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Use Native Plants, Strengthen Your Landscape


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by Sydney Boogaard, spring intern

Why choose native?

Many of us will soon be planting new perennials, lawn, vegetables, or fruit trees. Like most, we want our yards to look lush, healthy, and happy. This too often means the use of fertilizers and pesticides. But if you choose the right plants and grasses your need for those harmful pesticides and chemical fertilizers will dwindle.

Choosing native plants can make a difference. Because they evolved in this environment, they’re not only tougher, they help maintain healthy soil composition; increase your yard’s biodiversity; prevent water runoff; attract native species and pollinators; and resist drought, freeze, disease, and pests.

By using native plants and site-adapted grasses we can reduce our use of unsafe pesticides and fertilizers, becoming pesticide free! Join our #PesticideFreeSLC campaign and pledge to keep our yards healthy and our bodies safe.

Today we’ll talk specifically about grasses, alternative lawn covers, and native plants.

Sit-adapted Grasses

It is vital to select a grass type that is well-suited for your environment and climate. In northern and central Utah that means cool season grasses. There are four major cool season grass species. Fine Fescue, Tall Fescue, Kentucky Bluegrass, and Buffalo Grass. Each has certain strengths depending on what you are looking for.

Fine Fescue

  • Shade-tolerant
  • Slow growth
  • Low fertilizer needs
  • Drought-tolerant

Tall Fescue

  • Shade-tolerant
  • Deep roots require less irrigation

Kentucky Bluegrass

  • Recovers quickly from frequent use (ideal for heavily used yards)
  • Requires full sun to partial shade

Buffalo Grass

  • Tolerates moderate foot traffic
  • Only needs occasional mowing.
  • Fertilizer needs are minimal
  • Requires 1-2 inches of rain or irrigation every 2-4 weeks in summer

Alternatives to Lawn Cover

Before you plant grass, however, consider alternative lawn covers. Substitutions to the traditional lawn can replenish needed nutrients in your soil, tolerate drought, support foot traffic, and remain green during times of water shortages. Some options include Creeping Thyme, Roman Chamomile, Moss, and White Clover.

  • Creeping thyme
    • Supports frequent foot traffic
    • Should be kept moist, but not wet
    • Tolerates sun to light shade
  • Roman Chamomile
    • Supports normal foot traffic once established
  • Moss
    • Withstands moderate foot traffic
    • Requires moisture and shady areas
  • White clover
    • Drought resistant once established
    • Nitrogen fixing
    • Stays relatively short (4-8 inches)
    • Not suitable for repeat high traffic areas
    • Can be mixed with high traffic grass

Native Plants

Native plants have adapted to local physical and biological conditions without the need for human intervention. This means that native plants don’t require many soil amendments. They will resist damage from freezing, drought, common diseases and munching herbivores, and require less frequent watering.

Native plants also increase the biodiversity of your garden. Native plants attract other native species, including pollinators, which will keep your garden healthy and flourishing year after year. Due to their deep root system, native plants also help manage water runoff and maintain healthy soil. This can help to mitigate floods (including flash floods) and prevent soil compaction.

Great Resources for starting a native garden include:

SLC Landscape Best Management Practices for Water Resource Efficiency and Protection

Tips for Creating a Native Garden

Utah Native Plants

Lists Rocky Mountain Native Plants

Native Plant Finder

Pledge to be Pesticide Free

By using site-adapted grasses, alternative lawn cover, and native plants we can create more resilient yards and eliminate the need for unsafe pesticides and chemical fertilizers. Not to mention, these plants are time-saving due to their low maintenance. Who doesn’t want more time in their yard this spring and summer?

We hope you will take the pledge and make a commitment to our health, environment, and ecosystem by going pesticide free!

You will also get an attractive yard sign as a symbol of your commitment.  We expect it will also serve as an inspiration to others in your neighborhood to ask and learn more– and hopefully make their own Pesticide Free pledge.

We’ve compiled a guide with helpful to guidelines help you take the pledge with confidence!

Share this post on social media and use the hashtag #PesticideFreeSLC.

Talk to your friends and neighbors about how and why they should phase out pesticides!

And stay tuned for next week’s #PesticideFreeSLC tip.

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