• David R. Lamb, ASLA

The New Lawn Grass

It has been pointed out for quite a while that the typical lawn we see in the suburbs, sports fields, corporate offices etc. is an ecological disaster. Not only does it not provide food for any insect or animal (except Japanese beetles and grubs) but it typically requires huge amounts of water, fertilizer and pesticides to have that oh so perfect Scotts lawn grass look. There are 63,000 sq. miles of lawn in the United States alone which is about the size of Texas. The lawn, then, is one of the major contributors to the decline of the pollinator population (60% over the last 50 years).

If you have to have a lawn, restrict it to just what you need to play or rest. But where you need a lawn, grow a grass that needs little mowing, water and absolutely no fertilizers and pesticides. Those kinds of grass species are found in the native grasslands of the interior of the United States. These grasses have evolved to withstand long periods of drought and to have feeder roots that extend deep into the soil to absorb nutrients from a broad area. The long roots also mechanically open the soil and make it more fertile. They do this by seasonally having some of the roots die off deep in the soil, rotting and thus fertilizing the surrounding soil.

Lawns that are made from these kinds of grasses continually provide a positive feed to the surrounding environment and require little or no input on our part. There are several sources of these grass mixes but my personal favorite is the “NoMow” grass seed that can be purchased from Prairie Nurseries in Wisconsin. I have it on my property and I am thrilled at knowing it is a positive force in my garden.

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