The Greener Side of the Fence - Native Plants Landscaping
Native plants and grasses in the place of traditional lawns can save resources, cut landscaping costs and significantly reduce pollution.
In the 1660s, French landscape architect Andre LeNotre incorporated lawn areas in his design of the Palace of Versailles. Over the next hundred years, the English aristocracy enthusiastically adopted this style, popularizing it in the rich English countryside, where it thrived with moderate temperatures and plentiful rainfall. From there, colonists brought the passion for a manicured turf to the New World, to the point where lawn competitions were widespread in the early 1900s.
Now, in the U.S., Lawn Care is a $40 billion dollar industry. 85 million homes are complete with private lawns, totaling more than 20 million acres nationwide. Unsurprisingly, there is whole lot of energy and resources used in the upkeep and maintenance of this category of land. Here are some figures:
- 30 to 60 percent of fresh water in urban areas is used for watering lawns
- More than 5 billion dollars is spent on lawn fertilizers made from fossil fuels every year
- Each year 580 million gallons of gasoline are consumed in lawnmowers
- The emissions from running a lawnmower for one hour are equivalent to those of a car driven for 45 minutes
- 67 million pounds of synthetic pesticides are expended per year
- The installation of sodded turf costs $12,000 per acre, the planting of new grass costs $4,000 to $8,000 per acre
The installation of native plants and grasses is a step towards lessening the effect of the above figures, and there are financial and environmental benefits as well.
A native plants garden in Texas.
Save Money and Resources
Growing a plant in the locale in which its species evolved means it is predisposed to thriving in the local climate and conditions. Native plants and grasses have the natural ability to deal with climatological issues such as drought and cold winters. They have evolved defenses against poor soil conditions and the insects and diseases of their home region. Therefore, they can flourish without the need for significant irrigation, fertilizer, pesticides and replanting. Which means less labor for the homeowner and lower water and material costs.
Aside from reducing air pollution from significant gasoline powered lawnmower and leaf blower use, the installation of native plants and grasses has other ecological benefits. Traditional grasses used as turf have roots that grow only a few inches into the ground, whereas native plants often penetrate several feet if not more, greatly reducing the potential for soil erosion. Additionally, overall water quality is improved through reduced pollution from stormwater—a native landscape will absorb ten times more runoff than a traditional lawn.
Root lengths: Traditional lawn turf is all the way to the left.
If you're willing to take the time and do the research, a native grass lawn or native plant landscaping investment may be worth it for your finances and the local environment.