Native Lawn FTW! (For The Win)

Photo © Wayne Thorson

It’s the fight of the decade: You vs. your lawn. Well, maybe not the lawn itself; maybe it’s the overwhelming responsibility of your lawn that is the true opponent? Throughout the year, many homeowners struggle to keep up with the watering, mowing, and weeding required to maintain the perf turf. There are also increased murmurings about the various “hidden” costs of non-native turf grass due to heavy watering and mowing requirements, pesticide and fertilizer applications, and problems with pathogens. More recent concerns address opportunity costs that may be lost. By having a large, nonnative lawn you are not capitalizing on opportunities to provide wildlife habitat and other ecological benefits to our communities.


Photo ©

With a rebel yell, I cried no, more, mow… No more mow!


Who doesn’t like the lush look and soft feel of a well-groomed, green expanse? There are many benefits to having open space and a rugged groundcover that can handle the foot traffic of family functions and kid’s play areas. There are also habitat advantages for wildlife in open spaces. American Robins and Northern Flickers are often seen foraging in grassy areas. Salamanders and snakes may not be uncommon visitors either. Compared to native vegetation, however, non-native, heavily treated turfgrass is a biodiversity wasteland. Wouldn’t it be best if your lawn could offer the space you desired, the environmental benefits to wildlife and surrounding community, and could also be easier to maintain? The lawn pictured above, for example, is native red fescue (Festuca rubra), planted for its dark green color and superb drought tolerance. Its wavy ornamental appearance requires no mowing.

Susan Harris

Photo © Tom Engelman

Ready for a worthy challenge? With a native grass lawn you can have the best of both worlds. It may require a couple seasons of determination and perseverance but it’s a one-time battle you can win and then enjoy the rewards for the long haul. The native lawn you see above is one variety of buffalograss (Bouteloua dactyloides), which is short, rugged, has an appealing silvery blue tint, and is quite pest resistant.

Discover the Benefits

  1. Once established, native grasses are less susceptible to damage from pests and pathogens because they have evolved defenses against local fungi, bacteria, and insect herbivory.open_in_new
  2. They require a fraction of the water use of traditional turf grasses, like bermudagrass, because they are adapted to the local water and weather regime.
  3. Many species that have been selected for native lawns are short and slow growing and require mowing as little as once or twice per year, or not at all if you like the wavy ornamental look.
  4. When it comes to weeds and overall appearances, many native grass mixes have consistently shown to develop twice the leaf density of traditional bermudagrass and allow significantly fewer weeds to creep in.open_in_new

Years of reduced maintenance and costs as well as improved habitat and ecological processes make the addition of a native lawn well worth the effort it takes to get it established. If you are up for the adventure, continue on by reading more articles in this series to help determine and install the native grass species that best fit your garden design and practical lawn use.

Native Grasses for Your Native Lawn
Installing and Maintaining a Native Lawn