‘Take out the grass’: Why and how Winnipeggers can switch to a more natural yard

One Winnipeg woman decided it was a time to change up her front yard, going from grass to something more natural for the prairies. This is a transition that one landscaper says is becoming more popular as people learn the benefits of the switch.

Janet Gilbertson said it was time for her to move on from normal grass in her front yard.

“Take out the grass, I’m done with the grass. And convert it to a more natural landscape,” said Gilbertson.

She said she has had an idea to make the switch for a while, as she was wanting something that took less water and less time to maintain.

“Then we have the whole idea of pollination, helping the bees out that are in distress.”

Janet Gilbertson front yard

After mulling over the idea, she finally decided to partner with Dogwood Landscaping Design to find the best layout for her yard.

“We talked a lot about what needed to happen with the design and it all came together.”

Nikolas Friesen-Hughes is the owner of Dogwood and said people have realized how much work and time normal lawns take, especially over the last few years when Winnipeg and Manitoba were dealing with drought conditions.

“These lawns turn brown when it doesn’t get enough rain because it doesn’t have deep roots and it’s not adapted to this climate. Whereas a lot of these tougher plants, native plants, like prairie grasses and other prairie plants, they have deep roots. So when you have periods of drought, they can still reach water deeper down in the water profile,” said Friesen-Hughes.

Natural yard

He said when natural yards are put in, they need water the first year they are planted, but after that, they can receive minimal to no water and still flourish.

Along with being easier to maintain, he said it is a good ecological step to help a variety of insects thrive.

“When you are having a greater variety of (plant) species, you are having a larger amount of plant material on site that is providing habitat for key species. You are supporting biodiversity, so you’re supporting pollinators, you may be supporting endangered species.”

He said in the long run, people will be better supporting the ecosystem as well as saving money on their water bills when they switch to something more natural.

He added the drought was a big factor for people wanting to switch, but they are also more interested in seeing more life in their yards.

Gilbertson said if people are looking to take that step to naturalize their yards, they should make sure they do their homework.

She suggests looking at options online, talking to people in the neighbourhood and then finding a landscaper who can either draw up the design for you or do the work.

Friesen-Hughes said if people want to do it on their own, they should start small and then build from there.

If they are looking for a company to help, he said landscapers can provide a design that is suitable for your home and also give a proper aesthetic feel by pairing the right plants.

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