The landscaping of the yard is a personal choice that will change as the family evolves and as societies focus changes.
Open spaces are one part of the landscape that reflects change. Between 1960’s to the end of the 1990’s the focus was on green monoculture lawns. The average urban lot was dominated by weed free, lush, dark green lawns. Garden awards were often given out for the best lawn where garden awards were given out to those with the best lawn.
Problems linked to over fertilization and excess use of chemicals contributed to the changes that can be seen in today’s greenspaces. While many landscapes still contain expanses of green, less chemicals and fertilizer is being used. Smaller lawns are hand weeded and larger areas are rarely a monoculture.
Today, the three most common styles of landscape include:
FireSmart which would like to see a lush green lawn surround all buildings for at least 32 feet (10 m). A green lawn under 4 inches (10 cm) in height is a good style of landscape to protect buildings from a wild fire.
Permaculture would like to see all lawns removed and replaced with vegetable gardens or fruit forests. As not all people want to garden there would be the choice of allowing others, an individual, group or company to grow food and selling it.
Municipalities would allow any underused or unused green area to be turned into a growing space such as community gardens. All trees in parks and along boulevards would be ones that would produce fruits or nuts. Taking it a step further, bylaws would be amended to allow urbanites to keep chickens, rabbits, ducks, bees and maybe pygmy goats and dexter cattle. The small animals could be consumed by the owners or sold to others. Manure would be worked back into the soil to create a better growing environment.
The third way of thinking is to allow the landscape to naturalize. Grass would be kept short in areas such as sports fields and playgrounds while other green areas such as roadsides and boulevards would be allowed to grow throughout the season.
The average urban yard might be large enough to allow some naturalization or rain gardens, grasses, perennials and shrubs could be incorporated to make the yard more sustainable.
Acreage owners would not mow areas that are not used. Instead grass would be allowed to grow tall. Trees shrubs and wildflowers could be added to this area or native plants including trees could be allowed to grow in.
A word of caution. Do not spread wildflower seeds unless the seeds are harvested from the local area. Most wildflower mixes are sold across North America which means that the plants that germinate could be considered weeds locally. A good alternative is to purchase wildflower plants from a reputable source.
Allowing native plants to reclaim an area will not be without work. All noxious and prohibited weeds will need to be removed or they will spread taking over the area. When unwanted plants or weeds are removed before they become established they are relatively easy to control. Weeds that appear on the Alberta Noxious or Prohibited list are ones that spread quickly taking over natural habitat as well as agricultural land. They spread either by fast growing rhizomes or an abundance of seeds or both. Fact sheets on Alberta’s Prohibited and Noxious weeds can be found at local Field Offices or https://www.abinvasives.ca/fact-sheets
Each style of landscaping discussed above has strong principles and good usable ideas. People and municipalities should and can pick, choose and adapt the ideas to ones that are suited to their local.
Linda Tomlinson is a horticulturalist who lives near Rocky Mountain House. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.