Thousands of years ago, low-growing turf grasses were helpful in fending off danger and in hunting for food. Through time, these grasses evolved for use in recreation and livestock grazing purposes. As a result, lawns became a status symbol. A grass lawn, as opposed to cropland, signified that you were wealthy enough to own land that you didn’t have to farm. Today, grass lawns are the status quo, although most of us may not stop to consider why. What is important to consider is how this change from prairie to a grassturf urban landscape affected the Minnesotan ecosystem.
In short, this change has resulted in extensive soil erosion, water pollution, and decreased biodiversity across the Midwest. There are, however, ways in which you can remedy these adverse effects. So, this spring, try something different with your lawn.
There are many ways to make your lawn more sustainable: planting a vegetable garden, recycling runoff rainwater, and even using solar lights. However, the healthiest lawn is the one that is restored to the way that nature intended it to be. In the Midwest, that means prairie. Prairie restoration, or reconstruction (depending on the area in which you live) is a conservation effort that includes the act of reintroducing native grassland species into an area where they were destroyed for urban or industrial development. Prairie restorations increase biodiversity, create habitat for native animals, and reduce water runoff and soil erosion. Once they’re established, prairies are cheaper to maintain than a traditional lawn. So, how exactly do you get started?