BENEFITS OF NATURESCAPING
There are many benefits to naturescaping,
whether practiced in place of or in addition to traditional
landscaping. Here we present a few, and please recognize
that the importance of any one of these will vary depending
on one's personal perspective.
Low Maintenance - Compared to
lawns, manicured shrubbery or bark-mulch covered beds,
naturescapes are tremendously low in maintenance. Native
plants grow well together (they evolved growing along
side one another) and to predictable sizes. They do
not need watering (except during establishment), nor
do they require chemical fertilizers or any of the commercial
biocides - herbicides, insecticides, fungicides - they
are adapted to local conditions and to local "bugs"
... . They also do not require raking because leaves
in a naturescape are a soil builder, weed suppressor
and natural fertilizer. Are there better ways to spend
your time besides yard maintenance?
There is also a cost associated with
maintaining a traditional landscaping (more on that
below) and there is, of course, the noise.
How many of you have been woken up on a peaceful weedend
morning by the sounds of a mower or blower or trimmer?
Can you recall a quiet afternoon when you wanted to
nap or had friends over for a bar-b-que and just then
the neighbor launched into the noisy maintenance routine?
Is all that noise necessary? Really?
A better use of your time?
Public Health (lowers cancer rates) - Lawns
and bark-mulch beds (particularly those frequently created
in commercial landscapes) are notorious for using copious
amounts of synthetic chemicals - pesticides and fertilizers.
Have you ever considered how all those commercial planter
beds stay so weed free? It is not divine intervention
nor frequent manual labor, but rather chemical pesticides
- some so strong that their instructions say apply once
a year. Studies from Yale University indicate that the
average suburban lawn is deluged with 10 times as much
chemical pesticide per acre as farmland.
Chemical Cocktails Anyone?
And every time it rains, what happens?
Those chemicals run-off into our waterways, winding
up in the drinking water of someone downstream or in
fish or plants eaten by people (or otherwise negatively
impacting environmental health). Municipal water treatment
systems may add chlorine to kill bacteria, but they
do not test for nor treat synthetic pesticides - some
of which are suspected carcinogens
and/or mutagens (a "mutagen"
is a chemical that causes mutation, for example, a birth
defect). The negative public health consequences of
synthetic chemicals is not limited to pesticides. Fertilizer
run off is known to foul water supplies, create algae
blooms and kill fish, etc. In a recent watershed study
in Mississippi, it was found that nearly one-half of
nitrogen fertilizer and nearly one-third of phosphorous
fertilizer ran-off from its intended location and into
local waterways. Naturescaping eliminates this run-off
because chemical pesticides and fertilizers are not
The negative health impacts of traditional landscape
maintenance also includes air pollution, from exhaust
fumes and chemical drift, and noise pollution. Mowers
emit 10-12 times as much pollution as a typical auto;
string trimmers 21 times and blowers 34 times. Noise
pollution robs people of precious relaxation, thereby
maintaining and even increasing stress levels. What's
wrong with a quieter, more relaxing weekend?
Naturescaping reduces both air and noise pollution because
once a naturescape is established there is virtually
no mechanized maintenance.
Saves YOU Money - Need we say
more??? While the cost of installing a naturescape may
be comparable to that of installing a lawn with a couple
of shrub beds, the cost of maintaining a naturescape
is dramatically less. Since naturescapes effectively
take care of themselves, there is little or no maintenance
and hence little or no maintenance cost. Accordingly,
costs associated with maintaining a traditional landscape
come as an "additional" expense not incurred in naturescaping.
The U.S.Environmental Protection Agency estimates that
the cost of maintaining an average lawn is $700/year.
Add shrubs and/or flower beds and the cost goes up.
Add irrigation and the cost goes up considerably. Irrigation
systems for a 1/2 acre lot can run $10K.
What else could you do with that money?
Take yourself out to a dinner regularly, take a vacation,
buy something for yourself or loved ones, invest it?
Please also note that the average household lawnmower
is used 40 hours per year - the equivalent of a one
week vacation. Smaller lawn? No lawn? What else could
you do with your time and money?
Throwing money away?
This message applies equally well to commercial
and municipal land owners or managers? What if you could
reduced costs by up to 90% without losing the features
you or your customers want? What would that mean for
your bottom line?
From a time and cost (and pollution) standpoint,
our over-abundance of turf lawn, non-native shrub beds
and irrigation systems is simply not justified.
- It is staggering to learn that
60% of water consumed on the West Coast, and 30% on
the East Coast, goes to watering lawns. U.S. News and
World Report states that a 1000 sq. ft. lawn (for example,
20' x 50') requires 10,000 gallons
of water per summer to maintain a "green" look. In the
west, whole rivers are bleed dry for watering. In communities
across the U.S., irrigation is mandated in building
codes, further perpetuating this wasteful practice.
What is the cost? What is the morality?
In the Pacific Northwest, water diversion is considered
one of the major causes for the dramatic decline and
near extinction of salmon. Across the country, the "salmon"
story is being repeated, though with other species.
In addition, as we continue our wasteful practices with
water, taking it out of streams and rivers and returning
it with chemical pesticides and fertilizers, we diminish
water quality everywhere - creating a shortage of good
quality water. Communities that have not secured a water
source "high up" in local mountains, often have little
recourse but to drink water of lesser quality.
As to the financial cost of wasteful water
practices, this is reflected in ever increasing water
bills and property taxes (through which facilities improvements
Naturescapes do not require permanent
irrigation and hence to not contribute to wasteful and
costly water practices of the past.
Birds - Where have all the song
birds gone? ... Our songs birds inlcude Warblers, Grosbeaks,
Tanagers, Thrushes, Hummingbirds, and many others. Many
of these birds migrate to Central America in the winter
and return here for the summer to produce their young.
The winter habitat of these birds is being lost to coffee
plantations (buy shade grown coffee!) and other, primarily
agricultural, uses. The summer habitat of these birds
is being lost to urban and agricultural development
and monoculture forestry practices. Populations of all
of our migratory song birds are dropping and there is
no end in sight. American Goldfinch populations have
dropped 6.2% per year during the last
30 years. Swainson's Thrush populations have dropped
8.4% per year over that same period.
These declines are not exceptional, but unfortunately,
representative. Similar declines are being experienced
by all of our migratory song birds.
Song Bird - Black Headed Grosbeak
It is your courage in planting a naturescape,
a little deviation from the norm, that will ensure a
legacy to our children and their children that includes
the color, sound, flight fascination, and (excuse the
pun) up-lift that comes from birds, and the similar
joy that comes from other creatures.
From the above, you can see that there are many benefits
to landscaping with native plants. It will save you
money. It will save you time. It is healthier for you
and for others. It enhances the livability of the place
you live in, and fosters relaxation and recreation.
It preserves bio-diversity (birds, fish, etc.) and may
increase property values. And it is sure to bring onto
you the admiration of the next generation - who will
also benefit greatly from your foresight and courage.
Yes, it is new, and there is always a bit of a challenge
with learning something new, but it is very "do-able,"
there are no wrong steps and the reward is very special.
Power to you!
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