Updated: Aug 18, 2021
One of the best things about having an outdoor space near your home is that the protection of pollinators and local species becomes possible from your own backyard. Oftentimes, our yards are an expanse of one turfgrass species, dutifully mowed and manicured. But, lawns without diversity are dead-zones for birds, bees, butterflies, and other pollinators who would brighten your backyard and support biodiversity.By re-examining what our outdoor spaces should look like, we can put life back into our lawns.
Maintaining a mowed lawn takes a lot of work as it consists of a homogenous form of grass. In order to maintain this monoculture, lawn owners are forced to perpetually work against nature as it tries to return to the area. To discourage unwanted insects and weeds, people often use harmful pesticides and herbicides such as roundup on their lawns. These noxious chemicals seep into the groundwater, rivers, and eventually the ocean. These lawns also are often unable to drain properly after heavy rain, leading to unsightly depressions in the ground and pools of water that can host mosquito larvae.
There are several ways to make your lawn into a diverse and lively area that don’t require a complete backyard transformation. By minimizing the area you mow, you can have sections of your yard that grow local flowers while leaving the rest of your lawn for recreational activities that require shorter grass. To attract birds to your yard, consider planting shrubs and trees, and introducing a water feature so birds and other wildlife can stop by to drink or bathe. A butterfly garden is a great way to incorporate local flowers and make your backyard a hub for colorful pollinators.
If your lawn was made from turf, you may have to remove the grass and topsoil and introduce cuttings from local fauna into the ground. This can be a good activity for the family: go out around your town, find species of local flowers, collect cuttings of these plants and then bring them back to your yard. Local seeds are already pre-adapted to the local flora and fauna so they are best for propagating a healthy, living lawn.
If you see a diverse array of plants growing in your lawn already, you can just leave them be and watch as your lawn transforms into a host for bees, birds, and more. There are ways to discourage pests with less harmful ingredients such as soybean or alfalfa meal.
This weekend, leave the lawnmower in the shed, sleep in, and know that you are doing your part to protect biodiversity in your area. To learn more about hosting your own living lawn, check out this native plant finder and see what the Royal Botanical Garden in Edinburgh has been researching and finding about living lawns.