When spring arrives, the lawn and garden call. But as we learn more about our world, we ask if we really need all that grass. Maintaining it requires substantial resources of time, money and water. Could you reduce yours by half over time?
Start by planting a native oak tree. Over time, fill in with native shrubs and perennials that attract birds, pollinating butterflies and bees. Space too small? Plant a smaller tree like a native cherry, and add goldenrods, asters and sunflowers, all considered keystone plants that support local food webs and recreate ecosystems. Even your balcony can make a difference if it includes native plants.
Next steps? Mow your remaining grass at three inches or higher, and water it weekly only when less than one inch of rain has fallen. Reduce or eliminate your use of herbicides and pesticides. Remember, we are welcoming beneficial insects now. Consider a small water feature with a bubbler to attract birds.
Moving water does not attract mosquitos. If mosquitos are a problem, eliminate standing water sources and create just one. Partially fill a bucket with water. Add straw or hay, and let it ferment. It will draw in female mosquitos to lay their eggs. Then add a mosquito control dunk specific to the mosquito larvae. It works without spray and without harming newly established food webs. Don’t forget to remove any invasive plants from your yard. These plants do not support local food webs, and they invade natural areas. Learn more about them on the Park Authority’s web site.
Author Kim Young is a naturalist at Hidden Oaks Nature Center in Annandale, VA.