Neighborhood Spotlight: Smith Family

WHITE BEAR LAKE -- Laura and Neal Smith already had a full front yard native planting, but in 2021 started to set their eyes on the backyard. While they loved having the front yard be low water and mow-free plus a place to watch wildlife, they still valued the open, walkable space of the backyard. With hopes to merge the strategies, they looked into low-growing flowering plants to shift the lawn into a bee lawn. The drought has provided some challenges in getting it established, but Laura and Neal now rest easy knowing that the bee lawn’s momentum has taken hold. Not only has the switch reduced maintenance and watering overall, but it also has allowed them to forego fertilizer and herbicide treatments.

The VLAWMO Soil Health Grant they pursued outlined the details of their vision. The bee lawn was specified to be blended with a lo-mow fescue grass mix, and a diagram was included to specify several native plants such as winterberry shrubs and ferns planned for the lawn’s borders.

Project Specs:

Installation: 2021

Project size:  3,150 sq ft

Bee Lawn plants: Micro Clover, Dutch White Clover, Creeping Thyme

Other border plants: Lo-mow fescue grass mix, Winterberry shrubs, mountain mint, broadleaf aster, beebalm, various ferns

Bee Chat with Laura:

What motivated you to go in this direction for your yard?

We were motivated to put in the bee lawn for a couple reasons. We don't like watering the lawn; it seems like a waste of water, we don't really like mowing grass anymore, and we like bees and such.

What’s it like to maintain the yard?

This lawn takes care of itself for the most part. Yes, we do cut it once the clover dies off so that it will re-bloom. Last year that was about once a month or every 3 weeks. This year because of the drought being as bad as it is the clover isn't blooming that much. I'm very pleased that the only crab grass we have right now is were the sod was torn up because of some construction equipment that came through the yard. I will easily fix this with simple re seeding.

Are there any challenges or surprises you’ve found along the way?

Our front yard was and is always going to be a work in progress as plants change and adapt and as I find new ones that I like. The drought the past few years has been our biggest challenge. The bee lawn in the back was a bit of frustration with all the drought. We had crab grass over take the entire lawn the first year which made us start over. 

How have all of these efforts changed your interaction with your yard? Any favorite sightings or things you’ve noticed?

Since we planted the front yard we seem to start our evening; either before or after dinner, with a stroll around the yard to see what's coming up in the spring or if there's any new blooms during the summer and fall.

We'll sit and watch all the little critters, bugs, bees, and birds enjoying all the elements of the garden/yard while having a beverage during any time of the day.

Has the bee lawn inspired other projects or hobbies?

The bee lawn was our last step. We did the wild flower and prairie in our front yard a few years ago.  

Our yard; both front and back, have sparked questions and desire from many others. That we really enjoy.

Any advice for other folks who may be interested in starting their own bee lawn?

Our advice for anyone interested in doing this is to go get your crystal ball or the famer’s almanac to see if it will be a drought-driven year before you start. Be patient! If you don't have a Creeping Charlie lawn; as we did, just seed over your lawn. Really rather easy. Sit back and enjoy!

References: 

U of M Bee Lawns

MN Horticultural Society

East Metro Water

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