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Guest Blog: Rethinking the American Lawn, Part II

Why Not Replant the American Meadow?

This is the second installment of Rethinking the Traditional American Lawn, a four-part series by High Country Gardens Founder and Chief Horticulturist, David Salman. Salman also writes The Xeric Gardener.

News Flash: Gardeners Rediscover Mother Nature’s Low-Maintenance Lawn, Right Under Their Feet

Lawn growers reap the rewards of North America’s goldmine — one of the most productive grasslands on the planet — by planting meadow and prairie grasses first, then adding “sweeteners” later.

February 14, 2011

SANTA FE, N.M. — Before the arrival of farmers and the plow, much of the country’s mid-section was covered by prairie, a diverse mix of soil-building native grasses and wildflowers — more poetically known as “sweeteners.” Moving from the moister tall grass prairies of the Midwest to the dry short grass prairie of the Great Plains, these incredibly diverse ecosystems were home to one of the planet’s largest and most productive grasslands. They supported seemingly limitless herds of elk, buffalo and antelope, flocks of birds and a multitude of other wildlife. Many of our cities and suburbs sit on top of these vast grasslands, begging the question, “Why not put back the prairie?”

While not a practical solution for everyone’s front yard, prairies — also called “meadows” or “grasslands” by many — are the perfect way to re-create this invaluable habitat for birds, butterflies, insects and other small creatures. It’s up to you to invite the buffalo back into your yard.

Plant a prairie on a smaller scale using our ‘Western Prairie Pre-planned Garden (pg. 96 of our spring catalogue).’ This assortment of native grasses and perennial wildflowers will re-establish a low-care yard full of colorful flowers and graceful grass seed heads. Best for the western U.S. in areas receiving no more than 30 inches of annual precipitation, this is a very natural solution for suburban and rural front yards. All the grasses and perennials come as potted plants and cover approximately 200 square feet of yard area. For larger areas, order multiple gardens.

For those Westerners with larger areas to plant, I recommend seeding with our native grass and wildflower mixes (pg. 95 of our spring catalogue) to re-create a natural-looking prairie or meadow. We have mixes for both mid- and higher-elevation sites. I recommend first planting the grasses in spring and leaving patches of open ground that can be planted with wildflower seeds later in the fall or the following spring. In this way you can easily see and pull the weeds while the grass establishes itself and not accidentally pull up your wildflower seedlings. Once established, your meadow will provide your property with low-care beauty that needs only an early spring mowing to reinvigorate it for another year of growth.

If you haven’t already, sign up for our weekly e-zine to receive more timely and focused information about your lawn makeover options. Tomorrow’s newsletter topic will discuss the various options for replacing grass with ground covers while offering special promotional plants to help you get the natural lawn you want, each of them grown and shipped right from our greenhouses in Santa Fe to your garden! And check back here next Monday for the third edition of our Natural Lawn Makeover series, where we’ll discuss the best ground covers for sun and shade. Till then, happy lawning!

About The Author

Paul Tukey

An international leader of the green movement, Mr. Tukey is a journalist, author, filmmaker, TV host, activist and award-winning public speaker, who is widely recognized as North America's leading advocate for landscape sustainability and toxic pesticide reduction strategies.

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