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Opinion: Let’s turn lawns into eco-community landscapes

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Spring is coming.
And how can we look at our yards through the lens of decreasing our turf areas?
Why? Because nationwide they consume 8 billion gallons of water daily; 40% of the chemicals sprayed on lawns are banned in other countries because of their carcinogenic content; and most of the synthetic fertilizer that is applied ends up in our water systems.
What to do instead? Create a garden of native flowers, bushes and trees with turf paths winding through these eco-communities that provide food and habitat for our native pollinators.
Why are these native butterflies, bees and others important? Because they pollinate 87% of all flowering plants and 85% of our main food crops. When I design a garden, my two main goals are to create beauty and to provide a seasonal arc of pollinator support. Planting just a few plants is not sufficient so a plan is important.
For example: Monarch butterflies need the milkweeds for the caterpillar stage but it is also essential that they have the protein filled berries in the fall for their long migration flight. Another example: Baby birds eat 30-40 times a day. That means on average for a medium number of chicks per nest that the adults have to provide around 812 caterpillars a day within a manageable distance from the nest. And those caterpillars need the right plants to fit their digestive system.

So, you can see that a variety of plant choices and timing of blooming for this all to happen is an important aspect in the design.
Plus, native plant gardens do not need fertilizers or chemical sprays and contribute to carbon sequestration through their established and sizable root systems.

Step by step we can turn our seldom used turf lawns into eco-community landscapes!

Judith K. Robinson


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