifth
of a pound of seed over this entire area now we’re gonna go ahead and start
the seeding process here so what I have is I have a bucket of sand
and the sand is actually very useful for trying to bulk up this white clover seed
a little bit the white clover seed is really fine and if you try to go into straight white
clover seed what you tend to do is you get large amounts of white clover in
certain areas and not very much in other areas so we’re going to bulk it up I’ll add my
fifth them a power just about a quarter of a pound to this bucket it might be a a ten to
one ratio of Sand to white clover seed now if you have a larger
area of a lawn you’re looking to establish the white
clover my suggestion would be to go ahead and use a drop type of seeder that would be advantageous for getting
very uniform coverage of this seed but because our area is
rather small we are going to go ahead and just do it by hand so now that we’ve seeded the white
clover what we want to do is we want to just go back over it one more time with this leaf rake just light
enough you know to get some in that seed worked down in the canopy a little
bit so a little scratch on the surface here What we are trying to do is work
that white clover into the soil a little bit and then also try to distribute in a
little bit more evenly especially because we went out and put
this out by hand want to try to just be sure that we have
good white clover seed covering a
majority of our area here so this light leaf rake is not gonna pick up too much
of that white clover but it will spread it around a little
bit more evenly after the seeding process There we go, now we can put some water on it now to water this we going to simply use just your standard oscillating type of sprinkler so we’re going to go ahead and set this in the middle of our plot here set that down and then the program that
I like to run usually with these is you know you want to keep the surface
moist through the germination period so you know that germination period may
be anywhere from 10 to 20 days so just keep an eye on the
clover as it is starting to establish and as it starts to establish you can really reduce the amount of irrigation but initially we want to set this irrigation sprinkler head up at least
on a daily cycle if you’re in a shaded area certainly daily would work for you if you’re a
full Sun area you might want to set it for a couple
times per day and I like to set these for about anywhere from 10 to 20 minutes
just depending on what the surface looks like after 10 minutes or 20
minutes of that sprinkler have run you want it moist certainly not soaking
wet but usually I say like a sponge so it’s just a little bit wet and try to maintain that as consistent
as you can throughout the germination process we first observe germination at eight
days At twelve days the grass has regrown but you can see the interspersed clover On closer examination you can see that the clover seed was
dispersed uniformly and has germinated well thanks Sam there are several other options that you have to incorporate
clover into your lawn and one of them is to
simply eliminate using broadleaf herbicides which will stop killing the clover that
may be a trying to establish itself in your lawn and if you stop using fertilizers you will stop giving the growth
advantage to the Bluegrass and shift it to the
clover and one example of this is the picture
you’re seeing now Another option is to, if you have bare spots in your present lawn, is to
simply seed clover into those areas and an example of that is shown in this photo. Most of challenge here is an aesthetic one. this will not be a green carpet it will
likely mean accepting all sorts of newcomers to your lawn than
in the past would have been restricted. Possible
suspects include black medic bird’s foot trefoil broadleaf plantain and dandelions, just to mention a few. I think one of the most important things to remember here is
that this is not and all or nothing proposition. You don’t
have to change all love your lawn now. Consider your use
patterns are the kids the primary users of the
lawn, and if so how should your lawn be for
them? Most to the adults I know spend most of
their time on the lawn walking behind the mower. So that can
be taken into consideration Think small. Begin small. Begin where the decision is going to be
easiest. Are there places that are out of the way? That don’t matter, your backyard slopes, difficult to access places So my recommendation is to consider all those things and think where you can
start but the most important thing I think if you’re convinced this is something
that you would like to do is to start to do something and start small and see how you enjoy
the process So here are some final thoughts. It seems to me that if in are own little way each of us has
contributed to the pollution and ecological problems on our planet, cannot we also be in our own little part part of the
solution to some of those problems? If in the collective we have created these
problems why not in the collective can we not
solve some of these problems and I think the bee lawn is a good
place to start. It’s a good way to to address the issue
in a way that’s within our means. I think the bees will
appreciate it. But, ultimately it comes down to one thing: it’s your planet, you make the call!

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