Exquisite Practices, Lush Life: Week 5

Why you should be planting with native species.

Okay, I’m just going to come out and say it: I despise lawns. I know, I know. Without them, where would we picnic, or read in the sun? Where would the dog dig holes or the kids play tag? I’m not hating on these sunny little patches of happiness, but rather the vast swaths of water-greedy, pesticide ridden greenery that take a ride-on lawnmower and a steep water bill to maintain. If you’re in agreement, I’ve got a beautiful solution for you: replace your lawn with a garden full of native plants and flowers!

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It’s very easy to replace some or all of your lawn with native plants and flowers. Why native? Consider that big box stores and developers sell or use one set of plants across all types of growing zones for efficiency of sales. These plants are often genetically identical, having been grown from cuttings, and thus offer no biodiversity to your garden and no help to our beloved pollinators (check out last week’s post on bees). They also require you to replace or amend your soil, water effusively, install irrigation or a weed barrier, and maintain with pesticides and fertilizers – essentially, to completely change your landscape to support them. For a less work-intensive and cost-effective landscape project, head to your local nursery and see what’s native (Greensgrow in Philly is my own personal happy place, they even have a Muscovy Duck named Ping and Milkshake, a muddy, happy pig).

Replacing industrially grown plants or lawn sod with native species is the first step in healing the earth around your home. Native plants are by nature biologically diverse and require little water or maintenance since they’ve adapted to your area’s weather patterns. They also support local wildlife from bugs to birds to bigger animals — and we all know that these creatures can use all the help they can get. Because they work in harmony with each other and with your surrounding landscape, they will not require chemicals to maintain, but rather a bit of organic compost and a sprinkle of water to get established. I know I don’t need to say it again, but I will anyway: chemical pesticides and fungicides are poison. They not only leech into our water systems but directly into our bodies if we, say, want to get that base tan going on the first bikini-warm day in April. Further, California and other states are experiencing severe water shortages, and our lawns drink up to between 30% and 60% of our consumed water. Who needs it?! Say goodbye to your greedy lawn, and hello to the natural beauty of native species.

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There are lots of businesses dedicated to helping you replace your lawn with a wild and colorful garden. Look around your area and see who’s there to help. An added bonus: you may be eligible for a rebate from your municipality for using less thirsty plants or low-volume irrigation, so check on that before you get started! Below is a great before and after photo series of a native landscape project by Gordon D. Robb Landscaping in coastal Maine. If you’ve created a garden to replace your lawn, let me know in the comments below. I’d love to hear about your experience!

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Gordon D. Robb Landscaping

Stay tuned to Exquisite Practice for a whole new theme next month (think radiant, healthy skin!) See you next week!

Lead photo by Alyssa Robb.


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I prefer ‘naturally’ grown gardens to boring lawns as well! It just looks so interesting and colourful and full of life, lawns sometimes seem so sterile to me!

Gordon Robb

Thanks for the press, didn’t expect that. Another bonus is plants that produce food.
Blueberries, raspberries, all veggies and fruits and herbs can also be part of the healthy outdoors you live in and enjoy your life. Be happy and healthy.