The Lawns to Legumes program offers a combination of workshops, coaching, planting guides and cost-share funding (individual support grants) for installing pollinator-friendly native plantings in residential lawns. The program also includes demonstration neighborhoods, which are pollinator programs run by local governments and nonprofit organizations with support from BWSR, and a public education campaign to raise awareness about creating pollinator habitat. BWSR is partnering with Metro Blooms and Blue Thumb – Planting for Clean Water to administer the program. Find details on Individual Support Grants, Demonstration Neighborhoods, public outreach and more at the bottom of this web page.
Minnesota is home to more than 450 native bee species. Pollinators also include butterflies, moths, beetles and native flies. All play a key role in pollinating many food crops and native plants, but populations have significantly declined worldwide in recent years. Population decline can be attributed to habitat loss and lack of related nutrition for pollinators, as well as pesticide use and pathogens. Lawns to Legumes seeks to combat population decline by creating new pollinator habitat and habitat corridors that provide food sources and nesting space for pollinators. The program emphasizes protection of at-risk species, such as Minnesota's state bee, the federally-endangered Rusty patched bumble bee.
Funding is provided by the Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund (ENRTF) and is targeted in priority areas to benefit the Rusty patched bumblebee and other at-risk species. Please continue checking this web page for additional updates about the program. The Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources (BWSR) administers the Lawns to Legumes program, and Blue Thumb — Planting for Clean Water and Metro Blooms coordinates the Lawns to Legumes Individual Support grants.
Get started creating pollinator habitat with BWSR's Planting for Pollinators Habitat Guide. This guide was developed specifically for the Lawns to Legumes program to create a one-stop shop for planning, implementing and maintaining pollinator habitat projects.
Creating Pollinator Habitat
Many people who have contacted BWSR are not looking for funding, but information about how to create pollinator habitat.
- BWSR's Planting for Pollinators Habitat Guide is an in-depth guide intended to help you plan, implement, and maintain your project.
- Blue Thumb's Grantee Guide: A step-by-step walkthrough and resource directory for successfully completing a Lawns to Legumes project
- Blue Thumb's free Resilient Yards Online Learning Series
- Your Yard can BEE the Change: Lawns to Legumes Introductory webinar
- Pollinator Garden Templates: These templates provide base designs for native plant pollinator gardens, including boulevard and shade garden designs. They are customizable with substitutions for each plant.
- BWSR Ecological Gardening Blog posts:
- BWSR's Pollinator Toolbox
- BWSR's Pollinator Initiative
- US Fish and Wildlife Service: Build a Pollinator Garden in Seven Steps
- Xerces Society information about Pollinator Gardens
- Xerces Society Protecting Pollinators at Home (pdf)
- Xerces Society & U of MN Yards, Gardens and Parks Guide (pdf)
- MN Department of Agriculture: Best Management Practices For Pollinators And Their Habitat
- Xerces Society information about Organic Site Preparation Methods
- Xerces Society guide to Nesting & Overwintering Habitat For Pollinators & Other Beneficial Insects
- Preparing Your Soil with Compost or Mulch
Lawns to Legumes recommends four project types for creating pollinator habitat:
- Native Pocket Planting (small garden): Pocket plantings are small clusters of native plants that provide food and shelter to pollinators and are recommended for new gardeners. You can install a pocket planting with as little as 10 square feet.
- Beneficial Trees and Shrubs: Beneficial trees and shrubs offer overwintering habitat and food sources. They are recommended for beginner and intermediate gardeners.
- Pollinator Lawn: Also known as bee lawns, this practice involves inter-seeding pollinator-friendly species into existing turf or low-growing native plants. This practice is recommended for experienced gardeners. Additional resources include:
- The Pollinator Friendly Alliance: Inter-seed flowers into existing lawn Pollinator Lawn
- Bee Lab (University of Minnesota): Bee Lawn Tool Kit
- Blue Thumb Turf Conversion Information: DIY Bee Lawn
- The Pollinator Friendly Alliance Pollinator Lawn Information
- Pollinator Meadow: Pollinator Meadows are larger groupings of native plants that provide habitat and water quality benefits. They are recommended for experienced gardeners.
Native plant selection
Resources in this section can help you select native plants for your garden, find native plant nurseries, and combat noxious weeds.
- Native Plant Selection (pdf): BWSR’s guide to high quality pollinator plants to provide blooms throughout the growing season.
- Blue Thumb: Native Plants Nurseries and Retailers List
- Minnesota DNR: Native plant suppliers, landscapers, and restoration consultants for Minnesota.
- Wild Ones: Native Plant Nursery and Landscape Services Listings
- BWSR's monthly Featured Plant newsletter contains and archive with more than 70 species that benefit pollinators.
- Learn to identify harmful weeds with the Minnesota Department of Agriculture’s Noxious Weed List
- The Pollinator Friendly Alliance: Questions to Ask Your Nursery
- Blue Thumb – Planting for Clean Water: Native Plant Lists
- Minnesota DNR: Landscaping with native plants
- U of MN Extension: Flowers for Pollinators
- Xerces Society: Great Lakes Pollinator Plant List (pdf)
- MN Zoo: Plant for Pollinators (English) or Plant for Pollinators (Spanish)
Care and Maintenance
Resources in this section help you care for your pollinator planting so it can thrive.
- Care Guide for Lawns to Legumes Plantings (pdf) (doc): BWSR's basic care guide for maintaining new pollinator plantings
- Guide for Pollinator Garden Maintenance from Blue Thumb
Use the tools below to learn about Minnesota pollinators and assist with data collection that improves our overall knowledge of at-risk species and their habitat needs.
- Bumble Bee Watch is a community science project that helps researchers determine the status and conservation needs of bumblebees. Record sightings, upload photos and learn more about bumble bee ecology.
- Explore Monarch Joint Venture's Community Science Opportunities
- Identify plants and animals in your environment using the iNaturalist application.
Lawns2Legumes Yard Sign
This yard sign (with the L2L logo above) is mailed to L2L cost-share recipients. However, anyone who establishes a habitat project may print and display the sign on their own site. We ask that if you use the sign you also map your self-installed project on the Blue Thumb webpage. The intended size of the sign is 9" in diameter.
Individual Support Grants
Minnesota residents can apply during active signup periods to be reimbursed for up to $400 in costs associated with establishing pollinator habitat in their yards. Individual Support grant recipients must provide at least a 25% match for their total reimbursement request. This match can be in the form of purchasing materials, hiring contractors or as in-kind time spent planting or maintaining plants (at $25/hr).
Grant recipients are expected to map their completed projects in order to apply for reimbursement. If you did not receive an individual support grant, you can still map your project to help provide a clearer picture of where pollinator habitat can be found around the state.
Workshops, free planting guides and online resources are available to anyone who wishes to pursue a DIY project.
Individual Support grant recipient resources:
Demonstration Neighborhood Grants
Demonstration neighborhoods are community projects intended to enhance pollinator habitat in key corridors, raise awareness about residential pollinator protection and showcase best practices. Organizations overseeing a demonstration neighborhood will work with local residents to install four types of beneficial planting practices: native pocket plantings, pollinator beneficial trees and shrubs, pollinators lawns and pollinator meadows. Local governments, nonprofit organizations, and tribal governments were invited to apply through a Request for Proposals (RFP) process in 2020 and 2022.
What is a legume?
A Legume is a species in the pea family (Fabaceae family). The term is also used to describe a type of fruit that plants in the pea family produce. Most legumes have a fruit structure like a pea pod. In Minnesota, agricultural crops such as soybeans or green beans qualify as legumes, but we also have many native legumes that play important ecological roles in the landscape. These native species can be trees, shrubs or herbaceous plants and are commonly used as part of ecological restoration projects or plantings to benefit pollinators and provide many other environmental benefits.
Learn more about legumes and their role in pollinator habitat by reading our "What is a Legume?" fact sheet.
Pollinator Habitat Basics
The first step toward creating pollinator habitat is deciding how you want to make a change on your property or rental space*.
Before you begin, use this chart to determine the best type of project for your yard and lifestyle. Planning, installation, maintenance, cost and aesthetics are addressed in BWSR’s Planting for Pollinators Habitat Guide.
*Projects on rental properties must be approved by landlords
Key items to consider for your pollinator project:
- Grow pollinator friendly flowers by installing Minnesota origin native plants.
- Increase biodiversity by choosing three blooming plants per season: spring, summer and fall.
- Don’t want to plant a large garden? Consider planting beneficial trees and shrubs instead.
- Eliminate the use of insecticides and fungicides as much as possible.
- Take before/after photos to track your progress.
- Help spread the word about free technical resources available to start your own pollinator project.
- Reminder: Sharing plants with soil is NOT recommended due to possible spread of Jumping Worms.
Outreach and Education
Raising awareness and educating the public about the importance of pollinator habitat is a key component of the Lawns to Legumes Pilot Program. Efforts to date include:
- Lawns to Legumes was formally launched in 2019 at the Minnesota State Fair Eco Experience. The exhibit featured native plantings, an opportunity to ask volunteers questions about the program, and options to sign up for program updates.
- A partnership among BWSR, Blue Thumb and the Minneapolis College of Art and Design yielded a year-long social media campaign showcasing student artwork to promote the program's values and goals on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
- BWSR's Medium blog features articles from BWSR Senior Ecologist and Vegetative Specialist Dan Shaw providing advice on specific aspects of creating pollinator habitat.
- Lawns to Legumes has been featured in 128 published articles, including publications with a national audience such as O the Oprah Magazine and Mother Jones.
- Workshops are an essential component of Lawns to Legumes. So far, the program has held 27 resident workshops training 1,444 residents and 11 train the trainer workshops that equipped 657 trainers with the knowledge they need to help others create pollinator habitat.
- Online resources are provided to all interested residents on BWSR's program webpage. Program staff continue to update resources as more become available.
What's next for Lawns to Legumes?
The Lawns to Legumes program is currently funding Demonstration Neighborhood and Individual Support projects using funding from the Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund. As the program moves ahead, we are developing strategies to build on the program’s momentum to further engage residents statewide to establish pollinator habitat in their yards.
We are excited about the future potential of this program and feel that it is important to we maintain its current momentum while building awareness around the state. Lawns to Legumes is playing an essential role in aiding at-risk pollinators while engaging the public in conservation efforts across the state.