Conservation

Restorative Landscapes

Photo of a green prairie field, dotted with yellow, white, and pink wildflowers

We're helping people help pollinators & other wildlife

Restorative Landscapes is our new eco-conscious initiative to beautify property while also supporting the health of native habitats. Unlike traditional landscaping, we focus on helping home and landowners create native habitats that are aesthetically beautiful and ecologically appropriate.

This includes converting unused areas of your lawn into high quality pollinator and wildlife habitat, or helping you turn acres of fields into acres of prairie. 

Learn more about our services and pricing. 

The Challenge of Old Fields & Lawns

If you’ve ever lived in an agricultural area, chances are you have seen old, fallow fields turn into grassy shrublands, often filled with invasive Callery (Bradford) pears, Autumn olive, and Bush honeysuckle. Early successional habitats like old fields can be incredibly important for wildlife, but keeping these areas young and free of weedy invasives can often be time- and cost-prohibitive. Unfortunately, there has traditionally been few options for landowners who are tired of this hassle, but who otherwise want to do the right thing for nature and reclaim their free time. 

Similarly, American homeowners spend nearly $30 billion per year on maintaining turf-filled lawns that are often larger than is actually necessary. Certainly getting outside and playing in the grass is enriching for the mind, soul, and body, but few homeowners ask themselves, “How much yard do I actually need?”

The reason this matters is because maintaining turf requires abundant resources, including time that could be better spent enjoying the yard. Ecologically, turf grasses play no role in local ecosystems. Fewer than 25% of insects are able to use turf grass for food, shelter, or reproduction. 

A Different Solution

By taking a cue from Mother Nature, it is possible to protect your time and wallet while also providing important habitat for pollinators, birds, and other wildlife. Fortunately for us in the Midwest, the best solution is also the most cost-effective—prairies. The plethora of plant species that inhabit prairies are naturally tolerant of poor soils, including the clay soils that so many of us deal with in Suburbia, USA. 

 

Prairie Garden Beds

Most of us don’t have yards larger than a quarter of an acre. Unfortunately, prairies smaller than two acres don’t have the same benefits to wildlife, particularly larger animals like ground nesting birds that need thick, tall grasses for hiding their nests. However, these smaller prairie garden beds can support a diversity of smaller pollinators, including bees and butterflies. This means that even those of us with smaller yards can absolutely make a difference, but the smaller size will require a slightly different approach. Specifically, less grass and more blooms. 

Installing & Maintaining Lawns and Prairies

Installation

Installing traditional lawns is fairly straight-forward. Depending on whether you want to start with seed or sod, the actual installation only takes a day or two. With sod, the pay-off is instantaneous. Seeded lawns can take a few weeks before you begin to see grass, and they still require regular watering. 

The cost to have sod installed on the average US lawn (0.25 acres) can run anywhere from $9,500 to nearly $20,000. Seeded lawns are much cheaper, coming in at around $1,625. A full acre of prairie will set you back about $2,000, less than half the cost of seeded grass.

Establishment

The primary difference between prairies and traditional lawns is the process and timeline of establishment. Sod is the fastest option; with adequate watering, you only need to wait about six weeks. Newly seeded lawns, on the other hand, require anywhere from one to nine months before they are mature enough to mow. 

Prairies require more patience. Grasses used as turf, such as Fescue or Kentucky Bluegrass, typically have shallow roots that spread relatively quickly. Prairie species, on the other hand, tend to have very deep roots and grow more slowly. This deep root system, though, is important for stabilizing soil.

So, prairie plants devote a lot of energy early on to root growth instead of producing leaves, stems, or—disappointingly—flowers. It may take two to three years before the prairie you planted looks like a prairie. This patience, though, pays off later in reduced maintenance.

Maintenance

The maintenance of traditional lawns typically requires the homeowner to mow once weekly throughout the growing season. This can mean six months or more of mowing! In contrast, established prairies require one, sometimes two, mows per year. 

Our Consultation Services and Pricing

For Less than Two Acres of Land

If you have less than 2 acres of land and are interested in prairie garden beds, we can provide you with:

  1. Landscape Consultation: A conservation staff member will meet with you on your property to discuss options for turning your property into a wildlife friendly habitat. The consultation will include on-the-spot landscape management advice and specific planting suggestions for your property. | Cost: $250
  2. Restoration Plan: Includes everything provided in a site visit PLUS a do-it-yourself outline of the specific projects that you could undertake to improve the quality of wildlife habitat on your property. The plan includes instructions that allow the average landowner with basic landscaping skills to complete the work themselves. | Cost: $500

*Currently, we are not able to provide full restoration services to homeowners with less than 2 acres of land. Please check back in Spring 2022 for updates as we grow this one-of-a-kind program!

 

For Two or More Acres of Land

If you have two or more acres of land, we can provide you with:

  1. Prairie Consult: On-the-ground consultation to give you a customized recommendation for when, what, and how to convert your land into prairie | Cost: $250 (this fee is waived if you select Full Prairie Restoration)
  2. Full Prairie Restoration: On-the-ground consultation, plus the design, site prep, all materials, and installation of your new prairie | *Because each prairie project is different, a custom estimate will be provided for each project. 

For more information about Restorative Landscapes, email Cory Christopher at cchristopher@cincynature.org