The Killing of Lawn (and the Planting of Native Plants)

I confess.  I did it.  I smothered our lawn.  There was a vibrant swath of lush turf occupying the bulk of the front yard and I quietly murdered it.  It was a crime of passion.

Travel with me back to the early winter month of November 2012.  That’s when the idea of transforming the lawn into a productive vegetative habitat crept into my head and, like a catchy pop tune, wouldn’t leave my brain alone.  Obsessive thoughts of wild creatures.  Of seductive native plants.  It was early winter, with drab charcoal skies, cool temperatures and growing darkness.  The dismal days further fueled my desire to do the dastardly deed of death.


The new area would be a native perennial island oasis ringed by a narrow path of turf that I would spare.  I mowed the large area short.  Newspaper I had dumpster dived out of the nearby recycling center was then laid over the sheared grass about four sheets thick.  I chucked a few inches of compost over the paper layers, shoveling with the zeal of a demented gravedigger.  The act was now complete.  All I had to do was wait.  Visions of decayed turf grass combined with springtime planting filled my murderous heart with anticipation.  It would be a long winter.

The newly smothered 'island' outlined by a turf path in early 2013.

The newly smothered ‘island’ outlined by a turf path in early 2013.

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Why Go Native

Native Plant

A newly emerged monarch butterfly.

In the warmth of the growing season, my garden is humming with life. A dizzying array of honey bees and native bees, swallowtail butterflies, skippers and fritillaries, click beetles and praying mantises, buzz and flutter and float and swoop and hop and creep, along with a host of insects I can’t begin to identify. For the first time, there are monarch caterpillars.  Planting butterflyweed brought these endangered beauties to me. Someone wise said, “If you plant them, they will come.” And they do. American goldfinches are common visitors to the seed heads of hollow Joe-pye weed. Ruby throated hummingbirds sip nectar from the cardinal flowers that I plant just for them. Our North American sparrows feast on the ripe seeds of Indiangrass, New England aster and orange coneflower. I have invited nature into my garden by simply adding plants that originally evolved here: native plants. It’s like there’s a party going on.

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