Less lawn more flowers

A honey bee enjoying an Agapanthus flower

Help provide a sustainable and pollinator friendly environment for bees, beetles, flies, wasps, butterflies and moths to name a few. Pollinators rely on flowering plants to provide nectar and pollen.

We all love our lawn

A lot of us will remember growing up with a nice lawn to run around on. In Australia, we are blessed with space and as a result, many houses had sizeable yards with plenty of lawn. I grew up in the country and this was definitely the case for me.

Things have changed though, and with more unpredictable seasons due to climate change, water restrictions, education about sustainability and our yards getting smaller, lawns are now at a crossroads.

In society, lawns have been a bit of a status symbol and a great source of pride for the avid lawn carer. It is, however, time to look at alternatives that are more friendly to pollinators, more sustainable and more beneficial to biodiversity.

The harsh reality of climate change means we need to manage our water usage, this alone is not conducive to growing acres of grass.

So are you ready to ditch the lawn?…or at least reduce it.

If you don’t want to ditch your lawn completely you may consider reducing the current size of your lawn space. Lawn is a monoculture that has no benefits for pollinators.

I am a mow less and plant more sort of guy and I find the health benefits of digging in dirt far out way those of mowing lawn. It provides me with an opportunity to help pollinators and local wildlife. It also fits in with my passion for sustainability and provides me with the means to grow my own seasonal vegetables.

However, I also concede that not everyone shares a passion for gardening. There are still things you can do. Mow your lawn less and leave plants such as clover, creeping thyme and dandelions.

Well the lawns gone…whats next

We all know the importance of pollinators. So who’s responsibility is it to help them. In reality, their survival depends on all of us and it starts with planting a pollinator-friendly garden.

Plant flowering plants and lots of them

Bees both native and honeybees diet consists of nectar (carbohydrate) and pollen (protein and fats). They get these tasty delights from flowers.

Flowers come in many different shapes and sizes, so how do we know which ones to plant and does it actually make a difference. Well, the good news is that we are lucky that people have been observing bees for a while and we have a pretty good idea as to what they like. We will get to plant selection in a minute.

When choosing plant varieties try to choose plants that flower at different time. The goal here is to build a back (or front) yard environment that has something in flower all year round. All bees will be most active from early spring to late autumn so make sure your garden has abundant flowers covering this period.

You would think native bees like native plants and honeybees like exotic plants. The truth is in my yard I have found that they both like both. I love natives so I tend to plant more of them as the birds like them as well. Choose a variety of species in different shapes and sizes, and remember clumps of flowering plants are more attractive to bees. Bees are all built differently and have evolved for different types of flowers. Even within different races of the honeybee, they have different behaviors and different tongue lengths and native bees are the same, so a variety of flower shapes will benefit a diversity of bees.

Native plants or heirloom varieties are best, as some plants bred for big showy flowers produce little to no pollen or nectar. Research tells us that bees like blue, purple, violet, white and yellow and remember plant densely.

Bees love sunflowers. So do the cockatoos.
Bees love sunflowers. So do the cockatoos.

Plant selection

It’s really not up to me what you plant but the table below shows some proven bee favourites.

Native plantsNon-native plantsHerbs
Flowering gumsSlaviaRosemary
CallistemonFruit treesThyme
WestringiaHebeLemon balm
CorreaCalifornia lilacMint
LeptospermumPoppiesPineapple sage

For a more comprehensive list of bee-friendly plants the Bee Friendly: A planting guide for European honeybees and Australian native pollinators is a good read and is available for free download or you can buy a hard copy.

Bee-friendly - a planting guide for European honeybees and 
Australian native pollinators
Bee-friendly – a planting guide for European honeybees and
Australian native pollinators

For those in Canberra, the ACT Governments ‘act smart‘ website has a bunch of useful information about a range of things to help us as a community be more sustainable. A fantastic tool on this website is the Canberra Plant Selector webtool.

Canberra Plant Selector - a great tool.
Canberra Plant Selector – a great tool.

This tool lets you select a number of criteria by which to search the plant list. Options include:

  • Plant type (tree, shrub etc)
  • Frost tolerance (level)
  • Watering requirements
  • Sun and shade requirements
  • Miscellaneous (native or exotic)

As well as this you can browse the collection or search by plant name if you know it.

A list of plants native to the Canberra region is available from the www.tams.act.gov.au.

A blue-banded bee going to work on salvia.
A blue-banded bee going to work on salvia.

Size doesn’t matter

Regardless of where you live or the size of your space what you do with your outdoor areas will have an impact. Urban spaces are often limited and are becoming more so which is why what you do with them is important.

Green spaces such and backyards encourage pollinators, birds, reptiles and mammals to use these areas. It may be for nesting or just as a pathway to another connected green space. Gardening with pollinators in mind is a simple way to encourage biodiversity in your backyard and the broader community.

As always limit the amount of chemical use, this one of the easiest and cheapest ways to enhance wildlife in gardens. While trying to control pests such as some insects and weeds you are inadvertently damaging the beneficial insects and food sources such as dandelions and clover.

Old trees are homes to a wide variety of insects, birds, and animals. Unless they pose a very real risk just prune and let the local ecosystem benefit from having the beautiful old tree.

At the end of the day, you do what you can do. Remember something is better nothing. So if all you have is a balcony put some flowering pot plants on it or some planter boxes, grow flowering herbs because bees absolutely love them.

Spearmint flower...pollinator friendly.
Spearmint flower…pollinator friendly.
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