Columns, In the Garden

Share Yard with Birds, Bees and Pollinators 

courtesy photo
Interplanting Dutch white clover amongst turfgrass in sunny lawn areas will not only enrich the soil but attract bees and other pollinators.

SOUTH BURLINGTON – A home landscape can be an amazing opportunity to collaborate with nature. Thoughtful plant choices can invite more biodiversity into the yard. Even established landscapes will benefit from plant additions that can increase traffic from favorite birds or provide forage for bees and other pollinators.

Most home landscapes are a monoculture of grass plants. While turfgrass certainly has its advantages in areas with high foot traffic, its shallow roots and growing habits tend to require more inputs with regards to nutrients, water and time to maintain it.

Consider letting the weeds take over the lawn. The key is to choose the plants that like to grow in a lawn versus allowing the truly undesirables to establish themselves.

Interplanting broadleaf plants such as Dutch white clover (Trifolium repens) among turfgrass will fix nitrogen from the air and enrich the soil, as well as attract pollinators to sunny lawn areas. Creeping thyme (Thymus serpyllum) and ground ivy (Glechoma hederacea) are other plants that can coexist nicely with turfgrass.

photo by Amy Simone
Spotted deadnettle (Lamium maculatum) can provide good ground cover for a partially shaded walking path.

To keep your turfgrass pure, then consider other areas of the lawn that might benefit from groundcovers. They can save from having to mow a steep bank while also creating a thick green carpet that prevents soil erosion.

Likewise, in the shady areas of your lawn where turfgrass simply will not take root, there are groundcovers that will gladly move in. Some options for plants here include cranesbill geranium (Geranium maculatum), spotted deadnettle (Lamium maculatum), Pennsylvania sedge (Carex Pensylvanica) and foam flower (Tiarella cordifolia).

If there is room for trees in a landscape, consult the local nursery to select the right ones for the property. Trees are hard workers, sequestering carbon in their deep roots and offering habitat to many different animals.

Another idea to welcome more biodiversity into a yard is to increase the planting area by adding perennial beds. Determine how you use turfgrass and carve out beds that complement play zones and walking paths.

For a tree on its own surrounded by a circle of mulch, shape a planting bed around it. Perhaps the bed can connect two lone trees together.  

Use sheet mulching ( to naturally suppress the grass in the designated areas and build up the beds with organic matter in preparation for planting.

photo by Amy Simone
No-dig perennial beds can be strategically placed to frame a path of turfgrass.

Once ready, plant the beds with perennials and shrubs chosen as much for their beauty as for their biodiversity credentials. Prioritize native and pollinator-loving plants that offer a variety of bloom times and flowering longevity to feed pollinators from early spring through late fall.

As the plants mature, the need for bark mulch should be reduced or eliminated. Any bare spots can be filled in with groundcover plants.

Sharing the yard with nature can be as beautiful as it is beneficial to the environment.

Amy Simone is a UVM Extension Master Gardener from South Burlington.

Amy Simone

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