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Hope for the bees

There is hope for the bees when there’s clover in the lawn. Researchers discovered that lawns in Springfield Massachusetts when cut every three weeks instead of weekly resulted in as many as 2.5 times more lawn flowers, mostly clover and dandelions, and a great diversity of 93 species of bees.

Thursday, May 20th is the sixth annual World Bee Day.  Celebrate bees by joining with others in pledging not to spread quick-release fertilizer, herbicides or pesticides on your lawn.  Toxins must follow the applied nutrients because grass is developing an addiction, is thinner with less fiber, easy forage for pests, while sunspills dry and bake the soil.  Established lawns should not need fertilizing. They, like the grasslands of old, are quite capable of taking care of themselves.

Starlings forage on grass and clover on the Rose Kennedy Greenway in Boston MA. Photo by R Moir


The Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources recommends one application of 100% slow-release fertilizer in the fall (one-half pound per thousand square feet of lawn).  Do not apply quick-release fertilizer because it interferes with grass roots going down below the surface to establish symbiotic relationships with mycorrhizae fungi and bacteria.  One application of Roundup will kill a quarter of the mycorrhizae.  Lawn care companies should instead turn impervious surfaces to regenerative green grass and other plants.

Grass plants build soil, more than other plants, by exuding carbohydrates from roots.  Sequestering liquid carbon in the ground, a healthy lawn can build as much as an inch of soil in a year.  For one ton of soil, grass plants pull more than four tons of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere.  For an acre of lawn that is about 1,000 tons of CO2 turned into black loam.

Close up of clover, another plant and two grasses growing in Boston’s Greenway


For World Bee Day and every day, please invite people who have a lawn to join with us in pledging to better care for lawns with the optional use of 100% slow-release fertilizer and herbicidal “soaps.”  Save money when letting the lawn go natural to benefit birds, bunnies and, especially for today, the bees.

In the spirit of high school football, we are scoring number of pledges group by group, town by town, and watershed by watershed. Wildlife benefits when a majority of the residents of a town or majority of inhabitants of a watershed volunteer to keep lawns and soil chemical-free.

Chemical-free lawn along Boston’s Rose Kennedy Greenway


Chemical-free lawns have many more than one species of grass and other low plants such as clover and dandelions that are bee pollinated.

Rabbits are an indication of a healthy lawn with a good mix of plants.  Rabbits eat invasive weeds to help maintain a robust lawn ecosystem.

Robins are an indication of a green lawn with healthy soil complete with worms. Worms, springtails, ants, nematodes and smaller organisms move through the soil, digesting bits and opening up spaces for water.  Four inches of soil beneath a lawn can hold seven inches of rain water.  More worms, more water retention, less water runoff, erosion, and more water in cycling between plants and ground in your neighborhood.

We are calling for a full stop to spreading quick-release fertilizer on established lawns, full stop to nutrient pollution run off that feeds harmful algal blooms, and full stop to the bioaccumulation up the food chain of toxins including glyphosate in Roundup found in milk because it was on the grass that cows ate. Tread lightly and treat lawns naturally.

Pledge for more bees in lawn clover, naturally.

3 responses on “Hope for the bees

  1. marjorie trifon

    When I first moved into my home over 30 yrs ago, I ripped up the lawn in the front yard. Now I only have grass in the back and sides. Only mow it occasionally. Have seen rabbits, a fox[!], a snake on the property which is now planted with azaleas, holly &camellias; Yoshino cherries, dogwood, other shrubs and flowering plants . Having read Dr. Montgomery’s book quite some time ago, I already knew about soils. [He teaches @ the U of WA] I am thrilled to pieces @ this wonderful new project, and will fwd to my contacts, as well as post to FB.
    Recently, I rec’d bags of cedar chips, which I plan to scatter, to keep down biting insects.
    If only politicians were as savvy as YOUR PROJECT, we would be further along on stopping climate chaos. Many kudos to you.

    1. Rob Moir, Ph.D. Post author

      Bravo Marjorie,
      Your property is much like mine where grass grows between my neighbor’s house and mine, about the width of an automobile, where there is much walking.
      Yes, politicians know of our Lawn Care for Healthy Soils Challenge. We only ask people care for residential lawns the way municipalities and golf courses do which is to feed grass only as needed and make sure 100% slow release fertilizer only goes grass and not polluting waterways. Established lawns should not need fertilizer unless one is chipping divots out of it or tearing with cleats.

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