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Homeowner hatches plan to turn mom's unruly lawn into beautiful garden: 'I want to start over'

"My mom has been struggling with her lawn for a while."

"My mom has been struggling with her lawn for a while."

Photo Credit: iStock

When one Redditor from the San Joaquin Valley in California wanted to replace their mother's poorly performing lawn with something more attractive and easier to maintain, the community on r/NativePlantGardening gave them plenty of options.

The r/NativePlantGardening subreddit focuses on native plants for several reasons. For homeowners, they're a smart choice because they can live on the natural rainfall in the area with little to no extra water, and they shouldn't need much care as long as they're planted in the right spot. They also help the environment by feeding and sheltering native wildlife, especially pollinating insects and the birds that feed on them.

But it can take some research to figure out what plants are native to your area and which of them work well in a residential yard, so this Redditor posted asking for help.

"So my mom has been struggling with her lawn for a while," they said. "Uneven shading, squirrels burying and digging up seeds and acorns, and I think a lot of the dirt is just dry and has no nutrients left. I want to start over with a topsoil or similar higher quality soil and then plant a native grass."

They did have some idea of what they were looking for. "I'm looking for a long prairie-like grass that's native to the area. And also maybe some flowers or other plants that would naturally grow alongside the grass," they said. "The more options the better."

As one commenter pointed out, the conditions in the area have never been right for grass to naturally grow in a smooth blanket the way the original poster envisioned. 

"The SJ Valley was never really a prairie," they said. "The most common native grasses are saltgrass and creeping wild-rye, both sod-forming wetland grasses. The most common bunchgrass is alkali sacaton, another wetland grass."

However, they also left the original poster with an alternative. "An easier, more sustainable, and more wildlife-friendly option would be to keep the current sodgrass but shrink the lawn, stop irrigating parts of it and establish annual/perennial wildflowers in its place. No need to modify the soil this way; the wildflowers thrive in the naturally infertile, dry soils of the valley. Lupines, poppies, gilias, phacelia, and owl-clover are some easy-to-find examples."

If you need help finding the right plants for a native garden in your area, try the Native Garden Designs website.

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