Are you considering adding a tree or trees to your lawn or landscape in the volunteer state? This list of the best trees for Tennessee will help you add a vertical dimension to your vegetation. The best tree for your landscaping needs will depend on your soil conditions and where you are in the state.
Also called Tulip tree or tulip poplar, Liriodendron tulipifera is the Tennessee State Tree, and it is easy to see why! It grows almost everywhere in the state. And while it is not a true poplar, it is one of the fastest growing trees for Tennessee. This is one of the tallest native hardwoods in the U.S. and is a fast growing tree. It performs best on sites that have deep, moist soil and full sun, but it is highly adaptable.
Eastern Red Cedar
Eastern Red Cedar is one of the most common trees found in Tennessee and across the Eastern U.S. It grows best in highly alkaline soils found in the Nashville Basin and on the Cumberland Plateau. It is an early successional species, so it is great for turning old fields into wildlife habitat. While it is not a true cedar, Juniperus virginiana is one of the best wildlife species in the Eastern U.S. This evergreen tree gets a bad reputation for showing up in unmowed lots and along fencerows, but this is due to its highly adaptable nature. This tree will grow almost anywhere, so it’s perfect for those without a green thumb who want to support wildlife habitat.
While weeping willow is valued for its unique aesthetic and dramatic foliage, black willow is a native willow species that doesn’t get enough credit. Unlike its short-lived Chinese cousin, the native black willow can survive for over 100 years. This tree requires very wet soil and prefers full sun, but can survive in shade. The black willow is a larval host to several species of butterfly, including viceroy and tiger swallowtail, making it ideal for rain gardens. Black willow trees have orange and red fall colors. Flowers grow only on the female trees.
White oak can refer to the species Quercus alba, or to a group of oaks that share some characteristics which are not found in the red oak group. While both red and white oaks are good choices to provide shade and support wildlife, white oaks tend to be preferred. When choosing trees from the oak genus Quercus, you are unlikely to find fast growing trees. What you will find is brilliant fall colors, drought tolerant trees with a heavy straight trunk. Oaks are some of the best trees in Tennessee for multiple land uses. And while they may take a few extra years to grow into their classic stately look, they pay it back with gorgeous yellow fall foliage and superb wildlife value. Other species in the white oak group include
Post Oak (Quercus stellata)
Chestnut Oak (Quercus montana – formerly Quercus prinus)
Bur Oak (Quercus macrocarpa)
Swamp White Oak (Quercus bicolor)
One of the most prized native trees in the volunteer state and across the South, Magnolia grandiflora is part of the rare class of broadleaf evergreen trees (most evergreens have needles). Southern magnolia will survive as far north as Maryland, but only in areas that have relatively mild winters. It may need to be protected from frost, especially as a seedling. Magnolia grows best in lowlands and wet areas, and is happy in partial shade. It grows tall quickly and casts very deep shade. The bright white flowers give way to unique soft cones with large red seeds.
The most common maple species in the southeastern U.S., Acer rubrum provides some of the best fall color in the South. Red maple prefers full sun, but grows well as an understory or mid-story tree around other trees with an established canopy. They are relatively fast growing trees and are fairly disease resistant. The largest red maple in the country lives in Tennessee – in Great Smoky Mountain National Park. In addition to fall color, the red maple provides springtime interest with its bright red buds in early spring, as well as red flowers on male trees and red fruits, called samaras, on the females in April and May. Red maple is tolerant of moist or dry soils.
Best Trees Tennessee Considerations
If you’re planting trees in Tennessee, your choices will depend on where you are located. In the Mississippi gulf coastal plain and Nashville Basin, wetland species like bald cypress and river birch may be better suited. Alternately, on the Highland Rim and Cumberland Plateau with steep slopes and shallower soils, the best trees may be sweet gum and red mulberry. The secret is to put the right tree in the right spot. For more localized recommendations, get in touch with an unlawning expert.
Are you wondering, how can I naturally fix my lawn without using chemicals like pesticides and herbicides? Did the previous owner leave you with dead grass or a lawn full of weeds? Is your existing lawn giving you anxiety? This guide will teach you how to fix your lawn naturally so you can enjoy an attractive lawn without using harmful chemicals.
Planning for your lawn’s future
Ultimately, you want your healthier lawn to exist in a low-maintenance state that looks nice. If you’re planning to hire a lawn service that offers organic lawn care or a similar specialty, you should watch out for greenwashing.
Greenwashing lawn care
Greenwashing is the practice of overemphasizing the “green” aspect of a business or product to mislead consumers. In the lawn care industry, there are companies that will try to greenwash their natural lawn care offerings. You may end up with a beautiful lawn, but that does not guarantee a healthy lawn or one that is good for the environment. Look for reputable companies that understand organic science.
Reduce the overall size of your lawn
If your lawn takes up most of your property, consider shrinking the size of it to areas that you will use. Even organic lawns are not as ecologically beneficial as native garden beds. Unlawn can help you plan what kind of replacement for your lawn is best for you. Grass is helpful to have in high foot traffic areas, but residential lawns tend to be much larger than they need to be.
Natural lawn care techniques
For the areas of grass that you want to keep, use techniques that can improve the health of your existing lawn, or remove it and start with grass seed if needed. You can purchase grass seed mixes that will give you a diverse and healthy lawn containing both warm season grass and cool season grasses.
Your lawn’s natural conditions
When planning for the future of your green lawn, you should consider the natural conditions. Natural lawn care is only possible by working with nature. So, pay attention to things like whether you have sandy soils or clay soils. The soil texture can be a very important factor in determining what kinds of grass will thrive.
Other important factors you should investigate include soil pH and other indicators of soil health. You can get a simple soil test kit online, and your local university extension office may offer soil testing.
You should make sure you know as many of the following items about your lawn as possible.
USDA Hardiness Zone
Region/ecoregion (especially if adding native plants)
Soil texture including soil compaction
Soil depth and rockiness
Choose the right kind of grass
There are several alternatives when it comes to the actual species of grass that will make up your lawn. From Bermuda grass to Kikuyu grass, the correct choice of species will depend on your geographic location and your lawn’s conditions. In many parts of the country, Bermuda grass and Kikuyu grass are considered invasive, and you should not put them in your lawn. St. Augustine grass will not grow in most zones. Achieving a turf grass look in an organic lawn can be tricky.
Your lawn can also contain non-grass plants like clover. In fact, adding clover to your lawn is one of the best ways to improve soil health and support pollinators while keeping a traditional lawn appearance.
The best approach is to have a mix of grasses, or a grass seed blend, when establishing your lawn. Blends that contain both warm season grass and cool season grasses are best for year-round appeal in your lawn. Garden centers don’t always have mixes like this, but there are specialty providers online.
Best practices for a natural healthy lawn
Most lawns are managed with synthetic lawn fertilizers, lawn pesticides, and frequent mowing and watering. A natural lawn can be achieved through:
Organic fertilizers are preferable to synthetic fertilizers, since they are less concentrated and break down slowly. This means there is a lower chance of runoff when they are properly applied, and they supply a more steady flow of nutrients to the grass roots.
Focusing on developing healthy soil will pay off with green grass. Soil compaction is a major problem in most lawns and can create conditions favorable to weeds. Lawn soil naturally becomes compacted over time as people walk or drive on it, especially during home construction and maintenance. Aeration is one way to ameliorate compacted soil.
Mow at the right height
Many homeowners and lawn care companies set the mower blade close to the ground each week. This keeps grass clippings manageable and creates a very neat and tidy appearance. However, a healthy grass blade should be left at least three inches high after mowing. Grass blades are the leaves of the plant, and they produce the food that sustains your lawn.
Watering lawns is a sore subject among environmentalists, especially in areas where water conservation rules have been put into effect during droughts. The fact is that your lawn should only need a moderate amount of water, applied in the morning and infrequently.
Ditch the pesticides and herbicides
If you have issues with weeds, it is probably due to soil issues or bad mowing practices. That said, weed seeds are aggressive, so you might find them even if you do everything right. Some organic lawn care experts suggest using corn gluten meal to prevent weed seeds from establishing a root system. But beware, corn gluten meal application needs to be timed correctly in early spring, or it will only help the weed infestations!
When the entire lawn needs to go
In some cases, a lawn is in such terrible condition that the area needs to be completely reevaluated. Maybe the problem is constantly wet grass. Or maybe it’s difficult to establish turf grass because of a shallow root system. In any case, you should be willing to adapt to the natural conditions.
If you need to kill your grass
Killing grass can be more challenging than you think. In those cases when it is already struggling to survive, it can be easier. Your lawn might be telling you that it can’t survive in the place where it’s been asked to grow.
Whether it’s to re-seed the area or to replace the lawn with something else, if you need to kill your grass, you can do so naturally. There are three proven methods for killing grass naturally that work even if it has deep roots.
Natural chemical pesticide
Solarizing – bake it
Solarizing takes advantage of the Sun’s energy to basically bake the grass roots and blades. It usually takes a few weeks for this process to work, and it only works at certain times of year. Plus, it is limited in size to as much area as you can cover with a tarp or plastic.
Sheet mulching – smother it
Sheet mulching is a little more labor intensive than solarizing, but it works immediately. There are numerous ways to sheet mulch, but all of them smother grass to death.
Chemicals – poison it
Natural chemicals do not need to be synthesized. For example, lemon juice or vinegar. Organic agricultural and environmental sciences are largely focused on the various effects of natural chemicals. Some natural chemicals can be mixed together to form potent herbicides.
The flip side of natural chemical pesticides and herbicides
Organic science has also given us alternatives to synthetic fertilizers. Many are made at home, like compost tea. This technique can take advantage of yard waste that would otherwise need to be tidied up for a beautiful lawn.
Organic lawn care beyond chemical inputs
Establishing an organic lawn frequently requires alternatives to lawn chemicals. But the ultimate goal of a low-maintenance organic lawn has to be reached through the soil. Soil structure is important, as discussed above. And you should get a soil test. But soil particles are only part of the picture.
Your soil also contains microorganisms that play an important role in an organic lawn. Fungi and bacteria are essential to the movement of nutrients from plants, to soil, and back to plants. Without this living soil, your land will consistently lose nutrients. This is why composting is so widely considered an essential practice for organic lawn care and gardening.
When you have a good soil biome, you improve the conditions for your grass seed to succeed. And continuing to add compost tea to established lawns can help to keep nutrient levels high. It’s a good idea to perform a soil test for nutrients before and after treatments, as well.
Organic lawn care can seem like a lot
If you feel overwhelmed at the idea of organic lawn care, don’t worry. It can seem like a lot! But it’s much easier than it seems. It all starts with your idea of what a lawn should look like. You can work hard and do the research required to maintain your lawn’s current appearance (or something close to it). Or, you can see how having a natural lawn feels.
Your lawn might end up looking a little messier, or more diverse – it’s true. If it’s important to you to have the best lawn on the street, I’m not able to offer you much advice. But your lawn could stand out for another reason – the amount of nature in it. That doesn’t mean it will look wild!
Having a eco-friendly lawn can be more than just organic lawn care practices. Your lawn doesn’t necessarily need to be a lawn. Part of it could just as easily be a prairie or meadow. Unlawning is even easier than going organic. You’ll be glad that you invited nature into your space when you enjoy your pollinator garden or pocket-prairie.
Looking for a natural way to remove turf from part of your property? Establishing a pollinator habitat or a garden bed means getting rid of the existing lawn. So, how can you kill grass permanently without using nasty chemicals?
Natural ways to kill grass
These three methods are sure to eliminate grass with no harsh chemicals. Which one is right depends on your situation, including how much grass you need to kill, how fast you want it to happen, and how much labor you’re willing to do.
Solarizing takes advantage of the sun’s energy to essentially cook your grass to death. In most of North America, this process takes about two weeks. In hot, sunny locations less time is needed.
How solarizing kills grass
Solarizing takes advantage of the sun’s energy, usually by covering the ground with a transparent tarp. The sun heats up the soil to extreme temperatures. This can kill turf roots, and can also be damaging to bacteria and fungi. In fact, solarizing can even destroy weed seeds and insects, leaving the area almost totally free of life for a clean-slate.
Solarizing produces steam in the soil, which can quickly reach high temperatures and damage most forms of life, killing your turf. Sandy soil can be difficult to solarize because the steam escapes more easily.
How to solarize your grass
The first step of solarizing is to remove as much of the grass as you can. Mowing it very low is ok, but for the best results you should till and pull all the clumps you can get.
Next, water the soil deeply. Then apply the tarp or plastic. Clear painters’ plastic is the best option. Remember, you want sunlight to get in as much as possible!
The tarp should be buried along the edges to trap in heat and steam. This should also be done during the hottest part of the summer for the best effects.
Solarizing can take four weeks or longer, so be patient before removing the plastic. You may need to add water throughout the process if your area is in a dry spell.
This process will kill ALL seeds in the area. So, don’t count on an ecosystem springing to life when you pull away the plastic. You may need to add compost to replenish the biota in the soil.
2. Sheet composting
This approach takes the most labor of the three, but is also the fastest and most effective way to unturf. With this approach, your grass is smothered instead of being cooked.
How sheet composting kills grass
Sheet composting is sometimes called lasagna composting, because it is done in layers. Frequently, yard debris or tilled grass is considered the bottom layer of the lasagna, while topsoil or composted soil is added as a top layer. A barrier, such as a sheet of cardboard, is the lasagna noodle.
To kill grass, sheet composting relies on the concept of smothering. Your grass should be covered by something that it cannot grow through or around. If it can’t get to sunlight, it will die. People sometimes attempt to smother grass with an opaque tarp on the soil surface, similar to solarizing. This is not effective and will not unturf your lawn.
To smother grass effectively, the barrier needs to be left in the soil. But leaving your tarp underground is probably not a great plan. Cardboard and newspaper make a decent biodegradable barrier. And that barrier will last long enough to establish new plants above it – especially with the addition of topsoil and compost.
It is also a good idea to till or disturb the grass before beginning. And you can add more soil in the second and third years.
If you need a precise touch to kill grass showing up where it shouldn’t, this approach is best. Instead of using harsh chemicals to kill the unruly grass (or other weeds), use a mixture of natural products that damage the grass.
How natural chemicals work and how to use them
Different chemicals work in different ways, and some may be more potent than you expect. So, be careful and do some research before mixing anything too noxious in your lab (or kitchen).
Some common natural approaches to weed-control that you can consider include:
acidic natural compounds (like vinegar or citrus)
salt or dissolved minerals
extreme heat (boiling water or torches)
Organic science can get very complicated when it comes to chemical alternatives. Find something that works for you and your conditions. It can be very helpful to find local organic groups.
The best way to kill grass
Each of these three methods has its place in getting grass out of our landscape. Combine these three approaches to ensure success with any grass-removal project. The best way to kill grass is to replace it with a native ecosystem! Over time, grass will not survive where it is not competitive. So, create the conditions for native plants and they will thrive.
For a garden that supports birds, wildlife, and the food web, choose plants that are native to your area. Science has shown us that these can support more life than ornamental species from other regions.
What are native plants?
Native plants are those which naturally occur in a region. The opposite of a native plant is one from a different part of the world. Many people garden with species that are ornamental, rather than using natives.
Why are native plants important?
Many people wonder why native plants are better for the environment. All kinds of plants can produce oxygen. And many are attractive to pollinators. So what makes natives so important?
The answer has to do with ecology. Native birds, wildlife, butterflies, and bees rely on your garden. And preserving these native animals requires gardening with plants that match their needs. Gardening with ornamental plants from other parts of the world can provide some food for local wildlife. But natives can support the most forms of life.
You can also check with your state or local university extension office to connect with other gardeners. Join local garden groups and explore opportunities for education related to sustainable gardening.
Where can I get native plants?
If you’re ready to add natives to your garden, shop at a nursery that specializes in native plants. You can also shop online nurseries that serve your area. Choose natives has a list of nurseries that do mail-order as well.
Your soil probably contains seeds from many native species. If you’re adventurous and can learn to identify seedlings, try letting a section of your lawn grow out. Chances are, many of the naturally occurring sprouts will be natives.
Another way to acquire natives is to grow them from seeds. You can collect seeds in the spring and fall from areas around your home. And your local library or university extension office may host a seed-exchange program.
Choosing the right plants for the right place
You’ll need to consider factors like light levels, wet and dry areas, and the pH of your soil when choosing what species of plants to buy. If you need help, unlawn experts can create a plan for you.
How to take the wet spot in your lawn from a muddy mess to a healthy habitat. Eliminate wet grass by embracing a different use for your soggy spots.
The wet grass headache
Mowing wet grass is a pain. And it’s bad for your grass and lawnmower. You’re more likely to stain your clothes and shoes when you mow wet grass. And it’s even worse if your grass is long overdue for a trim but it just keeps raining! Why do so many of us put up with the hassle of cutting wet grass? It seems like there’s no other option. But there is. Get rid of that section of grass! It’s easier than you think and it will look good. Plus, it can do some good for the Earth.
Replacements for grass in wet areas
If you want to keep that lawn appearance, or if HOA rules require you to keep the appearance of your lawn consistent(ly boring), then consider replacing the wet part of your lawn with a no-mow alternative. Grass alternatives let you continue to use your lawn in dry times and reduce the amount you need to mow.
Habitat types for wet areas
If you’re going to get rid of your wet grass for good, consider replacing it with something that will benefit wildlife and local ecology. By swapping your wet grass for wet habitat, you’ll turn your problem into a source of beauty.
This wet grass replacement allows native bees and butterflies to take refuge in your lawn. You can create a mini-meadow or a pocket prairie to support a diverse array of native pollinators that are facing habitat loss and population decline.
Converting your wet lawn to a pollinator habitat can be as simple as planting some bunches of Joe-pye weed, swamp milkweed, and bee balm. Plant your native plants together in groups a few feet apart. For less weeding, spread some cardboard or newspaper in between bunches, and cover it with mulch.
If your lawn gets wet enough to turn into a muddy mess, consider adding a rain garden. Adding a depression to collect water can help to mitigate flooding during wet seasons. And a water source on your property can support local bird and pollinator populations.
A rain garden is a little more involved than a simple pollinator habitat. It involves some digging, which means you should call 811 before you dig. Rain gardens can be enhanced if shrubs or small trees, like witch-hazel, are planted on the banks. Use the pollinator plants from above for a bonus ecological benefit.
If your wet spot stays wet for most of the year, it can support some unique and beautiful tree species. Cypress, black willow, and river birch only grow in the wettest spots. These trees act as a filtration system for groundwater, which benefits wildlife and your community. Plus, they all have medicinal uses.
Planting a grove of trees is the easiest option on this list, but can take up a weekend day or two. And trees can be expensive. But if you can get your hands on enough of these trees, you can plant them 8 to 12 feet apart. In between, add shrubs and native pollinator plants.
Say goodbye to clumping, staining, and squelching
If you’re ready to be done mowing wet grass forever, make a plan to unlawn that spot. Wet spots in your lawn are hard to use and a pain to maintain. Instead, switch to a lower-maintenance option that benefits nature locally. Unlawning is easy, cheap, and attractive!
Creating an eco friendly lawn is definitely easier said than done. And a lot of different options are out there. So how can you make your lawn environmentally friendly?
How can you have an eco friendly lawn?
There are three strategies for making a lawn environmentally friendly.
Reduce the need to mow, use pesticides, and water
Shrink the size of the lawn and replace it with something else
Do both of these at once
Reducing lawn maintenance
Mowing your lawn is a requirement for keeping grass healthy. But many homeowners choose to mow much more than is necessary. This keeps their lawn looking nice and tidy, and makes mowing easier. Mowing less often without changing anything else could be a frustrating strategy.
To reduce the amount of maintenance your lawn needs, you need to change how your lawn grows. If you water less and don’t fertilize, you can probably mow less. But your grass might be brown in August.
What about the extreme of mowing schedules? You could mow just once a year. If you time it correctly for your climate and the type of grass you have, it could work. You would have a meadow instead of a lawn. Maybe try this strategy on a small part of the lawn before you commit to the whole thing.
Another way to reduce your lawn’s need for maintenance is to change the ground cover. There are lawn replacement seed mixes available for homeowners who want to have a grassy lawn with a low maintenance need.
Shrinking the lawn
The ecological problem of lawns is really just that they take up a LOT of space. If every square foot of lawn needs maintenance, why not just get rid of some? Some people replace their lawn with hardscaping. Things like paths, walls, patios, and rocks. Or, you could add a waterfall, stream, or pond. But these are all fairly large design projects.
Increasing your lawn’s ecological benefits
If you want to have the biggest impact by shrinking your lawn, you should think about what will replace it. Reducing the amount of lawn you had to maintain is great, but replacing your lawn with native plants is even better. Creating habitat where you used to have lawn tips the scale back toward a healthy ecosystem. Part of your lawn could become habitat for pollinators, birds, and other local wildlife.
How to add habitat to your lawn
Adding a pollinator habitat area to your lawn is an easy way to cut down on mowing. It’s simple, too. You just need a few good native pollinator plants like bee balm, milkweed, and wild blue indigo – the more variety the better. Then, mark out an area in your lawn, as small as a few square feet, to be your pollinator habitat. Plant your native pollinator plants right in among the grass, but pull the grass away from them 2 to 3 inches. Now, lay cardboard or newspaper over all the grass, leaving gaps for your pollinator plants. Lastly, add some mulch for aesthetics and water everything thoroughly.
Once you establish your pollinator garden this way, the mulch and cardboard will turn into soil. You can then add a native ground cover to fill in the gaps between your pollinator plants. Ground cover gives winter interest and makes the border between your lawn and your pollinator habitat look smooth and natural.
Creating a wildlife habitat for birds and mammals is easy too. The pollinators are a great source of food for birds, they just need some nearby native trees or shrubs. The denser it is, the more likely you’ll get nests. Wildlife need water, food, and shelter. So, add some water sources, dense native shrubs, and herbaceous plants like native forbs that will attract insects and can be eaten or produce fruit.
Shrinking the lawn can backfire
The primary ecological benefits from your lawn are that it prevents erosion and is better than concrete. It allows water to penetrate soil, kinda. And it photosynthesizes, kinda. It also contributes less than concrete to urban heat islands.
So, when a lawn is removed, there should be a plan in place. Without a ground cover, the soil could erode. If the plants replacing the lawn can’t survive without constant watering, does nature benefit more than it pays?
You want your lawn to be eco friendly, and you want to avoid unnecessary risks. Unlawning is a way to enhance your lawn’s ecological benefits without letting it go completely feral.
Doing both: the eco friendly lawn combo
Replacing your whole lawn with a no-mow seed mix or a xeriscape is NOT necessarily an effective way to boost your lawn’s natural benefits. Instead, you need to think about the defining characteristics of your lawn and what those mean in nature. Then, use those characteristics to tailor your maintenance and the size of your lawn.
Characteristics of your lawn
To understand your lawn and it’s effects on nature, you need to know a few things about it. Does it retain water and get muddy? Or is it fast draining and prone to droughts? Is it shady or sunny? What planting zone are you in? Are parts of it flat? Are certain parts of it perfect for the kids to play or for socializing with friends?
Decide which parts of your lawn are most useful to you. These are places that you could continue to water, mow, and even fertilize responsibly. Places that are annoying to mow, like steep hills or muddy spots, probably don’t need the same level of care. Especially since they also make poor play areas for kids and can’t be used for barbecuing or yard games.
These problem areas are perfect for creating habitat. If your lawn backs up to a stream or woodland, adding habitat to the edge of that natural area has huge ecological benefits. If not, native pollinator habitat is useful anywhere.
Manipulating your lawn’s characteristics for ecological gain
Those characteristics we talked about (water level, light level, and terrain shape) can be changed. Adding woody plants (trees and shrubs) will add shade, which means less mowing and watering. Our unlawning guide further explains how layers of vegetation work together.
Creating a depression to act as a rain garden can prevent muddy grass nearby. Mowing on a steep slope is dangerous and irritating. So, reduce mowing to once or twice a year to create a meadow. Don’t worry too much about seed mixes for this, as your soil is probably already chock-full of wildflower seeds just waiting on the right conditions to sprout. Still, it never hurts to add a handful of native group plantings.
Designing the eco friendly lawn
When taking the approach of combining reduced maintenance with a shrunken lawn, you don’t want to neglect aesthetics. The last thing you want is a sprawling thicket blocking the view of your house and offending your neighbors.
If you decide to shrink your lawn by replacing it with native habitat, your house will start to look different. You’ll have taller vegetation, more shade, and maybe some trees or shrubs that reduce the visibility onto your land. You’ll also have wildlife hiding in that reduced visibility, munching on leaves or insects. Some neighbors may view this as less beautiful, or even ugly.
While you can’t please everyone, you can at least make your new habitat look intentional and inviting. Signs, pathways into the habitat, and borders around it are good tactics to manage your neighborhood relationships.
How is this doing both? Won’t I still have to spend a lot of time and resources on yard work?
Sure, you could just replace your lawn with something eco friendly without changing its size. That would reduce the harm your lawn causes – great! And you could continue to manage it with just mowing. If you add habitat, you aren’t sure what kind of maintenance it will need, how much it will cost, or how it will look when complete.
Instead, start small. Pick a small area of your lawn to restore as habitat each year. If you focus on one project at a time, you can easily test new ideas, manage your budget, and get rid of things you don’t like before they become overwhelming. This approach lets you get to know your land and your plants gradually, while slowly inviting nature back into your space. By taking your time, you’ll notice more of the small things that happen, like seeing a new kind of bird or butterfly for the first time, or finding out that the fruit of one of your plants is edible (and tasty).
You’ll find out that this approach to lawn maintenance, just getting to know your land, is meditative and restorative, rather than stressful. There is very little that needs to be done once your habitat is established. If you have problems with invasive plants, you can take two approaches. One; spend an afternoon or two every month cutting them back. Or two; spend a whole day or two every year pulling them out by the root.
Many native plants can be found for fairly cheap from native plant nurseries. Or sometimes for free from native gardening groups. Plus, because they are well suited to grow here (since they’re from here), many will naturally seed the area and spread out quickly without any need to water or fertilize.
The key to an eco friendly lawn
There are a lot of ways to increase the ecological benefits of your lawn, but there’s only one key to all of them. You have to make space for nature in your life. The space your lawn takes up used to be wildlife habitat. Now that we are entering the Earth’s 6th mass extinction, wildlife need that space more than ever. Inviting nature to come into your lawn and your life a few square feet at a time is a way to personally coexist with nature and take part in healing the Earth. Every square foot counts, so start small and keep an open mind.