While the term has become a hot buzzword in recent years, the practice has been around for a long time; more people are finding the benefits of planting a native lawn on their property. But what is a native lawn?

First and foremost - a native lawn is not merely an unkept, overgown patch of turf grass.  Native lawns are plots of land that have been planted with native plants that grow naturally in a particular area and were present before European settlement.  Speaking generally, these plants grow long roots which increases the amount of stormwater that soaks into the ground.  They have also adapted to handle the climate, soils, and predators of the area.

So now that you know what a native lawn is (and isn't), how do you go about cultivating one in your yard?  The City of Superior offers some tips on starting, planting, and maintaining a native lawn and ways to direct the flow of stormwater.

  • Where to start:  The first step in creating a native lawn is to get rid of the old, existing grass and weeds that might be there.  A great way to do this is to cover the selected area with a tarp at the start of spring and keep it there until the next spring - effectively killing the grass and any seeds that might exist in the soil.  Next spring, till in soil additives like compost and sand.  Then, plant the seeds you have obtained.  Make sure you water the seeds as the summer rolls along.
  • What to plant:  Thankfully, there are a wide variety of native plants and wildflowers to choose from.  Consider plants that will bloom at different times of the season to maintain a good look for your (soon to be) new lawn. Click here for variety ideas.
  • How to maintain:  This is perhaps the most-important step.  Maintenance is critical in the first few years to help your native plants get established and prevent other weeds and invasives from taking root.  After the planting, make sure you water each new plant 1-2 times in the first few weeks. Mulch can help the soil maintain its moisture content in between waterings.  Over the course of the first 2 or 3 years, you may need to pull out invasive plants in the spring and mid-summer while the native plants get established.  After the first frost of the year (or in early spring), cut dead vegetation to 2-3 inches above ground level  Plant material can be left in place to act as compost, or hauled away to compost somewhere else.  One benefit of leaving it in place:  the dead vegetation can act as insulation and protect the plant roots or bulbs that are in the soil.
  • How to direct stormwater flow: One of the reasons for planting a native lawn is to help with soil erosion caused by water.  In conjunction with your new native lawn, you should take steps to direct the stormwater flow on your property.  Install rain gutters and downspouts to keep water away from the foundation of your home.  Direct the downspouts and sump pump discharges into a native lawn or garden - where it can gradually soak into the ground.

 

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