If you have the space, use it....
Methods of Lawn Conversion
There is a domino effect that takes place whenever we plant our gardens in one of two directions. The first direction is an uninspired, homogenous approach that leads to a breakdown of the local ecosystem. The second is one where we plant in service to ourselves and to the environment which can lead to beautiful, sustainable landscapes which can take shape in a number of ways. When we plant without consideration of consequences we put our ecosystem at risk. If your backyard is primarily mowed green grass it might be an opportunity to consider methods of lawn conversion. Our goal is to answer the questions: What is it? How do I do it? And why should I participate?
What is lawn conversion?
Lawn conversion is simply the act of diversifying one's garden as a measure to support the local biome and help fight climate change . One may think of it as adding support pillars to the existing foundation of a property. Depending on the biome that you reside in, this application can present itself in a myriad of ways, so for the purposes of this post we are considering the northeastern region of America. If you do not reside in this part of the U.S. contact your local nursery or garden center for ideas on how to convert your lawn.
What is the problem? And what is the solution?
In a study on the Chesapeake water basin it was noted that, when planted homogeneously, typical, mowed lawns caused severe detriment to the water quality in the bay due to erosion and runoff. This caused an increase in overall pollution by foreign chemicals such as lawn treatments, which were deposited in the Chesapeake, threatening aquatic life and the local biosphere. If you are confused, that is okay. While lawns are indeed green spaces, the increase of surface runoff and necessary pesticides for upkeep cause lawns themselves to contribute negatively.
It may or may not be a surprise but they study claimed the solution is to plant more on your lawn, specifically trees and shrubs and herbaceous material. This layer that you put in can be highly contributive to pollinators. When we plant homogeneously we lose out on so many benefits and simply generate empty space. By converting your lawn with trees and shrubs the canopy and root systems these additions grow will help prevent erosion and will soak up nitrogen and phosphorus.
Why does this matter to you?
Imagine that you live on a farm which plants everything you would need to live off the land. Over time you realize that planting a single species is easier and you can sell the extra produce to buy what you need. However at the same time both neighbors on either side begin to do the same, flooding supermarkets with too much corn or potatoes. Soon enough ears of corn and bags of potatoes lie in dumpsters wasting away. In this same way, humans have planted boring, cookie cutter backyards and gardens that produce little benefit as a whole. Our use of lands has become homogeneous and we are not seeing the opportunity in front of us. We are not planting a variety of plants to feed our families or flower species that feed pollinators. We have created a wasteland of grass and apathy. One can plant in service to themselves while also working towards a more diverse lawn. The recommended species fall along the lines of planting nut and fruit bearing trees as well as berries. They will provide shade in the summers and food for much of the year. Just a few small trees could provide an abundance of resources for you and the environment.
When beginning to envision your next project or even the next steps of your existing property, assess what you have to work with. Does your garden net a positive impact? Perhaps consider the trees, do they provide shelter or food for local fauna? Consider the ground layer, does it support pollinator friendly plants? If not, perhaps looking into lawn conversion might be the next step for you. Start small to familiarize yourself with the process. Once you begin to see results, continue working on a full conversion in service to the environment and you.