Testing Ten Types of Turf Treatments
What if we rethought lawns?
Lawns are the largest irrigated crop in America at 63,000 square miles. That’s about 35,000 football fields or three times the area used to grow corn!
Seemingly small things like mowing and watering add up when there’s that much grass. Between mowing, watering, weeding, and the flooding it increases, lawn is expensive!
What could lawns become?
Lawn grass is just one species of thousands we could plant in our cities. What if we tried something else?
Experts from Chicago Park District & nearby institutions are trying out different plants we think will work. The plant mixes in this experiment include our native prairie flowers & grasses.
Watch with us as we find out what species grow best here and who comes to enjoy the new sights!
There are so many different plants we could be using in our lawns. For this experiment, we’re trying out ten different lawn-like options to see how they survive, how they help our environment, and how they look in our landscape. We’re on the lookout for things like how much water they hold, how much carbon they sequester, and how many pollinators come to visit.
First, we have to make sure we understand what’s going on with lawns in the first place to compare them to our new plant mixes. For comparison, we’re growing comparison or “control” plots of seeded normal grass.
Then we are trying a variety of alternative grassy options that are already grown as specialized lawns like golf courses and natural areas. Some of these grasses are low growing, so they need less mowing. Others are native, with deeper roots and more drought tolerance.
There are plenty of grasses that are native to Chicagoland that could, but currently aren’t, used as lawn grasses. Sedges especially have been growing in popularity with landscapers and garden centers, but there doesn’t seem to be much research going on in urban sedge usage and benefits. Creeping grasses like our usual lawn plants, sedges have great potential to serve as drought-resistant, deeper-rooted, native grass options.
Grass alone can only do so much, though. By introducing low-growing native flowers to the sedge mix, these short meadows can support local pollinators.
How many species do we need to create a stable community? To collect a variety of pollinators? To always be blooming? To answer these questions, we are also doing a combined Meadow and a same sized prairie restoration.
Finally, we complete the set with something more like a real prairie.