Lawn to Woodland: Try This, You’ll Like It!

By Luba Sitar|October 26, 2015

Large expanses of lawn have been a traditional staple for corporate grounds for years, but there is a new trend in corporate and private landscapes: Lawns are being replaced with woodlands. Changing corporate lawns over to woodland habitat can bring many environmental benefits, but is it right for your business? Can you change?

Luba SitarThe lawns-to-woodlands trend is recognized in an Arbor Day Foundation program that assists Maryland property owners with converting turf plots larger than one acre. Maryland participants in the program receive free advice, free trees, planting and help monitoring the woodland. Program participation does not place any restrictions on the property, and the trees are planted in locations selected by the property owner. The program is a good way to get started on converting a lawn to a woodland for Maryland residents.

A corporate woodland can provide a community with improved water quality, cleaner air*, cooler temperatures**, and improved wildlife habitat as well as bragging rights to all those benefits in the annual report. While transitioning acres of lawn to a woodland all at once is a comprehensive and cost-efficient approach, changing corporate culture and retraining ground maintenance crews will take more time, so it’s wise to begin slowly.

To begin, choose a section or edge of the lawn, stop mowing a 20- to 40-foot width of grass, and plant a few trees and a few middle-story shrubs in this area, choosing them for diversity and interest. You can also make this woodland purposeful by adding fruit trees and native wildflower seedlings. Plan to extend the woodland every other year or so, giving employees time to adjust to the new vision. Shrinking the lawn slowly, in stages, allows ground maintenance crews to integrate the different maintenance required of a woodland, and this will enhance the success of the transition. Remember to plan on walking paths for employees by leaving wide strips of grass winding through the woodland.

Just as in nature, your woodland will grow and extend, replacing lawn area. What was once a large, open, rarely used lawn will now be a woodland that is far more interesting and useful, with wildlife and attractive flora for employees to enjoy.

* “One 10 year old hardwood tree can sequester up to 11.2 lbs of carbon a year and that number doubles at 20 years old.” US DOE Voluntary Reporting of Greenhouse Gases April 1998.

**Evapotranspiration, alone or in combination with shading, can help reduce peak summer temperatures by 2–9°F (1–5°C). Huang, J., H. Akbari, and H. Taha. 1990. The Wind-Shielding and Shading Effects of Trees on Residential Heating and Cooling Requirements. ASHRAE Winter Meeting, American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers. Atlanta, Georgia. Kurn, D., S. Bretz, B. Huang, and H. Akbari. 1994. The Potential for Reducing Urban Air Temperatures and Energy Consumption through Vegetative Cooling (PDF) (31 pp, 1.76MB). ACEEE Summer Study on Energy Efficiency in Buildings, American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy. Pacific Grove, California.

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