Does your yard mainly function as an unused space between your front door and your parked car? Imagine lingering in that space as butterflies flutter about and frogs and birds serenade you. By simply reducing the area devoted to turf grass (which is from Europe) and adding native plants, you can be greeted by a cornucopia of life as you step out of your house.
The options for reducing lawn can be as simple as plunking a native tree in the middle of your yard to as elaborate as hiring a native plant landscaper to remove all the grass and replace it entirely with Virginia natives. Do you enjoy planting things yourself but have limited time? Start by putting shrubs or other plants in the spots that are hard to mow anyway, such as on slopes or against walls. The “Reducing Lawn” page of the Plant NOVA Natives website has many suggestions and details.
Lawns have their uses for humans, but they do very little for the non-human residents of our properties. What those residents need is a variety of the plants with which they evolved, not a two or three inch, chemical-laden monoculture of a non-native plant with shallow roots over compacted soil.
Not only do native plants support butterflies and the rest of our ecosystem, but their deeper roots create channels in the soil that absorb stormwater much better than lawn. Capturing stormwater is so important to our waterways that the Commonwealth of Virginia and local jurisdictions periodically offer matching grants to a few lucky property-owners who put in conservation landscaping. One such grant went to an Oakton resident, whose yard transformation was so gratifying that she made a two minute video about it. You can view it here.