Floridian master gardener Steve Turnipseed has converted 7,000 square feet of bare lawn into a thriving garden full of native plants, despite the restrictive rules of his HOA, Dwell reports.
According to Dwell, Turnipseed is the founder and president of his local chapter of the Florida Native Plant Society. When he moved to the Villages planned retirement community, he was disappointed with the landscaping around his new home.
He immediately began looking for ways to incorporate beautiful native plants without breaking his HOA’s rules — including the rule that he needed to maintain a “lawn-like” appearance with plants under a foot tall.
Even with those restrictions, Turnipseed says, “I knew I could create something stunning.”
To start with, he chose the native ground cover frog fruit, whose flowers attract three species of butterflies and many other insects. His garden also includes clump grasses, trees, and shrubs — almost 100 native species in total.
“Sometimes people will ask why I’m sitting out in my garden,” he told Dwell. “I’ll tell them, ‘This is where the butterflies come.’”
Commenters on Reddit are impressed with his results. “Just gorgeous, within the guidelines, and indigenous to the area!” wrote one user. “God bless him, I wish he could come help me do the same, plus there’s no HOA.”
While Turnipseed may not be making house calls, he does offer Dwell advice for those who want to replace their lawns.
First, he recommends killing the existing grass and its seeds — ideally, leaving the dead grass in the ground to return nutrients to the soil. There are several ways to achieve this, including smothering the lawn with cardboard or plastic.
Then, plant something low-maintenance in its place. If possible, homeowners should choose a native plant that supports pollinating insects and birds, but he says other hardy plants like Asiatic jasmine are still better than a lawn. This is because they use less water, which is good for your utility bill and the environment.
Turnipseed had been following his HOA’s rules from the beginning and doesn’t report any trouble from the organization. But other homeowners starting eco-friendly home improvement projects sometimes run into resistance.
The good news is that it’s possible to win a legal battle against a restrictive HOA, like the Maryland couple that planted native flowers and the Reddit user who cited state law to defend their solar panels.
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