• Brenna Pavan

The Grass Isn't Always Greener: Creating Meaningful Outdoor Spaces

In urban spaces, grass lawns are the most common way that we fill the space in our yards. These grass lawns have become the norm, symbols of suburbia and leisure, and maintaining a mowed lawn is expected. Recently though, people have begun challenging this idea more and more. Around Victoria you will often spot yards made up of native plants, tall native grasses, garden boxes, and many other beautiful and functional designs that don’t include the traditional grass lawn approach. Traditional grass lawns are often full of non-native species, create large areas that lack ecological diversity, and require large amounts of water and maintenance. While grass lawns may be an easy choice, there are many alternatives that are low maintenance, drought tolerant, ecologically beneficial, or any combination of the three. By utilizing the space in our yards, we can create more habitat for native species, grow food for ourselves, and design spaces we can enjoy.

Microclover Lawns are a great way to keep the same look and function as a traditional grass lawn. Microclover can be mowed just like a grass lawn, but it does not require as much water and needs no extra fertilization. These lawns will stay greener for longer, add pollinator friendly elements to your space, and since they are a nitrogen fixer they will even improve the soil as they grow. Once established they can be trained to grow to whatever height you prefer by mowing, and they are tough enough to be walked and played on.

Native Plant Gardens are the basis of keeping a more sustainable and ecologically friendly space. Native plants are well adapted to the environment that we live in so they require less maintenance and less water to flourish in our yards. They add interesting elements, textures, and flowers to a space for the more aesthetic gardener and for those wishing for a more wild, low maintenance space they are also well suited. Incorporating native plants in any garden designs is a great way to use your space to have a positive impact.

Wildflower Meadows are best utilized when you have an open or more exposed yard, particularly if you have a more rocky yard. The traditional Garry oak meadows are both beautiful and largely self-sustaining in a yard setting, recreating these sorts of areas allows for some of the greatest diversity in the smallest space. It can be as simple as spreading native wildflower seed blends in your meadow space, or as complex as restoring as much of a garry oak system as you can.

Pollinator Gardens are both beautiful to the eye and beneficial to local pollinators. Incorporating native flowering plants into your garden, and ensuring that you have a wide variety of flowering times will keep pollinators coming to your yard, and ensure that you have blooms you can enjoy all season long.

Rain Gardens are very useful for areas that receive heavy rainfall or experience water pooling. These gardens are designed to direct water so that you don’t experience rivers in your yard, and allow for better absorption of water into the ground so that the yard won’t experience water pooling or as many large muddy sections. While the water flows through the rain garden it is also filtered, this makes sure that all the water going into the ground or the storm drains has been cleaned of pollutants. Native, water loving plants are also included to further filter and take up the water, while adding some extra beauty to the design.

Edible Landscapes or Food Gardens can include a food forest, wild edible landscapes, native edible species, garden boxes, or anything else that involves producing edible foods in your space. There are many native species that are edible or have other medicinal purposes that you can cultivate in your own yard. There are also many agricultural species that can produce very bountiful harvests even in the smallest of garden spaces. However you decide to approach it, these approaches are great for pollinators and other insects, and there are few things better than eating something that you have grown yourself.

Drought Tolerant Lawns are an important consideration, especially on the south part of Vancouver Island as we often experience dry summers. These kinds of lawns often involve species that can go with very little water, such as native bunch grasses, but will still be able to fill out your space and provide native habitat. As these species are so tolerant of low water levels they are also quite low maintenance and if left to their own devices can create a beautiful grassland space in your yard.

These are some of the many ways that we can better utilize urban green spaces, especially our yards. If you would like more information on how you can change your space to better suit your needs, check out our sustainable landscape design page or contact us with your questions. Together we can create beautiful and bountiful spaces!

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