Americans’ obsession with highly manicured lawns and non-beneficial landscapes has created a monoculture carpet of turf grass and mulch across the country that covers over 40 million acres. These landscapes no longer support functioning ecosystems; in fact, they fuel our dependency on water, pesticides, and herbicides. The traditional suburban lawn, on average, has 10 times more chemical pesticides per acre than farmland. Nationally, this amounts to over 80 million pounds of pesticides applied to lawns each year.
As Lady Bird Johnson said, “native plants give us a sense of where we are in this great land of ours.”
Planting a garden of native plants is a wonderful, low-maintenance alternative however, that can help eradicate these harmful habits and reduce their effects. And what’s more, native gardens offer the transformative power to create, in each of us, a steward of the land we are privileged to have in our care. Native gardens have a multitude of benefits. They:
Are low maintenance. Once established, native plants generally require little upkeep.
Conserve water. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, 30 to 60 percent of fresh water in American cities is used for watering lawns. Native plants have adapted to thrive without added water.
Require little-to-no pesticides, herbicides, or fertilizers. Unlike many non-native plants, native plants are hardy, less susceptible to pests and diseases and unlikely to become invasive. Provide food and shelter for pollinators and wildlife. Native plants provide food and nectar for pollinators including hummingbirds, native bees, butterflies, moths, and bats. Many are host plants to our region’s butterflies.
Promote essential biodiversity. Plants are the base of the food web. The pollen, nectar and foliage they provide feed insects and animals that are, in turn, eaten by other animals and insects. Even modest increases in the native plant cover on suburban properties raise the number and species of breeding birds, butterflies, and other wildlife. Natives in your landscape will also provide shelter and nesting sites for insects and other wildlife.
Reduce mowing and landscaping cost. It’s just common sense—the less lawn you have, the less you spend on mowing, maintenance, water, and the fossil fuels it takes to power lawn equipment.
Inspire with beauty. A native garden is simply beautiful. It is a common misconception that they are unsightly; any garden--just like any lawn--that's not cared for properly will eventually become a visual blunder. In reality, our native plants offer colorful, showy flowers, produce abundant colorful fruits and seeds, and change throughout the seasons with new interest.
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