Natie Lawn vs. Eco Lawn

edlincoln(6A)August 8, 2014

I *hate* the idea of the traditional lawn. A massive monoculture of non-native species that don't produce food for pollinators and in many parts of the country is kept alive with massive amounts of chemicals and irrigation. I like the clover/lawn mix has food for pollinators and the clover generates natural fertilizer. Of course, clover isn't native.

I've seen lots of intriguing "eco lawns" and "no mow" lawn that contain flowers or require less mowing. The catch is, they all contain non-native species. I'm not a native purist, but I don't like covering and entire field with reseeding non natives.

Does anyone no of anyone who makes a native version of the lawn/flower mix or no-mow lawn substitute?

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lycopus(z5 NY)

Only native grass I've seen promoted for turf is buffalograss (Buchloe dactyloides) but mostly out west. Don't know how it would fare out here since it isn't native to most of the east coast.

Shortgrass prairie could create a similar appearance and I've seen large areas planted with species like little bluestem and prairie dropseed. They need a very well draining soil, particularly in the eastern part of the county.

I am in the process of converting a good portion of my lawn to native plantings but there is a lot of ground to cover. I am thinking of experimenting with Danthonia spicata as a replacement for a portion of my lawn. In the wild it appears to maintain a pretty low stature until it flowers. I'd like to get a few square feet of it going and see how it handles occasional mowing for a year. I suspect the biggest challenge as with any lawn will be broadleaf weeds.

    Bookmark   August 9, 2014 at 9:19PM
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Yup, and some no-mow or low-mow turf mixes also include fescues in addition to the buffalo grass, etc. To my eye, they can be a reasonable alternative, provided fast and large-growing annual weeds don't gain too much of a foothold. And of course, if they do, broadleaf herbicides will take them out, though of course, that is one of the management regimes you're trying to avoid.

Then there's my lawn: Once a pretty good stand of K. bluegrass and fescues, with a little perennial rye still in the mix, over time, what has happened is that the Glechoma (creeping jenny, sonofabitch, various other names) and the wild blue violets have so proliferated that that is pretty much what I've got now. The Glechoma smells good when it gets mowed, appears to be foot-traffic ready as any turfgrass, and requires multiple herbicide applications to be gotten rid of. The violets? Nothing short of total lawn re-do is going to get them. For now, I'm just living with it.


    Bookmark   August 11, 2014 at 9:05AM
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lycopus(z5 NY)

After I wrote that I decided to search for info on Danthonia spicata. Turns out others had already thought of using it in a lawn. It has shown some promise for use in golf courses and there are a few places selling the seed online. Some have also experimented with using junegrass (Koeleria macrantha).

At the school where I work they just planted a bunch of Carex pensylvanica plugs to replace the old lawn they had in front of the building. So far looks nice. I just collected a bunch of Carex radiata and C. rosea seed today and am going to try them in a freshly cleared area under a tree that gets too much shade for grass to grow. Many years ago I took this picture at the Morton Arboretum where they were trying C. radiata in a shady spot next to a path and I thought it looked nice.

    Bookmark   August 11, 2014 at 3:38PM
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I suppose what I'm really looking for is a Native North American substitute for clover...a Native North American legume that flowers and can survive mowing. if I could find that, I could mix it with buffalo grass, native fescues, etc.

    Bookmark   August 11, 2014 at 11:18PM
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Yes, one of the limiting factors in replacing traditional turf will be ability to handle foot traffic. Indeed, that is one of the key benefits of having at least some lawn areas on a property. Sure, other plants are occasionally touted for their ability to handle being walked upon, but nothing compares to the K. bluegrass/fescue/perennial rye mixtures of the north, or the variations on that theme further south.

I suppose my ultimate landscape would retain manicured turf as walking paths, between mixed perennial beds, etc. Best of both worlds.

Edin, I'm not aware of any native legume which would withstand regular mowing and foot traffic. Not saying one does not exist-I've just never heard about it..


    Bookmark   August 12, 2014 at 11:24AM
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WoodsTea 6a MO

There are/were native clovers, at least east of the Rockies. Trifolium stoloniferum (running buffalo clover) and T. reflexum (buffalo clover) are both still around, although they seem to be endangered across most of their original range. I've read that T. stoloniferum wants partial shade, occuring naturally at woodland edges.

I would think it would be difficult to find seeds for these. There is apparently some restoration work being done at Eastern Kentucky University. Possibly some info about availability of seed might be had there?

Here is a link that might be useful: Native Clovers in Arkansas (pdf)

    Bookmark   August 12, 2014 at 2:24PM
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Buffalo clover (at least in Oklahoma), doesn't maintain greenery all season. Course in a wetter climate, I don't know?

    Bookmark   August 15, 2014 at 7:31AM
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I've never been able to find Eastern US native clover...I think it's neary extinct. I've found California clover strains like Lespedeza capitata and Trifolium wormskioldii. I've never been able to find them in sufficient quantities to seed a lawn. If I could find Buffalo clover in bulk that would be great, the fact it isn't green all year doesn't matter to me. Any low growing native legume flower who's seeds I can buy in bulk and which can tolerate moderate foot traffic would work for me. It wouldn't have to survive regular major foot traffic.

There are so many plants in the world, I'm sure one exists that meets my criteria. Part of the problem is marketing...It would have to be available in the form of seed sold by the pound at reasonable prices for met to use it for lawn seeding. Trifolium amoenum, trifolium wormskioldii, or purple prairie clover seem like closest things I've found.

This post was edited by edlincoln on Sun, Aug 17, 14 at 12:41

    Bookmark   August 16, 2014 at 10:59AM
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