It’s easy to convert our lawns into native prairies that will attract birds and butterflies, and provide restful beauty for the eye and spirit. After all, mowed lawns mean toxic emissions from mowers, money wasted on gasoline, the temptation to use herbicides, and many hours of work. Who needs it?
Instead, here are the simple steps for creating a beautiful, hassle-free no-mow lawn.
Maintaining large, green lawns is hard on the environment because of the fertilizers, pesticides and gas-powered mowers usually used. I’ve turned my green patch into a colorful, bird and butterfly attracting native garden instead.
The first step to creating your little prairie garden is to find some suitable seeds. You will need to determine from the type of soil you’re dealing with and how much sunlight the area you wish to transform gets during the course of a given day. Purple coneflowers, Gray headed coneflowers, Prairie blazing stars, wild blue indigo and lupins (make sure you get the native ones) are flowers that are all quite easy to grow in most areas of the country and under varying conditions.
Accent your garden with native short grasses such as little bluestem and side-oats gramma. For a corner or border, you can choose taller grasses and forbs such as big bluestem, prairie dropseed, Indian grass and the truly stunning, even bizarre, prairie dock and compass plant.
Find a garden supply store in your area that has a selection of locally grown, native plant seeds. When creating your native garden, it’s important to use seeds that were raised as close to your area as possible. Avoid those inexpensive bags of wildflower seeds you see at the Walmart. Some of them contain “flowers” that may actually be WEEDS where you live. They can take over.
After you purchase your seeds, mix them with two parts sand or vermiculite to one part seeds. Add enough water to moisten the mixture without soaking it. Put the mixture into bag or pail and store in a cool, dark place for at least two weeks. This will soften the seed husks and allow them to germinate much faster.
The beauty of gardening with native plants is they actually want to grow in your soil. The easiest, lazy method I’ve found for preparing the soil is to just mow the grass as short as possible for several weeks before planting your seeds. Loosen the soil with a heavy rake and remove all of the “thatch.” Stomp your seeds into the disturbed soil and water deeply until they begin to germinate. Continue to mow the area using the highest setting available on your mower, until your native plants begin to take hold.
If you want to kill off the grass completely before planting your seeds, mow the area as short as possible and cover with newspapers or discarded carpeting. This should kill off all of the old grass and weeds in a couple of weeks.
Where to Get Help: Check with your local nature center for the types of wildflowers that are native to your area. A good group to seek out is The Wild Ones. They have branches all over the country and sometimes can get seeds. Or feel free to call or email me. Pacificsandsir@aol.com phone: 262-634-5774.
Mick Wynhoff is a screenwriter and producer, as well as the freelance public relations and marketing director for Pacific Sands, Inc. (OTC BB: PFSD), manufacturer of the Eco One Spa product line. He’s spent the last eleven years restoring a prairie on his family’s land. Mick lives in Racine, Wisconsin.
Adapted from “How to Make a Native Lawn” by Mick Wynhoff.