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ReLeaf CR, ReMove UR Lawn

In February 2024, I’ll be giving a talk about schoolyard forests for the Linn County Master Gardener Winter Gardening Fair (register now, and stay tuned for more details). As part of my research, I read the entirety of the 120-page ReLeaf Cedar Rapids Plan (2022). Wow! What an amazing resource for Cedar Rapids! The breadth of the document alone makes it clear that its creators - individuals from Trees Forever, Confluence, and the City of Cedar Rapids - were incredibly comprehensive in their research, suggestions, and reasoning behind replanting trees after the 2020 Derecho. As a result, I think their crowning achievement was the super useful Master Tree List, Appendix “B” of the Plan and also a standalone publication, that I’ve personally used to inform several projects this year. Where the Tree List packs a lot of information into a well organized, printable table of conscientious tree selections (e.g. large native trees and NO maples!), the Plan describes these selections in great detail and in the context of our local environment.

I particularly appreciated the time the authors took to discuss the larger ecological picture that our City trees fit into. For example, the document acknowledged that, though it was a tree planting plan primarily, and not a groundcover or shrub plan, it was nonetheless important to understand how turf grass (lawn) DOES NOT complement these newly planted trees. To wit: “Grass is one of the least ecological uses of soil. It wastes water, inspires the spraying of carcinogenic toxins, causes tremendous CO2 emissions through mowing, and interrupts the food web by killing most caterpillars that fall on it” (p. 42). Music to my ears! This is a clarion call for responsible planting, ringing from the City itself. Instead, they advocate for planting alternative groundcovers and shrubs, in part to provide “soft landings” for caterpillars and other essential ‘players’ in the ecosystem. In short: the City of CR wants you to reconsider your lawn. Put differently, and in the words of Douglas Tallamy, entomologist and author of Nature’s Best Hope, “every square foot that is dedicated to lawn is a square foot that is degrading local ecosystems.”  

Here at Ross Land Studio we replace lawn with native plants in every single one of our projects.  In 2023, we converted a little over 30,000 sqft of grass or pavement into native/adaptive perennial plantings. And we’re slated to convert over 80,000 sqft in 2024! 

Many of our clients want to stop mowing, enjoy more wildlife in their yards, and support the local food web, but they aren’t sure which plants to choose or where to find them. (The ReLeaf Plan, though great for trees, is short on this info). The sheer volume of plants can also be physically difficult to install. We can help you plan, source, install, and maintain beautiful groundcovers and perennial gardens.

Let Ross Land Studio help you convert your lawn in 2024!

A Shady Lawn Replacement

Temple Judah's 1/4 acre prairie conversion, year 1

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