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Shrink Your Lawn

When most people think of the ideal lawn, they think of well-maintained, bright green turf grass. There are around 40 million acres of lawn in the lower 48 states, occupying about 2% of the surface of the United States. We perceive a well-maintained yard as aesthetically pleasing to the human eye, but they’re not pleasing toward our environment. Turf grass is a largely impervious (not penetrable) surface, so most rain water flows directly off your lawn. Run-off pollution occurs with each rainfall and snowmelt when water flows over land picking up soil and pollutants and depositing them in streams, ponds, wetlands, lakes, and rivers.

Run-off pollution can result in excess algal growth, fish kills, reduced tourism, impaired drinking water, and more. It is environmentally and economically costly. While we want to make our yards friendlier to wildlife and the surrounding environment, regulations from some homeowners associations or municipalities don’t always make it easy. Turning your front yard into a wild meadow may get you grief from a homeowners association but you can incorporate landscaping features using native plants to shrink your lawn.

Here are 5 simple tips to shrink your lawn at home:

CONNECT THE DOTS
If you have several random planting areas in your yard, you can consolidate them into one larger planting area. To get an idea of what it would look like, get some rope or a hose and map out the area to see where you would be removing sod. This way you can “try out” the shape before any digging.

HEDGE THE EDGE
This entails digging up the perimeter of your lawn in favor of a hedge. To keep the lawn from infiltrating the new growing bed, you’ll want to edge it with stone, brick or concrete. If you lay it at ground level, it will enable you to mow more easily.

CUT-OUT THE CENTER
You can make a planting area or a patio in the center of your lawn. Plant natives to attract wildlife or ring a hidden patio with a planting bed.

CUT CORNERS
Pick a corner of your lawn and convert it into an herb garden, rock garden or a space for something else you’ve been dying to grow.

GO WILD
Let a piece of your lawn go back to its natural state to become and oasis for local wildlife. Decide which part of your lawn to convert and replace it with native plants.

Blog author: Amy Roskilly, Conservation Education Specialist

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