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How to Approach Lawn Transformation

Updated: Mar 28





An edible landscape is a landscape designed to bring ecological integrity to our property. Ecological integrity means that the concepts underpinning the design for landscape and plantings are in alignment with principles for fostering and maintaining natural ecosystems. Natural ecosystems emerge and evolve when the conditions for diverse, interconnected lifeforms have the supports they need to thrive.


We maybe designing to grow vegetables, to bring back indigenous understory plantings to an unhealthy lawn struggling to grow in the shade of a mature tree, and to create habitat for pollinators to thrive. We might be interested in lowest maintenance, drought resistant, water absorbing landscapes that provide habitat for hummingbirds and butterflies. We might be planning to grow medicinal herbs to improve our health.


Our approach to planning for an edible landscape transform adapts processes from three areas:

  1. Permaculture design

  2. Iterative design process

  3. Project management frameworks





Step 1 - Observations

  • draws from permaculture design

  • in-depth observation of the seasonal and life cycles of the property

Step 2 - Research

  • draws from iterative design process

  • what is the scope of transformation being contemplated?

  • what is known about the homeowner's interests and passions?

  • what has already been done in the neighbourhood, what does the neighbourhood need to strengthen existing permaculture initiatives?

  • what has the municipal government identified as permaculture needs, what guidelines have been made available from government initiatives?

Step 3 - Plan Development

  • draws from project management frameworks

  • what is the scope the work to be undertaken - define the work in specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound objectives

  • take time to breakdown the work into manageable methods, processes, and deliverables

  • clarify expectations for communication, quality, risk and stakeholder engagement to reduce change orders and potential issues emerging during the work period

Step 4 - Phase Implementation

  • draws from permaculture design and iterative design process

  • break the work down into manageable milestones (phase)

  • when the milestone is completed, schedule time for reflection and review

  • re-visit the overall plan for transforming a lawn into an edible landscape and make adjustments as necessary to scope, schedule, budget, quality, etc.

  • plan for the next phase of transformation and repeat the iterative process until the transformation is complete


Step 1 - Observations - take into account the geography and topography of the property. What indigenous forms of life would have been existing if the property was in its natural state? What are the domestic forms of life that have been introduced? What invasive species are evident? What is the sun exposure from season to season - are there areas that have 100% sun during the summer? Are there areas in 100% shade? What are the prevailing winds throughout the year? How strong are they? What permaculture initiatives are underway on neighbouring properties - whether private or public?


Step 2 - Research - what is the scope of transformation being contemplated? How much change will be involved in removing the grass and replacing it with an edible permaculture landscape? What are the permaculture possibilities for this particular property, exposure, slope, homeowner interest / capability / capacity?


Step 3 - Plan for Development - take time to define the scope of the project according to SMART objectives (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Time-bound). Breakdown description of the work to subsets of Deliverables - work that can be divided into milestones on the schedule and completed in sequence or concurrently, that, in its aggregate, results in completion of the Scope. Breakdown the work budget into Labour and Materials - what can be budgeted for purchasing and what needs to be budgeted for time. Identify what resources are necessary to complete the work and assign resources to complete each Deliverable. The sum of completion of each Deliverable will provide an overall plan to complete the scope of the project. Organize communication management to make sure there is clarity with regards to timeliness, importance, urgency and need-to-know. Assess risk management by identifying potential issues that may arise during project work. Include a plan for who will take responsibility for risk mitigation and issue resolution. Establish a procurement strategy for researching, ordering, delivering, and paying for resources to complete the project. These resources include materials, supplies, and also labour - who is hiring, supervising, what are the terms of payment. Confirm the quality standards that are guiding the project work and what constitutes acceptance of finished work. Identify who the stakeholders are in this project and develop a plan for managing their engagement. Think in terms of family, neighbours, contractors, suppliers, and municipal authorities.


Step 4 - Phased Implementation - use Deliverable Milestones to divide the work into manageable packages. At the completion of a milestone, take time to review, revise, plan and implement. Be ready to adjust expectations and assumptions as the work unfolds and unforeseen impacts are identified.


 

There is more detail to explore in developing an approach to lawn transformation. Different homeowners are going to have different needs with regards to planning and management, depending on their levels of time or interest, the magnitude of change, the length of time to complete the project, and the size of the budget.



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