Lawn Alternative – Growing A Lawn With Native Prairie Grass

My lawn isn’t as green and well-kept as a golf course, but I don’t hate it. We fertilize once a year (usually, if we remember), but we don’t use other chemicals. It is uneven – lush and green in spots, thin in others. The terrain is rocky and rough, not very suitable for the perfect lawn. I’m fine with that.

Planting prairie grass – an alternative to large lawn

A weed patch when we moved four years ago, our yard is huge and it seemed like the easiest thing to do would be to plant a part of it in the lawn. It takes a lot of water in this dry and windy country, so I’m glad we haven’t planted more.

Part of our courtyard is a patch of natural prairie: sage, rabbit, lupine and other wild flowers. I don’t think it has ever been touched by human hands. It is off the beaten path and not easily seen by the few people who happen to drive, but I love it. I also have a couple of good-sized flower beds, which are planted with native (deer-proof) plants. They are establishing themselves and are doing well.

We didn’t want to plant a lot of lawn, so we planted a good-sized section in native prairie grass seeds – blue grass and buffalo grass. My friend Allen, who retired from our local soil and water conservation district, advised me on the process. He says it takes three years to prepare the prairie grass and that the buffalo grass will develop stolons that will prevent the growth of weeds (the ryegrass has been a real problem, so we continue to cut off his head in the hope that it will disappear).

This is the second year and so far the native prairie grass is growing well and doing well. I think it will look really beautiful, completely natural and at home in this environment.

Tips for growing a lawn

So if you are looking for an alternative to that mystical perfect lawn, here are my tips for growing a lawn you can live with:

  • Don’t use insecticides. It will kill beneficial insects, including bees.
  • Do not use herbicides. They are harmful to the environment, especially the water supply.
  • Do not pull out the dandelions in early spring. They are important for honey bees. If you are determined to remove them, wait for other plants to bloom so that bees have alternative sources. Better yet, leave them alone or choose some. The bright yellow flowers are rather in pots. If your neighbors complain about dandelions (and probably will), tell them you are growing a pollinator-friendly garden. Maybe they will decide to do the same.
  • Consider planting prairie grass. It needs very little water once established and you don’t have to mow it. Double win.
  • Last but not least, don’t sweat the little things. A patch of natural prairie will do.

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