How to Go Natural-Public & Private Spaces

Using natural landscaping practices successfully means taking a pro-active approach. This means focusing on the health of the soil and the health of the plants. It is like a wellness approach to human health.


Using natural landscaping practices on grass usually means using a number of practices together such as leaving the grass grow long (3 - 4 inches or 6 - 8 cms. ), leaving grass clippings on the grass, topdressing with compost, overseeding existing grass with new grass seed, These practices are detailed for residential yards on our Yards page. There are also details on How - City Parks and Green Spaces can Go Natural.

On Left - a yard maintained with natural practices. On Right -  a yard that had Weed N' Feed in the Spring.

Landscapes that Maintain Themselves

Using natural landscaping practices is easiest with landscapes that maintain themselves. These are landscapes that mimic nature:

- low-maintenance lawns that use hardy grasses
- meadows of grasses and flowers
- hardy, perennial flower beds (flowers that live over winter and bloom every summer)
- woodland gardens with trees, shrubs and flowers underneath
- combinations of the above.

In these landscapes, the desirable plants and insects keep the undesirable ones in check. Hardy plants are used that need little water. These types of landscapes may take extra labour and cost to install at first.  Over the long-term, though, they are the most environmentally-friendly and cost-effective, according to a study commissioned by the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC). (1)

Other types of landscapes, such as conventional lawn and annual flower beds can be well-maintained with natural landscaping practices - it’s just takes a bit more labour, at least at first.

A Variety of Looks for City Landscapes

As Calgary goes to natural landscaping practices, city landscapes will have more variety. Public views on landscapes are changing - in late August, 2007, the CBC Radio program Sounds Like Canada had a listener vote over a week on the worst weed in Canada and Kentucky Bluegrass won!

    New Varieties of Grass

Having large expanses of mowed blue-green turf grass is costly to maintain and is not environmentally sustainable in the long-term in Calgary.  Read more . . .

Using more hardy grasses in our yards, parks and green spaces, means grass that is a lighter green colour. Letting hardy grasses go unmowed also means a more natural look.  Click here for more on hardy grass varieties, including one that doesn’t need mowing!

    Front Yard Gardens

Old practices are coming back to urban front yards (and back yards too!) Your neighbour may plant a vegetable garden in their front yard. Another may have a grove of poplar trees. Other Calgarians are planting perennial flowers, shrubs, and trees in their yards. Some are going for a low colourful look of flowering ground cover plants (yes - you can get ones that grow in Calgary!)  A wonderful new variety of looks is springing up in Calgary and this trend only promises to continue.

    City Parks and Green Spaces

City parks and green spaces could have mowed grass only where needed for recreation (sports, playgrounds, picnic areas, walking areas) or for access to facilities (e.g. near power poles) For example, many of the areas near major roads could be planted with shrubs or hardy prairie grasses that could be left to grow. This would save taxpayers money in the long-term on mowing grass, will provide more habitat for beneficial insects and wildlife - such as songbirds, and could add beauty to the city.

In Canada’s Community of the Year for 2004, Elbow Valley just west of Calgary, the common green spaces are left as native prairie. Photo compliments of Linda M. McNeil, Associate, Re/Max House of Real Estate

Daylilies on a boulevard in Saskatoon. Photo taken by Brian Baldwin. From “Creating the Prairie Xeriscape” by Sara Williams

Over 132 other Municipalities in Canada are going natural. If they can do it, we can too!

Click here for more on parks and green spaces in Calgary going natural, including examples of how other cities and other local green spaces have done so.

Click here for more on how to go natural in the yard of your residence.


1) Daigle, Jean-Marie, Ecological Outlook, Residential Landscapes: Comparison of Maintenance Costs, Time and Resources. Commissioned by the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC), Government of Canada, Ottawa,  2000. Available only in print- a copy can be requested free by calling the CMHC library at 1-800-668-2642.

Available for viewing at the Arusha Centre, #106, 223 - 12 Ave. SW,  Calgary. tel: 270-3002.

This study followed 30 gardens in Southern Ontario over two years - with seven different landscape types. All inputs were tracked. The study also included hypothetical design of seven types of gardens and the costs to install and maintain them over a ten year cycle. A literature review was also part of the study.  Read more . . .

Marichu and Cesar

"We want to live in a Calgary where we can appreciate and promote what grows naturally in the Calgary area"

Click here for their full story