I have a particular patch of suburban lawn that I would like to turn into something more bee-friendly. Currently it is grass (including rye) and creeping buttercup. It can't be great soil as it grows quite slowly. It isn't huge, 5m wide by 15 long. Any advice on turning this into wildflower meadow that would benefit bees- without it being seen as 'weedy'? The neighbouring plots complain if I grow too many dandelions.
And I currently have lots of plants for bees planted in the area- it is mainly the bumblebees that seem to like them (alliums, foxgloves, buddleia)- is there anything I should include specifically for honeybees?
Just as a thought, perhaps plant some other flowers I the mix and add either a fence or a border so it looks like you are planting a wildflower patch—which you are—but make it more suburban friendly looking.
Charlie - research done in St Louis showed that decreasing the frequency of mowing down to about once every 3 weeks is the simplest way to increase the plant diversity in your lawn (and you don't even need to do any planting as volunteer plants will be coming up). It will probably look weedy to your neighbor's eyes - but you'd have to educate them on that. In my case, following this approach resulted in a lawn rich with white clover even though originally it was mostly turf grass.
Dr Leo Sharashkin
Beekeeper and Editor
You can buy a mix to put on the lawn, things like ladies bedstraw, hawkbit, plantain, clover, melliot, and wild thyme would be a good place to start, do you have alkaline or acid soil? while the buttercup implies acid I have a ton of it at 8.5pH so it's not a given.
Leo Sharashkin wrote:Charlie - research done in St Louis showed that decreasing the frequency of mowing down to about once every 3 weeks is the simplest way to increase the plant diversity in your lawn (and you don't even need to do any planting as volunteer plants will be coming up). It will probably look weedy to your neighbor's eyes - but you'd have to educate them on that. In my case, following this approach resulted in a lawn rich with white clover even though originally it was mostly turf grass.
I probably only mow every 4 weeks anyway.. it really does grow slowly there! Probably 50m away where I park my car I have to mow every week though- grows way faster!
I'm not sure of acid or alkaline soil, its an old 'rehabilitated' coal mine- so a foot of imported clayey topsoil over a very solid layer of clay and rock! It is actually part of an allotment garden- I will get away with an amount of weedy, but the other gardeners are very opposed to things like dandelions.
Native plants are good for bees and neighbors can't really complain when you say you are planting a native garden. Native vetches will add nitrogen and flowers.
Calling it a bee garden also helps give it credibility since the bees are having such a rough time of it. Throw in a few plants for butterflies and those are popular gardens. Garden signs labeling it as such also gets the message out to passersby.
A wild patch can look less wild if the additions are planted in large circles instead of wide broadcasting of seeds. Then it looks like intentional flowering landscape, but can be made up of more wild-looking plants. Letting herbs go to seed, dill, mustard, cabbages, etc.
Camomile is a sturdy flowering plant that reseeds.
Don't fall for the My-Place-Is-Special, It-Won't-Happen-Here Syndrome.
That's a great idea of letting the herbs go to seed- the buzzing things in my yard seem to really like when the thyme, sage, and oregano flowers.
I love the yarrow in my lawn, not sure if bees like it, but where I am it's native and great for any lawn with such lacy leaves. And when I leave a patch of lawn unattended, it shoots up and makes beautiful flowers.
I learned whenever you are doing something that might look messy to neighbors, you put flowers around it that will bloom throughout the year. So adding some showy flowers specifically to the edge may be helpful too from a presentation standpoint.
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