Imagine: it's a beautiful Saturday afternoon, and you decide to grill with the family in the backyard. You walk outside to a yard that doesn't need to be mowed, which is strange because you haven't mowed for two months now. What else could you do with all the free time you'd have if you didn't have to spend your weekends mowing and weeding?
Nearly 40% of Prince George's County is covered in turf grass, and 75% of that is residential lawns1. These lawns often rival the looks of a well-manicured golf course - uniform, lush, thick, and green. This can present significant problems for local water resources and wildlife. Fertilizers and pesticides can easily travel into nearby streams and the Chesapeake Bay. Lawns often provide no food or habitat for birds and bees that share our neighborhoods. All of these problems can be addressed by using alternatives to the traditional, non-native turf lawn.
You may be asking why the City requires turf for lawns if they are so undesirable. Well, it doesn't. As confirmed with the City's Code Compliance division, many options for lawn cover exist. These include ferns, clover, native grasses, conservation landscapes, and bayscapes. Maryland has dozens of native species for your yard. Why native? Native plants have lived here long before humans and are adapted to the local climate. They are naturally suited to the temperature, rain and "pests" of the area and once established, require little to no watering, fertilizers or pesticides. Choosing native ground covers, grasses and plants for your yard will minimize the maintenance burden, protect local streams and the Chesapeake Bay, and create critical habitat for butterflies and birds.
Visit the links below and reassess your yard today! While working on the plan for your lawn alternative, remember to watch out for your four-legged kids and check this list of plants that may be poisonous to pets or consult your veterinarian for advice. The resources below are from the University of Maryland Home and Garden Information Center.
- Lawns - An overview of lawns in Maryland
- Lawn Removal Methods - Information on safely removing turf grass
- Ground Covers - Introduction to ground covers (or fast forward to the list of suggested species)
- Native Plants - Find options for sunny areas, shady slopes, and resisting deer
- Conservation Landscapes - how to plant for water conservation
- Edible Landscapes - save money on groceries and lawn maintenance
- Invasive Plants - Most of all, be sure to avoid these!