How to Get Rid of Your Lawn and Plant Native Species
Why Get Rid of Your Lawn
Traditional grass lawns require a lot of water, fertilizer, pesticides, and maintenance to stay green and lush. This comes at a cost to the environment and your time and money. Here’s why you should consider alternatives:
- Water use – The average American lawn requires over 10,000 gallons of water per year. In drought-prone areas, this amount of water usage is unsustainable.
- Chemical fertilizers and pesticides – These chemicals run off into waterways, polluting ecosystems. They also kill beneficial insects like bees and butterflies.
- Time commitment – Mowing, edging, watering, etc. takes a lot of time each week. Using native plants instead can significantly reduce maintenance.
- Lack of biodiversity – Grass lawns are a monoculture, meaning they only support one type of plant and animal life. Native plantings promote biodiversity by providing food and habitat for local wildlife.
Benefits of Native Plants
Here are some of the main advantages of replacing your lawn with native plant species:
- Lower water usage – Native plants are adapted to local rainfall and climate patterns, needing little to no extra water once established. This saves time, money, and water resources.
- Less maintenance – No mowing or chemicals needed! Native plants are low maintenance once established.
- Attract pollinators – Native flowers attract bees, butterflies, birds, and other pollinators that are decliningglobally.
- Combat invasive species – Invasive plants can crowd out natives and damage ecosystems. Planting natives helps stop their spread.
- Prevent erosion – Deep native plant roots hold soil in place, preventing erosion. Grass has shallow roots.
- Create habitat – Native plants provide food and shelter for local wildlife species.
How to Replace Your Lawn
Removing your lawn and putting in native plants takes some work, but it’s a very rewarding project. Follow these steps:
Assess Your Site
- Identify your yard’s sun exposure, soil type, drainage, and other features that will impact plant choice. A yard assessment from your local extension office can help with this.
Choose the Right Plants
- Talk to local native plant nurseries and landscape designers to select plants adapted for your site that will meet your needs. Focus on native grasses, wildflowers, shrubs, and trees.
Remove the Existing Lawn
- Start in early spring or fall. You can use sod cutters, herbicide, or smothering methods like cardboard and mulch. Removing all grass roots is key to prevent regrowth.
Prepare the Soil
- Native plants thrive in lean, unamended soil. Clear debris, but don’t dig or till the soil if possible. Simply rake as needed.
Plant and Mulch
- Arrange plants according to sun needs. Space them appropriately, then top-dress planting areas with 2-3 inches of native hardwood mulch to conserve moisture and suppress weeds as plants establish.
Provide Ongoing Care
- Water new plantings for the first year. Once established, natives need little watering except during severe drought. Weed and prune as needed.
- It takes 1-2 growing seasons for native plantings to fully establish and fill in. But the wait is worth it!
Sources for Native Plants
Here are some good options for finding native plants for your area:
- Native plant nurseries – These specialize in local native species. Staff can provide advice tailored to your area.
- National forests – Some have native plant sales where you can buy local species very affordably.
- Native plant rescues – You may be able to get native plants rescued from construction projects.
- Regional suppliers – Search for suppliers that specialize in plants native to your region.
- Seed companies – Companies like Prairie Moon sell seeds for regional native flowers, grasses, and more.
Enjoy Your New Native Plant Oasis!
Removing your lawn and installing native plants brings so many benefits. You’ll help the environment, save time and money, and create beautiful, wildlife-friendly spaces. With smart planning and preparation, you can successfully make the transition from thirsty turf grass to lush native flora. Enjoy your new found free time relaxing and observing the incredible wildlife drawn to your native plant landscape.