Native Plants

Taking a More Sustainable Approach to Lawn Care

Traditional, short grass lawns are a part of suburban neighborhoods, offering space for us to gather, play, and relax. Although they are green, they are not as eco-friendly as you may think. In addition to requiring costly maintenance, lawns like this often require a significant amount of water and fertilizer for that manicured look and do not benefit wildlife.

As we head into summer, consider the following to help develop a more sustainable approach to lawn care:

Are you watering too much?

During the summer, your lawn needs around one inch per week. A typical automatic sprinkler system will water too much. A rain sensor can reduce the amount of water used and extend the time between watering, which will allow the water to penetrate deeper into the soil and promote root growth. It will also allow for the soil top to dry out, which will inhibit the germination of weeds that thrive in constant moisture.

What are the most eco-friendly fertilizers?

Synthetic fertilizers are petroleum-based, can easily burn vegetation if over applied, and will not nurture soil organisms or aid in building soil health. They are very potent and usually cannot be absorbed quickly, so excess fertilizer leaches into groundwater or gets washed into storm drains and local streams. On the other hand, organic-based, slow-release fertilizers feed grass more slowly and consistently and contribute to a healthy soil.

What are the best types of disease controls? 

Most diseases can be traced back to one of two things: improper irrigation and over fertilizing. Too much watering or watering overnight can encourage pathogens. Fertilizing at the wrong time of the growing season can make the grass vulnerable to disease.

What promotes a healthy soil base?

The more soil organisms you have, the more nutrients are supplied to grass roots and the better your grass will look. This can be achieved by core aeration once a year and topdressing with clean and screened compost that is free of weed seeds.

Can you replace areas of your lawn with beneficial native plants?

Native plants are low maintenance, since they have evolved to our environment, and provide food for plant-eating insects, which in turn become food for native predatory insects, birds, and mammals. There are also many types of native plants suited for shady locations where lawn grass struggles to grow.

Ready to get started?

The Westfield Memorial Library has good news for all gardeners and would-be gardeners. Through a partnership with the Westfield Green Team and with generous funding from the Friends of the Westfield Memorial Library, the library has created a Native Seed Library.

The Native Seed Library is open to all library users, and initially, will feature three annual flowers: zinnia, cosmos, and partridge pea, all of which are sourced locally. Unlike a typical library collection, nothing needs to be returned. Just select a packet of seeds, which will include printed directions detailing flower color and height; soil, sunlight, and water requirements, and take home to plant.

One of the primary goals of the Native Seed Library is to combat the expanding number of invasive plants in the ecosystem and to improve the overall health and biodiversity of local habitats by encouraging the growth of native plants. Native plants are especially important now, due to climate change and human interference with the natural environment. 

To read more about the seed library, visit