Native plants are ideal landfill cover solutions.
Written by Corrine Daniels
Consider this: Using native species—grasses and wildflowers—as landfill cover is more cost-effective than using conventional vegetation strategies and provides benefits that go a long way in gaining public acceptance.
Going native is the right decision when it comes to landfill cover for a number of reasons.
Reason 1—Natives work well in poor soils. Because natives are adapted to hang on in tough conditions—drought, flood, heat, cold, and heavy rains—they tend not to be too fussy about soil quality. In fact, many natives prefer poorer soils. Trucking in high-quality soil is usually not necessary, saving landfill operators a lot of upfront cost.
Reason 2—Natives are adapted to adapt. True natives are wild type, meaning that they carry a host of genetic variation. Populations can adapt to a wide degree of moisture regimes and soil temperatures. Many highly adaptive species can handle wet spots, dry spots, heating, and wind. By selecting a diverse range of natives, you can successfully vegetate areas that are otherwise difficult to cover.
Reason 3—Natives can quickly stabilize slopes without compromising the landfill cap. Choosing the right native species blend can help quickly vegetate slopes and hold soil in place—without compromising the cap. Research on closed landfill caps has proved there’s no need to fear root penetration of the landfill cap. Roots prefer the path of least resistance and will avoid inhospitable, anaerobic conditions like those contained within the cap. Penetration of the cap occurs when the cap itself cracks. Roots don’t cause cracks; neither will they tend to penetrate the cap in the absence of cracks.
Reason 4—Natives provide unparalleled diversity and beauty throughout the year. Standard DOT mixes of short-lived cool season grasses and invasive legumes cannot compete with the color, texture, variety, and habitat a native landscape provides. There are literally hundreds of native species to choose from—allowing you to paint the landfill with color and texture. In addition, native plants provide food and shelter for the “flying flowers” (birds and butterflies) the public love.
Reason 5—Natives do not require burning. Burning helps control invasive weeds and many native plants thrive after burning. But, despite popular misconceptions, burning does not have to be part of a successful native landscape maintenance plan.
However, it is worth noting that landfills can be safely burned using a prescribed burning technique applied by ecological restoration specialists—as proved by the work of the Illinois EPA.
Keep in mind that not all native seeds, plants, and providers of natives are created equal. Using true wild types and reasonably local genotypes helps ensure success, as does the proper species selection. Experienced restoration contractors and established native nurseries are best equipped to help you make good selections for your landfill—without adding unnecessary expense.
When it comes down to it, the seed and plant material you put down results in what the public sees for years to come. Going native is a cost-effective way to provide excellent cover for your landfill property while creating results that will please the local community.
To find additional information about native vegetation, prescribed burning methods, and landfill management techniques, please visit http://www.appliedeco.com.
Contributing columnist Corrine Daniels is principal nursery manager for Applied Ecological Services’ Restoration Nurseries in Brodhead, WI.
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