Sustainable Options for Lawnscapes

Sustainable Options for Lawnscapes

Posted by Jessie Jacobson and Betsy Dvorak on Mar 28th 2024

Bee Lawns, Native Lawns, and Waterwise Lawns

Turfgrass and lawnscapes are a major part of green spaces all over the world. For centuries, they have been used for recreation and formality. These days, the perfect lawn may even indicate prowess and status among suburbanites.

Ultimately, turfgrass equals high inputs of water, fertilizer, maintenance, and mowing - all time-consuming endeavors. Vast landscapes of turfgrass fracture ecosystems while creating deserts of unforgeable plant life leaving our pollinator friends without their natural food sources.

At Tonkadale, we aren't anti-lawn, we are pro let's do turf a better way. With several sustainable options, you can reduce inputs drastically and/or create a lawnscape fit for a queen - bee that is!

At Tonkadale, we carry a variety of seed blends from Twin City Seed Company, a local seed company dedicated to sustainability with custom blending and packaging of high-performance products that also donates money from their seed sales to the University of Minnesota turf research programs and the University of Minnesota Bee Lab.

Turf Grass Blends

Each turf grass blend sold at Tonkadale is certified by the Turfgrass Water Conservation Alliance. This certification means that these seed blends are shown to use up to 40% less water than conventional grass seed blends.

Our turf grass seed blends are also treated with TAZO, an Azopirillum bacteria naturally occurring in soil. TAZO is a root growth stimulator that encourages nitrogen utilization.

Waterwise blends are available for full sun, part sun, and dense shade. All are available in 1-pound, 3-pound, and 5-pound bags. Shop low input options here!

A note on coverage: One pound will cover approximately 200 square feet for fescue blends, or 100 square feet for rye/bluegrass blends.

Dense Shade Blend

The dense shade blend is a mix of fescue grasses, perennial ryegrass, bluegrass, and poa grasses that is meant to be used in areas with low light levels. Can be used under dense tree cover. 4 hours of light or less.

Sun/Shade Blend

The sun/shade mix is a blend of fescue, perennial ryegrass, and bluegrass that is meant to be used in areas that do not receive full sun. Great for light or dappled shade. 6 hours of sun or less. This is your go-to if you're unsure of the sun exposure in your area or need to patch smaller areas in existing turf.

Sunny Blend

The sunny blend consists primarily of bluegrasses. This mix should be used for areas that receive full sun exposure. 6 hours of sun or more. Once established this grass seed will look like conventional sod.

Eco Grow/Low Grow Blend

The low grow mix consists of fescues that grow to approximately 6 inches in height. This grass has a wispy and wavy appearance and is meant to be a low mow or no mow option.

Bee Lawn and Native Bee Lawn Mix

Bee Lawn*

The bee lawn mix follows recommendations from the University of Minnesota, combining Dutch white clover, self-heal, and creeping thyme to create a seed mixture that can transform your lawn into a pollinator habitat while maintaining the function and recreation associated with a traditional lawn. The bee lawn seed mix has been shown to support more than 60 bee species in Minnesota. Bee lawn flower seed can be overseeded into a pre-existing stand of healthy fine fescue or Kentucky bluegrass turf. Available in a 1-pound or 5-pound bags. Considered to be a low mow or no mow option.

Native Bee Lawn*

The native bee lawn mix uses all native wildflowers including selfheal, yaak yarrow, and blue-eyed grass to transform your home lawn into a beautiful mix of turfgrass and wildflowers. This seed mix is designed to reinforce the longstanding evolutionary relationships we observe in nature between pollinators and the native plants they depend on. Available in 1-pound and 5-pound bags. Considered to be a low mow or no mow option.

*Please note the exact blends and contents of the bee lawn and native bee lawn can change by lot number depending on seed availability.


Dutch White Clover

Dutch white clover is a pollinator friendly option that performs best in part sun areas, though it will tolerate full sun once established. This blend will not perform well in shade. Clover will handle some light foot traffic on its own but does much better when combined with other turf grasses. 

One pound will cover approximately 200 square feet for the bee lawns and 2,500 square feet for the Dutch white clover. Shop clover here!

Considerations this your bee lawn and Dutch white clover mixes

Bee lawn, native bee lawn, and Dutch white clover can all be overseeded into existing turf grass. These mixes will have the most success establishing in lawns that are primarily bluegrass or fescue type grasses but will struggle to compete against grassy weeds and established perennial weeds. If this is the case, best practice would be to remove all weedy turfgrass and perennial weeds. If weed killers are used, these will affect bee lawn and clover mixes so you must make sure that weed killer efficacy has passed before seeding.

Grass seed, bee lawns, and clover have the easiest time germinating and establishing when the weather is cooler, 65-70 degrees. Spring is a great time, particularly for the bee lawn seed mixes, but fall works as well.  Part of the challenge is that when it can be hard to hard hot to maintain consistent moisture during germination. Grass seed and bee lawns should not be allowed to dry down during the first 30 days of planting.

An important note for bee lawns and clover mixes is that herbicides and “Weed & Feed” shouldn’t be used, as this will damage or kill the plants. 

Plant for Pollinators

Bee and Butterfly Mix

The Native Bee and Butterfly Mix is made up of 21 species of native wildflowers selected specifically to provide food and habitat for our at-risk native pollinators. The diversity of species in this mix have been chosen for their staggered bloom times throughout the growing season as well as their resilient ability to withstand the extremes of the Midwestern climates. One pound of this mix will cover approximately 2,500 square feet. This mix is not a turf grass alternative, but rather a prairie in a bag. The native plant diversity in this mix is exceptional and results will look like a prairie, a mixture of native grasses and wildflowers for pollinator habitat and forage.

Performs best in full sun to partial sun, and plants will reach 6 inches to 4 feet in height.

Prepping and seeding your lawn


Mow existing turf to less than ½” high, and rake well to remove debris and loosen the soil surface.

For New Lawns

Work topsoil to three to four inches deep, smoothing and grading with a hard tined rake.


Spread a slow release or starter fertilizer over the topsoil. Milorganite is a good option for turf. Please note, milorganite may not be allowed in certain cities due to its high phosphorus content.


Spread seed evenly over surface area and lightly rake. Grass seed needs light to germinate. Seed should be lightly covered by soil.


Water at least twice daily depending on sun exposure. More irrigation may be required if in full sun or during periods of excessive heat. Water consistently for the first 30 days to encourage establishment. Once established, one inch of water per week is recommended. This can be provided by a deep soaking rain event or irrigation.


Wait about one month before mowing new grass for the first time. New grass needs time to set roots before being put under the stress of mowing.