Our green campus

After that post about the horror of the lawn, I thought I’d do a quick comparison.

Here’s what the majority of the campus looks like:

Here’s a narrow strip of prairie plants near the science building:

Which looks better?


  1. Ed Seedhouse says

    Definitely the bit of prairie. But there’s more to burn per square meter, and that building’s pretty close.

  2. robro says

    Prairie plants win…hands down.

    When we moved into our current house, the front yard was planted in juniper shrubs, and the back yard had grass on about a third of it. The rest was kind of wild because of the hill slope. We had the juniper pulled out because it’s a fire hazard, then we covered in mulch. We covered the grass in cardboard and mulch to kill that off. The family gardener has been planting natives or near natives ever since. Natives are better for a lot of reasons as you noted in the earlier post like birds, insects, other wild life.

    One key reason we went native is our persistent draught conditions. While the native plants requires watering at first to establish them, and you have to be careful not to overwater them, in the long run they will save on water use.

  3. ajbjasus says

    Not sure of the merits of this, but I was reading a report about another uK TV gardener Alan Titchmarsh giving evidence to some form of commission.

    He was arguing that rewilding domestic gardens might not be as good for wildlife as a planned garden where the planting can include food bearing plants for most of the year, rather than just the natural local harvest season.

  4. says

    The lawn for an odd, idiosyncratic reason: Those flowering plants attract bees. To which I’m anaphylaxis-level allergic, however much I respect their critical role in the ecosystem. Bees can and should go do that ecosystem role somewhere farther away from building entrances and windows. So swap the foregrounds only in each of those two photos and I’m just fine.

    Plus, a lawn is a better place to set the base of a ladder in an emergency situation or low light. And makes it more challenging for the ninjas.

  5. birgerjohansson says

    Ordinary lawn closest to the buimdibgs, as per jaws @4.

    Native plants on most lands, but separated by corridors of lawn so fire cannot easily spread along the ground.

    Maybe create some kind of fractal pattern of lawn/ native plants with plenty of bushes and microhabitats suitable for birds, insects and other life.

  6. Reginald Selkirk says

    @8: or toss around a flying disc.*

    (I am virtue-signalling that I know “Frisbee” is a registered trademark of the Wham-O Corporation)

  7. submoron says

    My former employers used to have gardeners looking after the site but then they found out that if you cover everything with waste from slate quarries it looks very ‘chic’ and costs very little. In this stretch of the Lee valley real grass or front garden is mostly being converted to hard standing or “Astroturf”.
    “Said Cllr. Dowd ” I asked a footballer I know if he preferred Astroturf to to grass and he said he didn’t know as he’d never smoked Astroturf . (South London Press via Punch ‘Country Life’)”

  8. asclepias says

    I imagine the Echinacea could come in handy at a certain time of year (if anyone has the interest is processing it).

  9. Pierce R. Butler says

    Landscaping factor: How many venomous snakes and bloodsucking insects do you have in Morris?

  10. robert79 says

    I’m a bit reminded of the field at my community swimming pool.

    Back when I was a kid, it had hedges all over the place, providing shelter for all kinds of birds and bugs (and people who wanted to sun-bathe topless), but for some reason the pool management wanted to create more sun-bathing / frisbee throwing room for people.

    So now, it’s a great big field of grass. It’s primarily used by geese to poop in.

  11. seachange says

    The University lawn is a commons land and can be used by students who have no land. Prairieing it over denies these uses.

    I live in California where you can actually use a lawn and not get chiggers, fireants, or other horrible critter bites/poisons, like I have been told by people who come here who have lived in other parts of the country. Any lawns that nobody “uses” and which are decorative-only should be prariefied or reverted to whatever was native.

  12. lumipuna says

    Public spaces in my area have a lot of what is apparently intended to be lawn, but thankfully the maintenance is so low effort that plenty of other plants often manage to grow with/instead of the grass. Especially in recent years we’ve had repeated dry summers, so the grass doesn’t grow much, there’s not much mowing and the lawns increasingly start to resemble dry meadows.

  13. seversky says

    The lawn is more appealing to me aesthetically. The other looks overgrown and unkempt But then, that’s what I grew up with in the UK back in the 50s and 60s. Well-manicured lawns were a symbol of middle-class prosperity. Wild overgrowth was associated with derelict, abandoned properties and poverty, owners who didn’t or couldn’t care. As for water, since it seemed to be raining much of the time, it wasn’t really a problem.

  14. flex says

    When we installed geothermal (heat-pump) heating a few years ago I saw that as an opportunity to sow native Michigan prairie grasses in place of the normally unmown grass in the field.

    The geothermal installation tore up the field pretty badly, and I let the earth settle in the trenches for a year before starting the project. Then it took a month of rototilling (I should have hired a local farmer to plow) to get the soil into a shape where I was ready to sow. I also have acquired a nice pile of rocks, hand-carried from the field so that the rototiller wouldn’t get torn up by them.

    The seed mix is expensive. $600 for enough seed to cover an acre, according to the brochure from the company I used. However, when sowing the seed, to get what seemed to be reasonable coverage, the amount of seed which was supposed to cover a full acre was used up in half an acre. I probably could have sown thinner, but I was afraid that too little seed would allow the original grass to return and choke out the native plants. After sowing I raked the seed into the ground. I did not water, but relied on the rain.

    The first year was pretty much a wash. I completed the work and got the seed into the ground by late spring, but only got a few sprouts. The second year, last year, was much better, although it seemed like there was a lot of black-eyed susan and not a great deal of other varieties.

    This year it has been fantastic. Everything is growing beautifully, it’s nice and thick, and filled with colors. The deer and wild turkeys love it. I’m certain the insects and spiders do too. There are ticks in the foliage. I go through the field fairly regularly to knock down any thistle I find, and have acquired ticks when doing so.

    It was a lot of work, but I’m happy with the result. It’s only about a half-acre in size, now I need to find the energy to expand the patch.

  15. birgerjohansson says

    “Concerned about the reduced number of bees, Morgan Freeman converted his 124 acre ranch into a bee refuge and purchased 29 bee hives. ”
    Also, grazing areas for cows aĺlow all kinds of flowers and other plants to grow alongside the clover and grass.

  16. zygoptera says

    I think the prairie garden is very beautiful! In my mind it wins by far over the plain lawn and trees that seem to be missing their undergrowth for wildlife. If the university seeks to sell itself as environmentally friendly, reworking the landscape to include significantly more native plantings could be advantageous for recruiting as well as environmentally healthy.

    That said, changing to significantly more native plantings could be quite an undertaking with so much space devoted to lawn. Perhaps this would be a great grant opportunity for someone!

  17. says

    Seversky @18:

    Wild overgrowth was associated with derelict, abandoned properties and poverty, owners who didn’t or couldn’t care.

    Then how do you explain the Prime Minister before last? His brain was certainly impoverished, a derelict, abandoned property, and its owner couldn’t care…

  18. kaleberg says

    Where we live, if you let a lot do its own thing, you get a messy mix of nettles, thistles, blackberry canes, scrub brush and rat habitat. It’s natural. It’s organic. It’s ugly. We don’t like rats. Then we saw a racoon. That was enough. We started mowing again. We haven’t seen a racoon since.

    Our neighbors have either grass or colored gravel and use pesticides. We have grass, but don’t use herbicides like many of our neighbors. We’ve been told that we’d eventually have a lovely wood lot if we let succession continue. Mowing seems to keep the progression on hold which is just fine with us.