Could the clover lawn trend help save the bees? Ways to make your lawn better for pollinators

Clover fertilizes the ground around it, resists pet urine

How the COVID pandemic helped boost Michigan’s honey bee population

Do you want to help save the bees? There are things you can do to your lawn to make it better for pollinators.

Turfgrasses don’t provide very much food for pollinators, but that’s where bee lawns come in.

Plants such as Liriope can be used to replace a traditional lawn on flat or steep areas. It’s a hardy perennial that can be mowed several times a year for a more lawn-like appearance -- or you can leave it alone. Other grassy perennials such as sedges and fescues can replace a lawn in wet or dry areas that you find hard to maintain.

“The types of alternative lawns are only limited by your imagination,” Rebecca Krans wrote.

If you want to reduce turf areas you can plant groundcovers like creeping thyme, which is a low-growing plant that produces lots of flowers and requires minimal maintenance.

Other groundcovers include Ajuga, bearberry or Pachysandra. Another option is to plant low-growing clover, like white or Dutch micro-clover. It provides a lot of nectar and pollen for bees.

Read: Michigan profs push ‘pee for peonies’ urine diversion plan

Benefits of a clover lawn

There are many benefits to a clover lawn, according to

For starters, it takes nitrogen from the air and puts it into the ground as absorbable fertilizer. It provides fertilizer to itself and surrounding grasses, making the entire lawn more healthy. This means it can grow in bad soil because it supplies its own nutrients.

Clover is also tolerant of drought. It needs less water to stay green compared to grasses. It also resists pet urine and won’t turn brown like grass.

It’s easy to overseed your existing lawn with clover:

  1. Mow very short
  2. Rake and remove as much thatch as possible
  3. Seed liberally with clover seed
  4. Water well for the first week, and then weekly until established

Steps to make your lawn more supportive

Step One: Reduce the area that you need to mow

Look at your lawn and decide which area you actually use. You might be able to expand some parts of your lawn into flowering beds, or just leave it more natural. Try to reduce the area that you mow.

Step Two: Let dandelions and white clover grow

Dandelions and white clover are low-growing so you can still mow your lawn and provide food for pollinators. White clover is also a nitrogen fixer, which means it adds nitrogen back into the soil.

Step Three: Only use pesticides when you have to

Pesticides can hurt pollinators, even if it’s not clear on the label. If you spray a systemic pesticide like imidacloprid for grubs, don’t spray near trees. It can be absorbed into the roots and end up in the pollen. If you have a flowering lawn, mow first so pollinators will not be attracted to it. Click here to learn more about lawn care to protect pollinators.

Step Four: Establish a flowering lawn

This part is a lot of work. For best results, you have to kill your grass and weeds before you plant using a nonselective herbicide or prescribed burns. After killing your grass and weeds you should work with an expert or read guides to plant and maintain a flowering lawn. Click here to learn more.

Check out these resources for large-scale pollinator planting.

If you’re not ready to change your lawn, then another option is No Mow May. The initiative encourages people to not cut their grass until May 31 in order to promote local populations of pollinators and other creatures.

Sources: UME, Smart Lawns, Pollinator Lawns, Clover Lawn,

About the Author:

Kayla is a Web Producer for ClickOnDetroit. Before she joined the team in 2018 she worked at WILX in Lansing as a digital producer.