By James Wolfin
When it comes to seeding a bee lawn, or any lawn for that matter, timing is critical. Northern climate grasses (think Kentucky Bluegrass, Perennial Ryegrass, Turf Type Tall Fescue and Fine Fescues) establish and grow best between temperatures of 60 and 75 degrees F. When you consider that greater than 90% of the seed within a bee lawn is fine fescue grass seed, it becomes clear how important it is to plant in line with these temperature ranges. Let’s review three different windows throughout the season when we can consider establishing a bee lawn.
- Early Spring (Late April – May)
Here in Minnesota, it’s no secret that winters are an enigma. Some years we see temperatures start to warm in March, and others bring us snowfall as late as June. What we want to keep our eye on for a Spring bee lawn seeding is our daily temperature range. Once we are safely out of range of lows dropping below freezing (32F), and highs are between 60 and 75 F, we can safely plant a bee lawn. A benefit of planting within this window is that the ground is likely still wet enough to aid the germination and healthy development of the grass and flower seeds in the bee lawn mix. Watering will still be critical, but the moist soil bed will be a help. The main thing to watch out for with a spring season is competition from weeds. Any weeds within your lawn will have a head start on the grasses and flowers you are trying to establish. It may be worth following Best Management Practices to remove weeds from your lawn before seeding, especially if infestations are widespread. If you seed a bee lawn in the spring, you should expect to see some blooms in the first year of planting, with your bee lawn blooming more prominently in years 2 and beyond.Pros: Wet soil bed from winter snow cover, year one bloomsCons: Competition from weeds.Overall rating: 4/5
- Fall Seeding (Mid August – Mid September)
The summer-fall transition window is often cited as the best time to conduct a new lawn renovation in Minnesota, and many other cool-season turf regions throughout the United States. Once we pass the hottest parts of the summer, we re-enter the window where daily temperatures sit between the preferred range of 60-75 F. These cooler temperatures also allow the ground to retain more moisture as compared to the hotter parts of the summer. The flower seed in the bee lawn mix may experience some difficulty in establishment if we experience a frost early in the fall. As such, when seeding in this window it may be best to have some extra seed on retainer to spread in the dormant seeding window. The grasses will be able to develop a strong root system, creating a strong foundation for your lawn.Pros: Cooler temperatures aid establishment of bee lawn; ideal seeding window for grassesCons: Early frost may limit the establishment of bee lawn flowers.Overall rating: 3/5
- Dormant Seeding (Late October – Late November)
Similar to the other seeding windows described above, the proper timing for a dormant seeding will vary from year to year. The key to a successful dormant seeding is soil temperature – we need to make sure that the ground is not yet frozen, but also not warm enough where the grass will start to germinate. Ideally, we want soil temperatures consistently between 35 and 45F. Monitoring soil temperatures here can help you time your seeding. With a dormant seeding (as the name implies) the seed will lie dormant throughout the winter, waiting until the following spring to germinate. Dormant seeding allows your bee lawn seeds to better compete with weeds, as the weeds will not receive the head start they experience in a spring seeding. The only drawback to a dormant seeding is the patience required to wait a full winter before your bee lawn starts to establish and bloom.Pros: Better competition against weeds, flowers receive ample time to establish and growCons: The patience required to wait a full winter before your bee lawn starts to establish.Overall rating: 5/5