Changes in Grounds Management: Installing a Native Lawn
A lush green lawn may be lovely to look at, but in many cases lawns are, at best, ecological deserts. A manicured lawn is often a monoculture—a single species is often more vulnerable to disease or environmental problems—and a typical lawn requires chemical solutions, including pesticides and fertilizers, to maintain. In addition, lawns, while more permeable than asphalt or concrete, absorb and filter less rainwater than gardens or native grasses.
There are a variety of native grasses to choose from in different parts of the country. These can be planted and maintained much like a traditional lawn or can be allowed to grow more wildly.
- Identify a location for your native lawn.
- While native grasses usually require less water once established, you will initially have to water the lawn, so you will need access to water.
- You might initially choose a test site, especially if you need to convince others of the value of going native.
- Investigate and select what species of grass you want to plant. Think about what the lawn will be used for: Is it for sitting, walking, or playing on? Is it mostly ornamental? Also, note how much sun the location receives.
- Native Grasses for Your Native Lawn (Habitat Network)
- Determine the equipment and supplies you’ll need. Use a budget calculator to help determine expenses.
- Green Education Foundation's Garden Budget Calculator - you may need to add the cost of seeds or plugs
- Determine what permissions you’ll need for planting or other landscaping and notify parents so that students can dress appropriately. Consider any safety precautions you should take on planting day.
- Determine if you’ll need volunteers to help with preparation and planting.
- Clear and prepare the area as needed. If you have or can purchase compost, mix it in to the cleared soil. However, one of the benefits of native plants is that they often thrive in the native soil and you may not need to amend it.
- Once it's established, have a picnic on your new truly green lawn!
- You may need to convince school personnel and maintenance staff of the virtues of a native lawn. Many people like the look of a perfectly manicured, uniform, green lawn and associate it with a well-maintained property.
Maintenance Schedule and Other Notes
- The lawn will initially need to be watered often until established (possibly up to 1 year). After that, as noted, native lawns typically need less water than traditional lawns and may not need more than the rain.
- Like traditional lawns, native lawns may need to be mowed, most frequently in spring, but occasionally over the summer (depending on the climate).
- How often you mow is also determined by the use of the lawn.
Related Lessons and Classroom Integration
- Restoring Native Plants (This American Land)
Additional Project Resources
- Installing and Maintaining a Native Lawn (Habitat Network)
- Native Lawn FTW! (For The Win) (Habitat Network)
- Must We Mow? How to Increase Wildlife Value of Working Landscapes (Habitat Network)
- Take Control of Herbicide Use On Your Property (Habitat Network)
- Natural Yard Care (King County)
- Sustainable Urban Design: Educator’s Toolkit for Project-Based Learning
- Creating Urban Habitats:
- Changes in Grounds Management:
- Brush, Leaf, and Compost
- Installing a Native Lawn
- Green Stormwater Infrastructure: