Turn Your Lawn into a Pollinator Garden for a Greener, Healthier Environment

by Jeannie Lindheim and Steven Shama

How would you feel if you couldn’t eat your favorite fruits and vegetables or see beautiful flowers? Would you like to see how you can make a difference?

Join your neighbors and learn from experts at two exciting events sponsored by Sustainable Woodstock. You will learn easy ways of developing a pollinator garden. You can start making a difference even this summer. 

Insect pollinators (e.g., bees, flower-flies, and butterflies) pollinate over 85% of wild flowering plants and over 75% of agricultural crop species. The loss of partial or whole insect communities can have disastrous effects for our food and plants. Simply put, we cannot live without bees and butterflies.

My husband and I have lived in Woodstock for three years and, as most people do, we have mowed our lawn. Now I know that not mowing your lawn is much better for our environment. And it’s a feast for pollinators! Best of all is that native plants will thrive in our local soil, requiring little fertilization or care.

Our new unmowed lawn looks fabulous. Every morning, it’s a treat to walk outside and see what new flowers have appeared. We now have many gorgeous orange, pink, yellow, and white wildflowers. Two wonderful women from the Woodstock Garden Club—Kris Graham and Jenny Dembinski—came over to identify the flowers growing in our lawn: aster, fleabane, coltsfoot, red clover, daisy, starwort, common soft brome, fescue (native grass), maiden pink, clover, small-flowered evening primrose, buttercup, goldenrod, common blue aster, lupine, Indian paintbrush, hawkweed, bedstraw, and common self-heal. 

One of the very best things you can do for the health of our planet, and for your flower and vegetable garden, is to plant more pollinator plants.

Here are some facts:

  1. Maintaining grass lawns increases greenhouse gasses, pollutes ecosystems, wastes water, and diminishes biodiversity.
  2. By not mowing, the longer grass can create more ideal habitats for beneficial insects to live and eat. Not cutting your lawn also allows clover and little violets to flower and be a source of food for bees, butterflies, and other pollinators.
  3. Every year across the country, lawns consume nearly 3 trillion gallons of water a year, 200 million gallons of gas (for all that mowing), and 70 million pounds of pesticides.
  4. A native perennial bed is a perfect eco-friendly grass alternative, providing food and habitat for local birds, butterflies, and bees. Non-native plants may be inedible to pollinators or may not meet pollination needs.

If you would like to learn more and see a large lawn turned into a pollinator garden, Sustainable Woodstock is hosting several informative and engaging events led by experts in the field.

The event called Wild Gardens: Why and How to Garden with Nature will take place on Thursday, July 6 from 5:30-6: 30 p.m. Location: 132 Shurtleff Lane Woodstock, VT. (Rain date is Friday, July 7 from 5:30-6:30 pm.) Learn where to site a garden, how to choose the right plants for your site, how to sheet mulch to prepare a future garden bed, and what to plant! This workshop will be led by Alicia Houk, founder and gardener of the Wild Garden Alliance. Alicia has a master’s degree in pollination ecology and has been designing and installing native pollinator and bird gardens for the past seven years, and teaching in the environmental science field for over a decade. 

Gardening for Biodiversity is being offered on Thursday, July 13 from 5:30-6:30 pm.

Location: 132 Shurtleff Ln, Woodstock, VT. (Rain date: Thursday, July 20, 5: 30-6:30 pm.) This event will introduce the best ways to conserve and enhance the biological diversity of your yard. We will focus on what E.O. Wilson called “the little things that run the world” and answer two essential questions: What are the best plants (native and non-native) for enhancing biodiversity on my property? How can insect pests and invasive plants be controlled without using chemicals?

This workshop will be led by Rick Enser. Rick retired to Vermont in 2007 following a 28-year career directing the Rhode Island Natural Heritage Program, that state’s biodiversity inventory and conservation program. He has taught courses in ecology, endangered species, conservation biology, and backyard biodiversity at the University of Rhode Island, RI School of Design, and for the Native Plant Trust’s certificate program. He is currently propagating native plants at Ragged Orchid Farm in Hartland and providing consultations on stewarding yards and other lands to support biodiversity.

This lovely, low-maintenance bed of perennials at the author’s home features a variety of flowerinig plants, including columbine, spiderwort, deer-tongue grass and strawberry. Photo by Jeannie Lindheim.

You can register here for Wild Gardens: Why and How to Garden with Nature, and here for  Gardening for Biodiversity. For more information, contact Sustainable Woodstock at: programs@sustainablewoodstock.org


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