In Pennsylvania, there are 2 million acres of lawn.
Maintaining a lawn takes work. Grass needs to be treated with fertilizer because the soil is not right (not to mention how those fertilizers run off into streams when it rains).
Turf wants water when the weather doesn't provide it. Mowing requires time and takes energy. And pollinators disappear because they no longer have food to eat.
Share Your Backyard with Nature
One way to reduce your environmental footprint, help provide clean water, and welcome birds and beneficial insects is to let go of all that grass!
Converting some or all of your lawn to woods or meadow shows you are a good steward of the land, adds natural diversity and interest to your backyard, and reduces the time you spend mowing.
A diverse array of native trees, shrubs, perennial flowers, and warm season grasses are much better than turf grass for keeping soil and nutrients in place.
Benefits of Backyard Meadows and Woods
Clean Water: The shallow roots of turf grass and compacted soils of lawns limit water absorption when it rains. Runoff picks up fertilizers and other pollutants from your yard and street and transfers them into nearby streams.
Meadows and woods are more effective than lawns at absorbing stormwater and preventing flooding because they have deep root systems that help the water infiltrate.
Home for Pollinators and Birds: Wildflower meadows and native trees offer food and cover for pollinators butterflies, and songbirds, and reduce the need for the pesticides that impact them.
Increase Biodiversity: While not as neat and clean as a traditional lawn, meadows can contain up to 100 species of plants, and are beautiful!
No Green Thumb Needed: Meadows and woods are lower maintenance, require little watering as they are more drought tolerant, and don't take a green thumb to keep them appealing -- although good planning and preparation is a must.
Are You Ready to Convert?
If you're ready to do your part by converting turf grass to trees or meadow, DCNR offers technical assistance throughout the state.
If you (or you and your neighbors collectively) have more than a quarter acre of lawn, you might also be eligible for funding that can pay for some of all of the costs of tree planting and meadow establishment, from planning to planting to maintenance.
Contact the lawn conversion team to learn more about how DCNR can help you care for your land.
What About the Neighbors?
Perspectives are changing about the traditional lawn.
Among other issues, dramatic declines in pollinators and the need to respond to climate change require different thinking about managing our yards.
There are beautiful options for residential landscapes that provide additional benefits.
Penn State Extension offers a number of suggestions for talking with neighbors in its fact sheet on
Neighborly Natural Landscaping.
Maintaining a swath of mowed turf around the edge of a meadow or posting an explanatory sign can let others know that the area is intentional, well-managed, and desirable.
Pennsylvania’s Watershed Forestry Initiative
Restoring and maintaining woods and meadows across the commonwealth is a key strategy for improving water quality and habitat.
The commonwealth has a goal of planting 5,000 acres of upland forests and 5,000 acres of meadows by 2025 to improve watersheds and waterways in Pennsylvania and the Chesapeake Bay, with a side benefit of habitat for wildlife and pollinators.