Pollinator Planting in Your Backyard
Cheyanne Boucher-Bartholomew, Conservation Technician
Looking to put a small pollinator plot in your backyard? Worried you don’t have the equipment? Don’t want to use herbicides? Here is one way you can turn a patch of lawn into a beautiful pollinator planting with just a lawn mower!
Now is a great time to start thinking about the location of a pollinator plot. Once you have a location its time to mow! Drop your mower deck as low as it can go and mow the area you want to plant. Sometimes it is helpful to do it multiple times before covering the area. After mowing, cover the area with either a tarp or cardboard and grass clippings. To hold things down, place rocks along the outside. This will allow the sun to cook the grass, killing off anything that is left still living and help dry out some of the seeds in the seedbank. I would recommend letting this area sit now until winter. Then, in March, remove the cover, rake off any of the dead debris, and spread the seeds. This is known as a frost seeding. As the sun warms the ground and the cold night temperatures freeze it again, the seeds will work their way in to the soil.
In the upcoming months mowing will be important. Place the mower deck as high as it can go—four inches is ideal—and mow the pollinator plot once a week. This will help keep the grasses down and allow the wildflowers to outcompete them. I was able to mow my pollinator plot until about May. At that point the wildflowers were high enough that my mower deck would have taken them out.
A pollinator plot takes around three years of good growth to become well-established with flowers. Don’t be discouraged if you don’t see many flowers your firs
t year. That is not to say that you won’t get any your first year, but they will continue to increase over time. I had some beautiful black-eyed Susans and sunflowers come up in mine this year.
Good luck and happy planting!