241 - Rip out your lawn (and replace it with subalpine meadow)


241 - Rip out your lawn

Andony Melathopoulos: [00:00:00] From the Oregon State University Extension Service, this is pollination, a podcast that tells the stories of researchers, land managers, and people like you who are making bold strides to improve the health of pollinators. I'm your host, Dr. Adon Opolis, associate Professor of Pollinator Health in the Department of Horticulture.

As part of the new B Stewart program here at Oregon State University, we have a number of field trips that we've been doing across the Willamette Valley, looking at how people are establishing pollinator habitat. Our last session was on urban landscapes and we had the good fortune to visit Pacific Landscape Management in Portland.

I was really interested in talking with the staff there about how. Water rates are going up throughout the Portland area, and how many people are starting to think twice about [00:01:00] having a green lawn during the summer. Now one option is just to leave that lawn brown, but clearly that doesn't offer many resources for pollinators, and you really don't get that delight of watching bees and butterflies and hummingbirds.

Visiting your property, but our next guest doesn't think that's necessary. Dr. Phil Allen is a professor of landscape management at Brigham Young University. He's a visiting professor at Oregon State University for the next six months, and he has some remarkable insights in which he's gonna share in this episode from Utah about how to create very functional ecologically sound.

Alternatives to grass by taking lessons from sub Alpine Meadows. This is a great episode because it's not merely conceptual, but Dr. Allen has experience installing these kinds of landscapes back in Utah. Finally at the epi end of the episode, Dr. Allen reveals what he's doing here in Oregon.

He's really interested in finding low water use [00:02:00] alternatives to grass with ecological benefits here in Oregon. And so he's gonna talk a little bit about how he's looking for working examples from all of you around around the region about how you're making this work. And there's gonna be some information on the show notes on how to get.

In touch with Dr. Allen. So I hope you enjoy the rip out your lawn and create something cool. Episode of Pollination this

Phil Allen: week.


Andony Melathopoulos: welcome Phil Pollination.

Phil Allen: Thank you. It's good to be here on Donny. I

Andony Melathopoulos: know I have you here in person, which is like

Phil Allen: a wonderful thing. Do you often do these remotely? I

Andony Melathopoulos: often do them either remotely or in the field. Rarely

Phil Allen: in my office

Andony Melathopoulos: these days. Okay. Yeah. And also, You're here from Utah.

That's the other, added bonuses. I don't have

Phil Allen: to zoom you. Yes. I've been a sabba. I'm in, I've been a professor of landscape management for 32 years at [00:03:00] Brigham Young University. And I've done a few sabbatical leaves. I did one at Cornell, one at Minnesota. One at Gonzaga and now I'm here and I'm learning so much and I'm loving the Corvallis Summers and they're amazing.

It is a

Andony Melathopoulos: great summer and it, it does it does make me think about this time of year. It is beautiful. For those of you who are not from Oregon, no, it doesn't rain here all the year, all year long. That's why we have such a great seed industry this time of year. We haven't seen rain for a few months.

Maybe there's a couple drops on a Monday or something. And unless people are watering their lawn everybody's lawn here, brown, crispy, maybe there's a couple of hawks, there's a couple of weeds that have deep roots that are green, but everything else is brown. And you've provocatively suggested that these crispy lawns are not inevitable, but could be replaced.

Get this with Alpine Meadows. That's a wild idea. Tell us how you came up with this

Phil Allen: idea.[00:04:00] Utah is the second dry estate. Oh it is? I didn't know that. And we have a huge environmental issue in that the Great Salt Lake is at risk of completely drying up. So we've got to conserve water. We're, we've had an ongoing drought for a couple of decades now, and when the Great Salt Lake dries up, not only is there less water there for all of the ecological benefits that it provides, but a lot of the surrounding dirt becomes dust and it becomes airborne when there's wind uhhuh, and it contains a lot of heavy metals leading to major.

Health challenges really throughout the greater Salt Lake Valley and the Wasatch front. Oh my goodness. Okay. So with that in mind, people are saying I don't want to have a lawn. And a lot of what I saw was that people are just letting their yard [00:05:00] die, which they don't go dormant and come back in the fall like they do in Oregon.

But they would die and then, or they would rip it out and just throw in rocks and call it a zero escape. It becomes very hot, often unattractive uhhuh, often weed filled with weeds. Okay huh. For decades I've worked on ecological restoration and as a volunteer, carried out ecological restoration projects and found that yeah, we can have with the amount of precipitation.

Which is ru roughly about 18 inches per year. I think about a third of what you get here. Yeah, we can have green and so the valley native flora is often brown come August while vegetation up higher. In our sub opine regions 7,000 feet elevation is beautiful through the summer uhhuh. [00:06:00] So we got the idea of bringing that ecosystem down a couple thousand feet in elevation, and then watering it a little to keep it looking good.


Andony Melathopoulos: that's great. And it's, I, it is a fascinating kind of way of looking at the entire ecosystem and thinking where's the green and how, how could this be brought in? And I guess many people I know. Listeners of this podcast have been anxious to take their lawns and transition them into Meadows.

But I guess this is different than an Alpine plant community and, so just maybe wa walk us through what's, we're not talking about this. Classic. Take out your turf, put in a wildflower mix. Mix, you're talking about something different. An alpine meadow community can.

So just why do you think that's a better fit, maybe for your region than a kind of like going in with the seed mix and just going, letting it loose?

Phil Allen: I learned [00:07:00] from the reviewers. One was from Asia and one was from Europe. Oh, this we're,

Andony Melathopoulos: for the listeners who don't know, they were

Phil Allen: talking about an actual paper that you wrote.

Yes. Yeah. Yeah. It was a review article about using Wildflower Meadows as a template for water conserving landscapes. So we're, we all have regional biases unless we're living all over the place, which I'm not. I've lived in the Midwest and. In the Rocky Mountain region for a number of years now, and the term meadow means something different if you're in England or if you're in Asia.

Oh. Than it does in the Rocky Mountain region. So I qualified this as sub alpine, meaning you're up there where you get more precipitation, but it's definitely a rocky mountain look. Okay.

Andony Melathopoulos: All right. And okay. Alright.

Phil Allen: Does that make

Andony Melathopoulos: sense? That totally makes sense. Okay. But this and I but this is [00:08:00] different than, what I imagine some people in Salt Lake or Provo are doing where they're just taking out the lawn and just.

Putting some seeds down, there's something more intentional about doing an alpine

Phil Allen: mix system. Yes, Uhhuh, there are a lot of wildflower seed mixes. You can buy them all over the country and my experience and observation has been that a lot of them look good for a year or two. If you properly got rid of the weeds beforehand.

But then, because early successional plants are often easier to produce seeds of than climax vegetation they tend to be biased toward plants that flower quickly and don't hang around for a long time. Aha. Okay. Or that themselves are somewhat weedy. In nature. Whereas

Andony Melathopoulos: an Alpine plant community probably is a mixture of [00:09:00] their early succession plans.

There are plans that come in later that there's a kind of and I'm thinking, I'm not sure if we had a podcast on this, but the NRCS plant material center here in Corvallis came up with a a formula of 25% annuals, 50% short lived perennials, and 50 25% long lived. That you need to have some.

But in a plant community, you typically have all of those components, right?

Phil Allen: Circulating. So when you create a landscape, you have a semi managed ecosystem. And it sorts itself out. Even mow grass usually isn't just one single type of grass, either there's several cultivars cultivated varieties of perennial rye grass or tacu uhhuh, or there's a number of different.

Species of grasses that just to the average observer are going to look green. Uhhuh if they're maintained properly, I'll be darn. Okay. So a wildflower metal, like I'm thinking of is a complex e [00:10:00] ecosystem that you can't entirely predict because it's going to sort itself out based on the weather, the exposure, how much sunlight there is and so forth.


Andony Melathopoulos: So clearly when in your context of thinking about bringing a sub alpine meadow down into the valley, where, you know, and the way that I heard you talking about this is, maybe a plant community that gets just a little bit more precipitation and bringing it down, and you'll add the precipitation in the form of limited irrigation.

And then thinking back to that great salt lake, you're gonna allow more water to re remain in there as. Consequence when thinking about that, that clearly there's already we've been getting into it. There's some conceptual leaps that kind of thinking about all of these, like that pro that process that's going on.

Can and I know in the paper you boiled this down to five challenges, can we take those up? I'd love to. I think the listeners would love to hear about, like, how to turn their head a little

Phil Allen: bit to think about this problem. Sure. [00:11:00] The first problem, and this also applies to any landscape, the.

Is that the process of urbanization often results in construction activities that compact the soil, uhhuh and destroy the soil structure. Okay? When you have compacted soil, that means that air and water don't readily circulate, okay? Don't readily get into the soil, and so that restricts the number of.

Types of plants that can thrive. Okay. Interestingly, turf. I've seen examples where people grow sod on top of a sidewalk. You can do that. Ah. And so grass often works well, whereas a complex meadow would not work well, huh? In our system there are a number of species of S brush. We'd recommend the lower ones for.

And a homeowner's yard, for example. But the roots [00:12:00] can go down several feet, uhhuh, but not if the soil's compacted uhhuh. So soil compaction is the number one problem associated with trying to create an e ecosystem. If the soil's too compacted, it won't support it.

Andony Melathopoulos: I guess the, this may brings you to challenge number two.

Some people will deal with compaction by bringing in soil.

Phil Allen: Exactly. Okay, so what's wrong with that? Why is that challenge? The first thing, and I didn't mention this in that article, but we looked at every topsoil supplier in the county, uhhuh and examined the soil for the presence of seeds, Uhhuh.

Including noxious weed seats. Oh, a lot of top soils say they were going to put in a pop parking lot for a Walmart. Yeah. They'd go over and scrape the top soil off. Yeah. Put it in a truck, haul it off and sell it as topsoil, or [00:13:00] they might even screen it. Okay. And it's full of weed seeds. Yeah.

So we found that every commercially available topsoil had weed seeds in it, many of which were on the noxious weed list for the state of Utah. Gracious that's, yeah. In our ecosystem, when you increase fertility, you favor the competitive ability of weeds. So adding topsoil, While it's a good intention and you're trying to do the right thing, it often results in just the opposite effect where you get a whole bunch of weeds.


Andony Melathopoulos: There's two. The weeds come in two ways. The first one that you just mentioned is, you know it's going, it may come in with the soil, but you were also mentioning that there's a way in which the soil composition may not suit, may give a competitive advantage to right exotic plants.

Say, say that a little more. Give us a

Phil Allen: right. Certainly in the valleys surrounding the Rocky Mountains, there's a lot lower amount of tops, so a lot [00:14:00] more lower organic matter. Huh And if you increase that organic matter, that tends to provide a more nutrient rich soil, and that favors the competitive ability of weeds.

Andony Melathopoulos: Okay. Okay. And all right, so you've got these two. Soil problems, are they solvable? Can you solve those problems?

Phil Allen: Yes, and we have, we found that in highly weed infested soil, you actually have to control the weeds for six to, in my ecological restoration, volunteerism, we control weeds for 18 months before we do an intensive planning.

And the reason is, which relates to the next challenge. The price of native seeds can be outrageous. Uhhuh, high quality sagebrush seeds can be upwards of $90 a pound. So what you often buy is low quality sagebrush seeds with a [00:15:00]lot of chaff and stuff in it, so it. It's not so expensive. But if you have this very expensive seed, you can only afford to put it down at a certain rate.

And if, for example, one of our major weeds is Bromo tech Toum, also known as cheek grass, and we have measured up to 50,000 seeds per square meter. Of Cheatgrass, I don't care how expensive your seed mix is, you're not gonna compete with 50,000 seeds per

Andony Melathopoulos: square meter. So you are, you really need to do leaded management in advance cuz you're gonna be putting in a high investment.

And if that, that very precious sage seed goes in the ground and then is choked immediately you've just defeated the purpose

Phil Allen: of the whole. Okay. And I think this is a good time to mention pollinators. Okay, great. Because, low diversity lawns that don't have clover or something in them don't support a lot of pollinators.

Yeah. Just because they're mow off. [00:16:00] Similarly, as is happening all over the Salt Lake Valley and other dry areas, if you just put in rocks don't support a lot of pollinators. Okay. So a meadow, a high diversity meadow that includes grasses, wild flowers, and occasionally shrubs if they work, and occasionally a tree or two, if they work, that's going to support a much more diverse pollinator habitat.

Andony Melathopoulos: Okay. I that I can, I, that, that's good. And it's good to state it. And I I can, Ima and I also imagine the other situation is you have grass that turns brown. I. That's also, there's no benefit there as well.

Phil Allen: My init initiation into the world of Native Gardens was at the University of Minnesota where I was attending school.

A couple of guys had started a prairie design, installation and management company that I was involved with for a few years, and we found that a lot of people just [00:17:00] wanted the flowers. They didn't want the grasses. When we just planted the flowers, they would fall over. We find the same thing.

In our sub alpine and associated sagebrush step ecosystems that without the grasses you don't tie up all of nature. And that leads to vacancies for the weeds to come in and they don't compete as well. But when you have a complex ecosystem after 3, 4, 5 years, the ability for weeds to compete goes way down.

Can I give you a specific example? Please do. We did a seven acre site with our students at using these exact principles. It was awarded a national award by the National Association of Landscape Professionals, and after putting in this beautiful wildflower meadow that saved 75% on water the first [00:18:00] year, the owner.

Had hired students to pull cheat grass, they pulled 24 black garbage bags full of cheatgrass, year nine. It was one fourth of one bag because

Andony Melathopoulos: those grasses established.

Phil Allen: So the native grasses had established where the weedy grass could no longer compete. So

Andony Melathopoulos: giving it that. Giving it, okay, that's good.

That's great. Proof of principle that once these communities establish it's, The weed management after establishment, right? Really

Phil Allen: declines. But in our click on the mouse and want an instant answer world, it's not. We have to be patient. These wonderfully complex ecosystems take what I'm hearing from our Oregon commercial landscapers.

They take 3, 4, 5 years to really look good, and we've gotta help people understand that patience is required. I do.

Andony Melathopoulos: I and I think that's great. And I [00:19:00] think, there's in my experience the weed management on the front end, people forget about, and this, but this patience of, allowing things to establish and allowing those roots to get down to allowing the space to be filled out.

That, that's gonna take a little bit

Phil Allen: of time as well, I wa I

Andony Melathopoulos: did wanna kind of circle back. I still, this question of compaction is there, if you're bought a house housing development, it's, it's compacted soil and you wanna make a transition, is there anything you can do for that?

That part I was a little less

Phil Allen: clear on. Yes. First prevention is better than, okay. Than fixing it afterwards. Okay. Conservation is better than restoration. So on the border of Utah, Arizona, and Nevada, there is a community CAA by name, and it was built into a native landscape where the architects, the developers were very sensitive to wanting to conserve that.

So [00:20:00] they began by, Saying, okay, we're going to only allow for the heavy equipment to go on the site where the footprint of the home is, where the driveway will be. So all equipment went over, in and out where the future driveway was going to be, and then a six foot area around the footprint of the home.

So what did that accomplish? It prevented the compaction in the first place. Uhhuh. And Huh. So that's the ideal. If compaction has already occurred, it needs to be remedied. And in that case, what we often use are the same kind of implements that farmers do. Farming soils often will become compacted over the years, so you're actually going in and ripping it.

If it's moderate to mild compaction, the soil can be a rated using the same kind of equipment we use in turf grass management. Uhhuh, in some cases that works. Or [00:21:00] ideally. In my yard, for example, where I've also done this and watched it over 25 years now it's a very rocky soil and I chose to keep it that way.

And rocky soils don't compact nearly as badly as a solid loam like, Most people would want. Okay. So it works out better that

Andony Melathopoulos: way. Okay. That's fantastic. And I guess coming back I'll thanks for taking us back to the soil. I was those are great suggestions. We had talked about the native seed, but I guess, the other thing that we were, talking about is, and I just want to Foreground this is when you're planting in, we've talked about the need for grass, the need for, but you've also talked about the need for diversity in that in many

Phil Allen: cases, especially in a farming

Andony Melathopoulos: background, you're used to putting in the same species in a row. And so having multiple species and having thinking about the plants serving different roles in the plant, community stability is, I guess that's what you were talking about with the grass, [00:22:00] right?

Incorporating bunch grasses.

Phil Allen: And in a high diversity native plant community, you have seeds of various sizes and shapes. They germinate at different times of the year. They have different dormancy breaking requirements. And on. Some seeds need to be seeded at deeper than one inch in order to germinate and establish well while other seeds need to germinate at or near the surface.

So if you have an, what I call an agronomic or a farm orientation or a row crop or orientation mindset, You're going to fail to think about it in ecological terms. Let me give you an example. In 2002, it's 20 years ago, salt Lake City hosted the Winter Olympics. Prior to that, they decided to rebuild the infrastructure of the freeway system.

So [00:23:00] that it would celebrate the. Landscapes, the aesthetic look of the Valley and Lower foothills, and I was brought in as the what plant materials consultant. Okay, and I developed six different ecosystems for that project, and the landscaper contracted to put it in, said, you want me to seed six different depths with what And go.

Pass over that six different times. That's not practical. The compromise was we had two passes, two actual different types of cedars. One at near the surface and one for deeper seeds, uhhuh, and they went over it twice and crisscrossed it a couple different times and then they had some material that essentially raked it uhhuh.

And by doing that it mixed it up enough to where we had really good establishment success. Interesting. Okay. So thinking about it as an ecologist, not a farmer, [00:24:00] I guess that's one way of saying it.


Andony Melathopoulos: That's good. And I guess the other way strategy around this and for people who are doing smaller areas, uhhuh, is to just have the plant in hand.

Exactly. Plugs may be in some cases rather than, cuz I, I can just, I imagine we have listeners out there who, I'm just gonna buy the C pack. I'm gonna clear some area that they may be better ahead. Getting their, putting their grasses in and putting their Forbes, plugging them into a kind of patchwork, they may be better

Phil Allen: ahead.

Yes and no. Okay. What we found in practice, and this goes again back to Minnesota Prairies where I first learned this is grass seed is inexpensive and therefore you can purchase enough that it. Comes up, you can put down enough seed to have a good stand of grass. We found that we would go in and put in the grass seed, plant the grass seed, but [00:25:00]transplant in the Forbes or wildflowers, they were, the seed is much more expensive.

A lot of it was still hand collected the time rather than raised in a farm. And if the seed is costing you several hundred dollars a pound. Yep. But it may only cost, a dollar for us what we called tubings at the time. They're more than that. If you buy them in a larger size, obviously, but then we could plug in the ah wildflowers uhhuh.

So that would be my recommendation is seed. The things that are easy to seed. Yeah. And a lot of good regional, local. Wildflower type companies can help you with that, knowing what works from seed and what would be better to get from a a nursery. It's a little bit of a chicken and egg, unfortunately, because the, until the demand for the native wild wildflowers is there, the growers are reluctant to [00:26:00] provide them.

Yeah. And then the. Homeowner or a person wanting to put in this meadow, it they struggle with having access to them. So hopefully it's growing. I know it's growing. The demand is growing because in talking with A regional western United States company, they're putting a lot more native seeds into farming production so that brings the price down over time.


Andony Melathopoulos: still, I imagine even those are gonna, all, these are not plants that are bred for seed production. It's a challenge, right? You're always gonna have, it's always gonna be a little bit more expensive. And some seed is just gonna be so hard to get enough of that you might be better up. I love that strategy that you laid out.

You're going to start with the cheap stuff and then you may just to make that plant community more complex. If it starts to get price, yours hard to, it's iffy to germinate. Go get a plug, [00:27:00] and then that becomes a strategy to be able to get it all. Pulled,

Phil Allen: tied together, and I saw a graph.

This was Portland area, not Corvallis, but of all the water districts in Portland over the last decade, what the cost of water was, and it's increasing faster than any other utility, even in a state, as wet as Oregon. And so while, yeah, these wildflower mixes, the appropriate ones and the strategies for putting one in that's gonna be a lot more expensive than putting in turf grasses.

But the return on investment in water conservation, water savings over time should yield good returns.

Andony Melathopoulos: You, and you and I were, it was funny, we were both at Pacific Landscaping. Yes. On the same day by coincidence. And we, when I was talking to their staff, they were hearing, in, in the Portland area, water rates are going up [00:28:00] and the, I, some.

Land management companies are doing just what you said in Salt Lake City. They're they're not putting rocks, but they're just letting Grasso Brown. And, clearly there can be something much more imaginative that looks better, that's more enticing than brown, just like brown lawn.

And one that serves, other ecological functions.

Phil Allen: So your episode number 75 podcast referred to ecological lawns or eco lawns. Ah, I think that was 2018, if I remember right. Yeah. Yeah. But the what we've learned more since then, and one of the main things we've learned is you need more than a handful of species to create the ecosystem that will work.

I'm thinking a dozen to 20 plus species. Ultimately not all those have to be installed initially, but in the long run will create a much more effective and resilient ecosystem. [00:29:00] And probably, correct me if I'm wrong, probably service a lot more pollinators because you have a lot more species, rich plant community.

Andony Melathopoulos: Oh, absolutely. I think that's the key thing, that there is both. With our butterfly and moth species that need different host plants, but also all the, the bees for as well. They they have different plant preferences and if you have multiple families of plants, the odds are you'll bring more of them in.

Okay. Oh

Phil Allen: yeah. So I saw you

Andony Melathopoulos: Have we covered most of the things here?

Phil Allen: I think so, yeah. Oh,

Andony Melathopoulos: you know what I did wanna end on it was you, the paper ends with the case studies. Now you talked about the successful award-winning design, the students right put in at Brigham Young University.

But also there's a case study for our conference center. Can you walk us, tie all these principles together? Talk about what we, what those. What those projects look like before, what was done for site prep and [00:30:00] ongoing maintenance. You talked about the cheap grass pulling. But let's hear a little bit more about how those projects kinda came together.

Phil Allen: The first project was a residential seven acre site. And that one, we seeded it and the owner of the property liked about 80% of what he had done. He didn't want fireweed. That was four week four feet tall. Which I fell in love with after Mount St. Helen's Blue. It was all covered with fire.

We, it was gorgeous Uhhuh, but he didn't like it. So pulled all that and we went back and re-seed some other things that after he'd spent more time researching, he said, I think I want that. I think I want that. And in a couple of areas is simply didn't take near his driveway. There was probably more compaction and we went back in and seated some other things.

And so over time that worked. But again, it wasn't an instant gratification model. It was more of a complex, let's take a look at it and add where we. We [00:31:00] feel there's a deficiency and then over time that becomes better. The other project that I included in that case study was the conference center above the for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, and they had a significant rooftop.

Garden Uhhuh over an acre. And they needed to vegetate it because there were very high end residential properties that would look down on that uhhuh. They just didn't want to have high glare. Yeah. Yeah. So rather than going with a Wasatch front, Type of a native plant, wildflower meadow.

They chose to use a Midwestern prairie model, and the reason is the prairies consist of C4 grasses, that's a little bit complicated, but their photosynthesis is such that they work better at warm temperatures. And in the Midwest you count on summer thunderstorms for a lot of your precipitation.

Uhhuh. [00:32:00] The advantage being they stay green all summer. Uhhuh, you couldn't have something go brown and have the risk of a fire. Oh yeah. On top of a rooftop garden. Yeah. Yeah. So they went with that model and there's actually a number of papers published on that and we just mentioned it, but that's an example of taking a different ecosystem and transplanting it where you need the summer green.

And it has also worked out very nicely.

Andony Melathopoulos: Fantastic. Let's take a quick break. We do have a segment that I'm curious to hear your answers too. We do with all our guests. So let's Let's adjourn for one second. Okay. And the listeners will have a nice little song.

Hey, we are back. As we were talking at the break as part of your sabbatical here, you've got this great idea for how to, how to kickstart research into ecolon or, these kinds of like low growing [00:33:00] in the front of your property. Green things better term, but tell us.

Tell us your approach.

Phil Allen: It's really, I love this idea. So there's really an infinite number of possibilities or close to infinite when it comes to what might an equal lawn look like. That is a substitute for a lawn that stays green in the summer, requires less water benefits, pollinators, and is low growing.

And rather than take the decades of research to try and figure that out experimentally, we're going to cast a net. First through the greater Willamette Valley. And say, do you have an ecolon or do you know somebody who has one? It's gotta be good looking. It's needs to have been in for three plus years.

We'd love to come take a look at it and capture your knowledge. And from that write funding proposals that will guide our research going forward.

Andony Melathopoulos: So getting the ideas from what's already going on out there. Yes. [00:34:00] Finding the best examples. And then just back engineering it. Exactly.

Phil Allen: I love

Andony Melathopoulos: it.

Okay, so how are the people gonna find out about this? Can they, how can they contact you directly

Phil Allen: or I have, as long as I'm at Oregon State, I've got an email address here. Okay. And that's A L E P H I [email protected]. But we'll put a link. Can we put a link on your summary of your podcast on, and also put the solicitation on there.

The solicitation

Andony Melathopoulos: will be there. Had to con is gonna be in the show notes folks. So go to the show notes at at the podcast. And you'll get all this, and we want lots of ideas. Let's get them flowing.

Phil Allen: And I'd love to come visit you if you've got something that works, I'm here for six months and love Oregon.

Andony Melathopoulos: What better deal is there, folks? So take it up, we're gonna have it in the show notes, and you can get up a personal visit to look at your lawn. And who knows, you may have the secret, or at least the start of the ignition point for getting a super lawn going. So I love this.


Phil Allen: Okay. [00:35:00] Now to business. Yes. All right. We do this

Andony Melathopoulos: as a way to get to know our guests. And I guess the first thing that I want to ask you is if you have a book recommendation for the kind of stuff that we're talking about today what would you tell everybody out

Phil Allen: there they need?

Sometimes it helps to read a book. Because it provides you with the ability to articulate a subject that you're passionate about but haven't thought through as well. So the book I, a book I'm currently reading is simply called Meadows by Christopher Lloyd, and it discusses a meadow from the perspective of England, great Britain, Uhhuh.

But it, it uses a lot of strategy that I think we need in communicating to the public, because a lot of meadows don't look perfect all the time. And we need to change our expectations somewhat. So it's helping me articulate w how to talk about a meadow. I love books


Andony Melathopoulos: That just I'll, it's maybe a topic that you do really well.

This is an area of your [00:36:00] expertise, but just seeing how people develop the concepts and make them into a narrative. It's very helpful

Phil Allen: sometimes, right? And when you write a book, it takes a lot of effort and you have to really think through how to. Characterize what you're passionate about.

Andony Melathopoulos: Thanks for that suggestion. That's really great. And I guess the, don't guess I know. The next question is what's your go-to tool?

Phil Allen: My go-to tool is just being amazed and when I don't know the answer, I find somebody who can steer me in the right direction. For example, a friend of mine put in a about a one acre wildflower meadow.

And realized she wanted to supply more pollinators. She got into building blue be Nests, Uhhuh, which I didn't even know what blue bees were. But they're really cool. She has her garage full of them in the wintertime. Yeah. Just drill holes in these little boxes and they're out there in the blue bees come out and they do their thing and they.

They help.

Andony Melathopoulos: Oh, it's amazing. But yeah, that [00:37:00] is, but it an amazement does natural curiosity cuz I, I was thinking about, we were talking about creating a plant community way out of a context. It's not, it's not since the last glaciation sorting itself out and whatever, you're having to pay attention to a lot of little details and a lot of moving parts.

And I don't know how you would do that. There's no. Overriding principle. I guess sometime there are general rules or laws of, ecological functions, but you almost have to keep your eye open, I imagine. You have to be curious. You have to ask questions. Did you grow this before I had a bad experience?

Did you have a bad experience? Like nobody, or you find that I sometimes find there's a plant I really like and it's like I had a bad experience with it, and then. I had, I talked to somebody who says, no, it germinates all the time. And then you, oh, it's just a pack of bad seed. But you without if the you stop at the first the first estimation, you sometimes you miss the, you miss

Phil Allen: much.

[00:38:00] Yeah. Yeah. Good point. Okay.

Andony Melathopoulos: Now for the last question, do you

Phil Allen: have a favorite pollinator species? This is going to be, again, a complicated subject because my favorite pollinator is also my most hated pollinator uhoh. All right, let's hear it. It is called the Hawk Moth Uhhuh, also known as Sphinx Moth. Yeah, and I am a passionate person when it comes to the genus penman.

Huh there are about 115 species, and my colleague Michael Stevens just produced a book, oh. On Penman. You should. It's a beautiful 60 book that well, I in the evening, will go out into my yard and watch my penson's. And these, what I originally thought were hummingbirds, uhhuh, were these mws flying around and pollinating my pets.

I go rah. Go Hawk MAs. Also known as tomato horn worm. They were destroying my tomatoes. So it's a [00:39:00] love-hate thing. Oh

Andony Melathopoulos: but wait a sec. There's a book, a new book on Penman. Yes. Uhhuh.

Phil Allen: It is by Michael Stevens. I can't remember who published it, but I, the day before he retired, I handed him $60 and he handed me a book.

Fantastic. So I got mine directly from

Andony Melathopoulos: the author. So it tell us a little bit about this book. Is it talk about about the whole group and

Phil Allen: Yes. Michael Stevens was a very passionate photographer, nature photographer, Uhhuh. And in his month off during the summer, he would go out and.

Hike and wait for that perfect moment to photograph Penman plant up on top of a mountain or in the desert or wherever it was. And he just compiled all these. And with the help of Sim botanist created a lovely story book. It's a more of a coffee table book, Uhhuh. It's large, but it's about PEs.


Andony Melathopoulos: We'll track that down and put it in the show notes, but it has been a true delight talking with you this afternoon. And I just wanna remind our listeners to make sure to, if you, if it [00:40:00] wasn't clear in the three times I stated to you you're gonna have a opportunity to submit your own great experiments in creating green lawns, eco lawns while you're

Phil Allen: here, while you're studying here.

And we hope to carry this work on into the future because whether we call 'em a wildflower meadow or an ecolon or a refuge lawn like you do in Mississippi and Alabama and Georgia, it's the same idea of a complex, diverse ecosystem that provides a number of services. We call 'em ecosystem services, and is also beautiful.

Andony Melathopoulos: Fantastic. Thank you so much. Oh, my pleasure. Thank you so much for listening. Show notes with links from each episode are available at the website pollination podcast dot Oregon state.edu. I also love hearing from you, and there's a form at the website where you can pop in and say hello and give me feedback.

If you wanna support the show, remember to leave a rating on iTunes, Spotify, or whatever [00:41:00] podcast mothership you use. And finally, if you have the means and you want to help support my lab's effort to document B Biodiversity Oregon, visit Oregon b atlas.org and follow down to the donate button where you can make a tax deductible donation to the Jerry and Judith Paul native Pollinator endowment.

Every little bit helps. See you next

Phil Allen: episode.

Do you have an eco-lawn in the Pacific Northwest?
Dr. Allen's Ecolawn Solicitation or contact him at: [email protected]

Our Guest: Dr. Allen is Professor of Landscape Management at Brigham Young University (current enrollment = approximately 118). Dr. Allen teaches courses in Arboriculture, Landscape Design, Plant and Landscape Business Systems and Career Preparation. He serves as department internship coordinator and is co-advisor to the Plant and Landscape Systems Club and the BYU Collegiate Landscape Team. Dr. Allen is an active scientist. His research focuses on seed performance under adverse conditions. He has published 90 articles in books, journals and internet outlets. Current research projects include ecological restoration, water-conserving landscapes, lawn alternatives and robot lawn mowers.

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