For those of us who grew up when a perfect lawn meant no weeds, lots of pesticides and constant mowing, imagine another world where your lawn instead feeds pollinators, helps wildlife to thrive and looks more like a meadow than a golf course. Regardless of its name, Kill Your Lawn or Reenvision Your Lawn or Break Up with Your Lawn, the trend of replacing turf grass with native plants to create a garden or meadow is sweeping the country. Cash for Grass programs are found throughout the American West which has been plagued by drought for years. Some California water districts pay residents up to $4 a square foot to rip out their lawns and plant all native plants instead. Institutions like the Brooklyn Museum have removed their grass in favor of native plantings.
Douglas Tallamy, an entomology professor and author of several books including the recent Nature’s Best Hope, makes the case that homeowners are in charge of what he calls the “Homegrown National Park.” Homeowners’ backyards represent an opportunity to actively return lawns to natural habitats that would encourage biodiversity of flora and fauna. Given the stark declines in birds and insect populations in recent decades, homeowners can participate in actively combat the loss of biodiversity. Looking to replace a downed tree this spring – did you know that certain trees attract a greater number of insects and birds?
Tallamy does not call for people to necessarily rip out all of their lawn (although that could be a feasible option!), but to start taking steps to design with nature’s best interests in mind. If you are going to plant a new tree, plant the right tree for your region that is native and not an invasive species. Think red maple not a Norway maple in Maine. Other beneficial actions include ending the use of fertilizers and pesticides that go into our water table – shared by all. Native plants are adapted to their environment and consume less water than thirsty turf grass – including in states like Maine where drought conditions have been declared in recent summers.
Your backyard may be small, but when stitched together, homeowners united by this vision can create a much larger national network of healthy habitat. Conservation is in your hands!
Native plant guru’s radical vision for the American yard
Washington Post article about Douglas Tallamy
Homegrown National Park
Read more about Douglas Tallamy’s vision and resources for reenvisioning your backyard
Homegrown National Park YouTube channel
Informative videos on a variety of topics
America’s Killer Lawns
New York Times
How to Fall out of Love with Your Lawn
New York Times video
From Lawn to Meadow