Del City man replaces grass lawn with native plants
By Jeff Harrison
Walter Jacques took pride in his plush Bermuda grass lawn.
“I was one those yardwork nuts that had his lawn perfectly manicured, beautiful lawn,” he said.
The green grass is long gone outside of his Del City home, but his pride is stronger than ever.
Jacques replaced his lawn with native grasses, plants and flowers. The backyard has been transformed into a tranquil oasis with a stone walking path and towering plants.
Jacques said he was inspired to make the shift after hearing a speech by Douglas Tallamy, an author and professor of entomology and wildlife ecology at the University of Delaware. Tallamy spoke about the important role that native plants play in supplying food for insects which in turn feed birds and wildlife.
“If we all have Bermuda lawns, especially chemically treated lawns, then insects can’t thrive, and bird life can’t thrive and it kills the whole food web. And most of suburbia is all Bermuda lawns,” Jacques said.
Jacques hired a local landscaper, Sweetleaf Landscaping, to help with the project. They started with the front yard in November and then moved to the backyard. The project was completed in late March.
“I’m really happy with it. I’ve seen several species of birds that hadn’t been around here, as well as butterflies and other insects,” Jacques said. “The amount of life that is returning to my yard is incredible.”
Jacques does not have an irrigation system in his yard and says he will not coddle any of the plants.
“I want plants native meant to live here in whatever tough conditions Oklahoma throws at them,” he said. “We’ll find out which ones make it, and which don’t.”
While Jacques is thrilled with the native lawn, he acknowledges that it’s not for everyone. He received permission from his neighbor to landscape the strip between their driveways and has already removed some plants that resembled weeds.
“If the neighbor says some looks like a weed, then it’s gone,” Jacques said. “I’m going to be a good team player with my neighbors and the city.”
The new yard is also a conversation starter in the Woodcrest Heights neighborhood, located near Sooner Rd. and Reno Ave.
“I have met more neighbors in the last two months than I have in the last 34 years of living here,” Jacques said.
Jacques is not alone in getting rid of his lawn. More and more homeowners are ditching traditional grass lawns for something more native.
The Oklahoma Conservation Commission is a major proponent of this practice. Their Yard by Yard Community Resiliency Project encourages people to adopt “earth friendly” practices in their own yards. They promote soil health, water conservation, home food production and wildlife habitat, as well as not using any chemical treatments.
People who meet the criteria in their lawns can receive certification from the Yard by Yard program.
“We want to promote those things and give people recognition for doing so,” said Marcus Long, herb and soil health specialist with the Oklahoma County Conservation Commission. “And we can help if people get pushback from the city or code enforcement.”
Long said they have seen participation in the program double every year since it started in 2020. The majority of the participation has been in the largest metro areas, but it is picking up in other counties.
Jacques not only received the Yard by Yard certification but is a shining example of the possibilities. Long said people can start small by not spraying their lawn with chemicals, planting an herb garden or using organic mulch.
“This [Jacques’ yard] is an extreme example, but this comes in all shapes and sizes,” Long said.
Midwest City officials have also been intrigued by the Yard by Yard program and potential benefits it could have particularly for stormwater runoff. Paul Streets, Midwest City public works director, and his staff recently toured Jacques’ yard. Streets was impressed by Jacques’ yard and hopes to promote some of those ideas in Midwest City. He is hoping to create a native grass area in front of the Neighborhood Services building to promote the idea for residents.
“We want to take out the entire center lawn and replace it with a Yard by Yard area that we can showcase to people,” Streets said.
Streets said hopefully residents can replicate those practices in their own yards.
“We want to build something that meets the criteria and is something that a motivated person could do themselves,” he said.
For more information about the Yard by Yard program, visit www.okconservation.org/yardbyyard