Replacing my lawn

Asked May 29, 2019, 8:59 AM EDT


I am looking into replacing my lawn with native cultivators (Kalamazoo, MI) that is low maintenance and would be helpful to pollinators. I plan on manually pulling up the existing grass and turning it over to compost in the yard and adding new plants from there. Any advice on how to go about doing this would be great (plants, tips, tricks, anything really!). My yard is mostly sunny where I plan on starting this project and I anticipate it taking several years before I finish it all.

The front yard (where I am starting) doesn't get much foot traffic, but the back does get a moderate amount-I have a dog. The back yard is more shaded than the front as well, by large trees. Overall my lot is .28 acres.

I appreciate any insight!

Thank you!


Kalamazoo County Michigan

1 Response

Hello Caitlin,

This is a big project and you are smart to divide it up and tackle small portions at a time.

An alternative to flipping the sod over is cut the grass very short- scalping it- then cover with 3-6 layers of newspaper. Topped with compost or mulch, you can plant through this when the grass is killed.

Plants that need less maintenance than traditional lawns —Path Rush, Pennsylvania sedge, white clover, micro clover, ajuga are examples. The clovers and ajuga have flowers attractive to pollinators. Here are some links discussing this and more plants-

Low maintenance turf such as the fine fescue group, "hard fescue" and "sheep fescue" are narrow bladed, upright growing grasses that are considered low maintenance grasses. They are often used in areas like road medians where they get only watered by rain and are not fertilized. Mixed with clovers for the back yard, the clover will flower and feed pollinators.

These links have pollinator plant information and links to more sources-

Remember that many natives will produce seed that can be saved, and with the correct seed cleaning/saving techniques, you can grow more plants and save seed for other sections to be planted-

Before deciding on plants we recommend you have a soil test so that you know your soil type, pH and organic matter. Most plants do have preferences for certain pH, moisture, and soil type, and amount of sun, while others are not fussy. You can purchase a soil test self mailer at MSU Extension office in Pontiac Mi or online here-

If you have more questions please write me again. Thank you.