It’s easy to feel helpless about climate change and the biodiversity crisis, yet there is something many of us can do that would have an impact and create local benefits as well: replace some of our lawn grass with native plants.
According to an April 2023 CBC news report*, most Canadian yards are covered in non-native, inedible turf grass, forming an “eco-desert” that is the “largest irrigated crop in North America”. Ecologically-speaking, even a lawn with dandelions is an improvement. They are not native plants, but at least dandelions provide one of the first nectar sources for butterflies and bees, have edible leaves, medicinal roots, and the flowers can be used to make a fine yellow wine. (I personally tasted such wine 40 years ago and I still remember the wonderful flavour.)
Yet once the first flush of dandelions is over, you are back to mowing (according to the David Suzuki Foundation, emissions from lawn mowers in Canada in 2022 was more than from all new cars bought in that year), fertilizing (most fertilizers are made from petro-chemicals) and watering to keep your outdoor “carpet” green.
Native wildflowers add a splash of colour to a landscape, as well as food for pollinators. Photo taken by Donna Danyluk.
Most of us have a use for some lawn area but often there is a lot more than we actually need.
With the loss of so much native habitat and the biodiversity that goes with it, our pollinators are suffering and so are birds and many other species we may not even be aware of.
In place of a front lawn, this mini-woodland provides habitat for birds. Photo taken by Donna Danyluk.
Replacing some of your lawn with native species, whether flowering plants or grasses, shrubs or trees, is one choice you can make to help counter the effects of climate change by sequestering more carbon, reducing water use, and supporting pollinators and other species.
Native plants such as Stiff Goldenrod and Giant Blue Hyssop attract bees and butterflies. Photo taken by Donna Danyluk.
Nature Manitoba was thinking about the need to add biodiversity to our yards and gardens back in the early 2000’s. We collaborated with several local organizations to create a definitive guide to landscaping your yard with nature in mind. Whether you have a small city plot or a large rural acreage, Naturescape Manitoba - All You Need is a Little Space, provides the how-to guidance and inspiration you need.
Published in 2006, and available from the Nature Manitoba on-line store, the book’s contents are timeless, and include extensive information about species native to Manitoba. Click here to read more about what’s included in the book.
Some of the links and organizations listed in the Resources section of the book have changed over time. An up-to-date resources list has been created and it can be found here.
Enjoy exploring the possibilities for your yard and garden - all you need is a little space!
Written by Diane Kunec