Summer Soil Booster

Temporary planting scheme improves soil health, prepares your lot for what's next.

SunPart Shade










Sun, Part Shade

The Summer Soil Booster is an affordable planting strategy to protect and enrich soil. This design is a temporary strategy that adds value while you decide on the next step for your lot. This lot design provides two planting options: Flowering Annual Cover Crop and Native Warm Season Grass Mix. The Flowering Annual Cover Crop provides one season of vibrant color, while the Native Warm Season Grass Mix can be used for one to five planting seasons before requiring replacement. Both planting options in this lot design will grow rapidly during the summer months.

Farmers use these cover crop type plants to replenish nutrients in the soil. Typically, these cover crops hold farmers’ valuable soil in place after annual crops have been harvested. Before planting crops the following spring, the warm season grasses are turned into the soil for an added nutrient boost. In a traditional agricultural practice, this is referred to as Green Manure.

This lot design is a very low cost, beginner-friendly option for anyone looking to create warm season interest for the birds and butterflies, while working to improve the soils on your lot. This full site planting fits nicely on a single lot but does even more for the birds with two or even three touching lots.

Ideal Location: Residential lots in full sun or part sun.


The Summer Soil Booster is a very low cost lot design. The majority of the cost of installing this design is from the seeds for plants, and in possibly renting or purchasing equipment to prepare your lot. It is possible to install the lot design through the use of volunteer labor. If you have internet access, it is possible to install this lot design without needing a car by ordering the seeds on-line or over the phone. The cost assumes that residents or volunteers have access to basic safety gear and garden tools.

Green Infrastructure

By improving the soil conditions on your lot and preventing runoff, you are contributing to the overall health of our Great Lakes waterways.

Vegetation and Visibility

The species selected in this site design grow to a range of maximum heights. This partially limits views from the street through to the alley, however you will be able to mostly see through the plants.

Most Interesting Season

Other Consideration


Installing the Summer Soil Booster will make for a fun and rewarding weekend with your friends, family or neighbors. The installation of this lot design should not require professional assistance if you, with the help and support of others, would like to build this design. Please refer to the Step-By-Step section for guidance. The installation process does not require any special, mechanized equipment. The most strenuous physical tasks are potentially removing any existing vegetation from your lot, and scarifying, or raking the surface of the planting area. Machines like a power rake might help, but for a single lot, you should be okay with rakes, some good music and maybe also some lemonade. If you select to use a power rake, we recommend borrowing or renting multiple rakes, as this will ease and accelerate your installation process. There are many surprises just beneath the surface of structure-free land in Detroit, including extremely clay soils, and often rubble and other debris. Always hire a professional (or barter with one of your more energetic neighbors) if you are not up for the challenge, but remember, this will increase your costs.

This design is best matched with Detroiters who are interested in working with the land. One optional part of the ‘build’ is in the following growing season, to turn the prior years’ growth back into the soil, as a way of delivering extra nutrients. This will take as much work as the initial site preparation.

Build Time Estimate

Six hands or less! With the help of friends, family or neighbors, this project could be completed in a weekend. The Field Guide assumes the lot is ‘construction ready,’ and all equipment and materials required for the lot design have been acquired and are ready to use.

Build Difficulty

Number of People Needed

Neighbor Labor

Time Taken to Build

Build Season

Transportation Intensity

Permit Requirements


This lot design is very low maintenance, however is best matched with folks who are interested in hands-on work. The Summer Soil Booster offers a very low cost but truly hands on approach to improving soils. Other than the optional but recommended ‘green manure’ strategy, the biggest maintenance task will be watering the seeds to ensure germination. The species in this lot design require watering every two to three days. Overall the maintenance level is very low unless you decide to maintain warm season grasses for longer than one planting season.

Seasonal Upkeep Levels

  • Spring: Low
  • Summer: Low
  • Fall: Low
  • Winter: Low

Upkeep Frequency

Upkeep Skill Levels

Professional Assistance

Special Tools