Register your address as a PAYC program participant and request a yard sign here!
Leave your Leaves!
Not all of your leaves have to be sent to compost. In the fall, leaving some leaves and other plant debris in your yard will help provide habitat for overwintering insects. Here are some tips:
- Rake leaves from areas near sidewalks and roads for pedestrian safety and to help prevent clogged storm drains.
- Move leaves to garden beds or under tree canopies as mulch for those spaces.
- If there are leaves that you cannot use, put them in your curbside city compost bin and/or paper yard bags. Keep in mind the City's bag and weight limits, which you can learn more about here.
- Whole leaves provide the best cover and protect the pollinators and eggs that already live on or under the leaves. Shredding leaves can kill next year's pollinators.
Learn more about the benefits of leaving your leaves here. And learn more about dealing with leaves and yard trimmings here.
In April 2023, Ann Arbor City Council approved Resolution R-23-111 - Resolution to Support Pollinator Habitat in Ann Arbor, which encourages property owners to adopt lawn care strategies that will help support survival of pollinators. This resolution led to the development of the Pollinator-Aware Yard Care program, which provides resources for property owners to implement yard care practices that promote native pollinators. This work is supported by City staff and by volunteer members of the A2 Pollinator Network, which is a workgroup of the City’s Environmental Commission. Interested in how City Parks are implementing sustainability practices? Learn more about Park Sustainability Initiatives here.
While bees are often the most recognized pollinators, many species of insects (like this monarch butterfly), birds, and even bats are important pollinators!
How to be Pollinator-Aware in your Yard
There are many pollinator-aware yard care practices that you can follow in order to participate in this program. Below are a few recommendations on yard care practices to help you get started with protecting pollinators in your yard:
Reduce the area of mowed turfgrass in your yard by extending your maintained garden beds or by planting native groundcover in place of turfgrass (check out NAP’s list of native grasses, rushes, and sedges for alternative groundcover ideas). The more native, pollinator-friendly plants are in your yard, the more habitat and food is available for our pollinators, who can make only minimal use of turfgrass.
Incorporate more native plants into your garden beds. Our native pollinators have evolved to survive off of native plant species, and often are ill-equipped to make use of non-native plant species like turfgrass. Plus, native plants are adapted to our local environment and are easy to care for once established. Looking for advice on native plant species to include? Check out NAP’s lists of native plants, especially their native perennials list.
Mow turfgrass portions of your yard less frequently and set your mower to cut grass to a taller height - we recommend using the highest setting available on your mower. Taller grass can provide more habitat for pollinator species and less frequent mowing can allow for pollinator-friendly plant species mixed into the turfgrass to bloom and provide a food source for pollinators. Please note that cutting grass height down by more than about one third to one half of the blade can damage the grass.
As an alternative to reducing the area of mowed turfgrass in your yard, try adding a clover mix to your turfgrass areas - this will add diversity that benefits pollinators and will add nutrients to your soil, helping to make your turfgrass healthier without chemical inputs!
Reduce or avoid chemical applications, especially of neonicotinoid insecticides (and avoid adding plants pre-treated with these chemicals). These can harm native plant and pollinator species, in addition to leaching into our soil, groundwater, and waterways. Learn more about chemical-free pest management solutions on our Integrated Pest Management page.
Delay spring clean-up until temperatures are stably at 50F overnight; leave stems, grass clippings, and last year’s plant debris around for pollinator habitat.
Leave whole or mulched leaves in your yard during the fall and winter. These leaves provide invaluable habitat for pollinator species, especially for overwintering eggs and adults. However, please do clean up leaves near streets and sidewalks – these leaves can cause slipping hazards and block storm drains.
Use signage to help communicate the yard care practices you use and their associated benefits with neighbors and others who may be admiring your pollinator-friendly yard. Interested in receiving a yard sign to let others know you’re part of the Pollinator-Aware Yard Care program? Find a link to sign up for yard signs and email updates in our “Get Involved” section below. Please note that yard signs may not be placed on the lawn extension, per Chapter 55, Section 5.24.3(H). For guidelines on sign placement, please view our Guide to Temporary Signs in the City of Ann Arbor.
Consider keeping trimmed borders near sidewalks to keep the walkway clear and send a visual cue that any tall vegetation in your yard is intentional.
Ensure all of your plantings adhere to Ann Arbor City Code, Chapter 40, Sections 3:15 (Lawn extension and city right-of-way) and 3:16 (Vegetation on private property).
Share this webpage with your friends, family, and neighbors.
Keep in mind that it doesn’t have to be all or nothing! Pick and choose the yard care practices that work best for you - or identify sections of your yard in which to adopt these practices.
We depend on pollinators for many of our food crops.
Why Use Pollinator-Aware Yard Care Practices?
There are many benefits to following pollinator-aware yard care practices. Some of these benefits are listed below:
Pollinators help to put food on the table. They fertilize flowers that develop into food for both people and animals.
30% of all Michigan crops and 90% of Michigan wild plants rely on pollinators (Michigan Department of Transportation). Worldwide, 35% of crops are reliant on pollinator activity (Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development).
The USDA estimates that crops dependent on pollination are worth >$18B/year.
Delaying and/or reducing mowing frequency in the spring and maintaining leaf litter cover in the fall and winter allows for the emergence and maturation of pollinators that overwinter in grassy open spaces and in the litter layer below trees.
Native plant species not only benefit pollinators, but also help to increase stormwater infiltration to improve water quality and avoid flooding, as compared to turfgrass.
Reducing your frequency of mowing and the area of your yard that is covered by mowed turfgrass will reduce carbon emissions from fossil fuel-based lawn mowers and reduce noise pollution and soil compaction from all lawn mowers.
Choosing Native Plants
Wild Geranium (left) and foamflower (right). Images courtesy of Stephanie Brundage and Albert F.W. Vick, Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.
When planting native species, please keep in mind the need for species that are height-appropriate in our urban environment, specifically in lawn extensions and right-of-way areas. All of your plantings should adhere to Ann Arbor City Code, Chapter 40, Sections 3:15 (Lawn extension and city right-of-way) and 3:16 (Vegetation on private property). Please avoid adding tall plants to your lawn extension, as they can create safety hazards for pedestrians and bicyclists. Please grow tall species of plants on your private property (between the house and the sidewalk), in cultivated beds, or as part of a planned natural landscape, rather than in the lawn extension. Examples of plants that may become too tall for lawn extensions include:
Goldenrod (some species)
Some ornamental grasses
Interested in participating in the Pollinator-Aware Yard Care movement? Click here to register your home address as a program participant, sign up for email updates, and/or request a yard sign to let everyone know that you’re a pollinator-aware home! Please note that yard signs may not be placed on the lawn extension, per Chapter 55, Section 5.24.3(H). For guidelines on sign placement, please view our Guide to Temporary Signs in the City of Ann Arbor.
Click here to see the full yard sign (front and back).
Pollinator Garden Tour of Ann Arbor
Want to enjoy a stroll past some of Ann Arbor's pollinator-friendly gardens? Interested in seeing some of the native plants that help to support our pollinator species? Check out the Pollinator Garden Tour of Ann Arbor, a map compiled by the City of Ann Arbor Office of Sustainability and Innovations, the University of Michigan Office of Campus Sustainability, and the Environmental Commission's Biodiversity Working Group. If you would like to submit a site for inclusion on this map, please email [email protected].
Looking to learn more about pollinator-aware yard care practices and the benefits of native plant and pollinator species? Check out the links below!