Transforming Lawns to Landscapes

Illustrated garden landscape.

In recent years, there’s been a lot of press about “No-Mow May”, a call-to-action urging us to leave our lawns alone for one month a year to encourage vegetation to grow and help “feed the bees”. The intentions behind this movement are admirable. But in reality, it falls short of achieving its mission. In fact, the benefit to pollinators is minimal, and by not mowing for a month, weed species like dandelion will proliferate and hinder the growth of beneficial native plants. So, here’s a couple simple, alternative messages we can get behind:

Less Lawn for Longer — Upping the Ante on #NoMowMay

Instead of encouraging large, lazy lawns, a much more impactful strategy would be to focus on creating landscapes that provide a sustained menu of healthy food and habitat for pollinators. Less lawn is also better for the environment and your bottom line.

One of the major problems with lawns is that they are surprisingly barren compared with native ecosystems. If the only thing you have on your property is grass, the area is essentially a pollinator desert.

On top of discouraging biodiversity, lawns also require heavy resources to maintain (gas, labour, water), they negatively impact soil quality, and they don’t absorb stormwater the way a garden, meadow or forest does. This means stormwater, and all the pollutants that go with it, ends up in our sewers, leaving us prone to flooding and groundwater contamination.

So, consider replacing part of your property’s lawn with groups of native trees and shrubs to support healthy bees, birds and local water systems. Creating a wildflower and native grass meadow is another a great way to introduce beauty and biodiversity to your property. These do require preparation to install, but once established, the up-keep is minimal.

A variety of plant tags containing information on the plant, bloom time and more.

Be a Picky Planter – The Science of Shopping for Plants

Plant tags contain essential information to help you make the best choices when selecting plant varieties. But sometimes, they can be confusing. 

Nurseries and plant growers often squeeze a ton of information onto their labels: height, spread, colour, bloom time, sun and moisture requirements, along with the plant’s name.

Understanding how to read the plant’s name on the label is especially important when you’re shopping for native plants.

Since many plants have a variety of common names, it’s good practice to refer to the plant’s scientific name, written in Latin and italicized, to ensure you’re getting the exact seeds or plants you want. For example, Monarda fistulosa (scientific name) is known to many gardeners as wild bergamot or bee balm (common names).

Some plant labels will show the italicized scientific name followed by non-italicized capital lettered names within quotation marks or even trademark designations. This indicates the plant is a cultivar.

For example, a Monarda fistulosa cultivar label might read Monarda fistulosa ‘Claire Grace’ or Monarda ‘Bubblegum Blast’.

To keep it simple, purchase plants from reputable nurseries that specialize in native plants.

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