Existing in an unpleasant environment — from too much screen time to the sickly fluorescent glow of office cubicles to the planet-killing grind of rush-hour traffic — can cause unhealthy amounts of stress. To relieve ourselves of this sickness, many of us turn to and cultivate spaces in the great outdoors where we might unwind and recharge.
Yet an expanse of lush, manicured lawn, or a garden pruned and sprayed to an unnaturally pristine degree, does us no favors. The work required to maintain such spaces reduces the time to enjoy them, and the chemicals and equipment needed harm the nature with which we seek to bond.
“Naturescaping” — which requires less money and time and fewer herbicides than traditional landscaping while using native plants to attract and benefit local wildlife and insects — is a terrific way to contribute to a thriving local environment while creating a low-maintenance, healing retreat.
The benefits of naturescaping are many compared to traditional landscaping. In the broad strokes, naturescaping is simply easier, healthier, and cheaper for you while being better for the planet.
Let’s break it down a bit further:
- Stress reduction: Studies show nature deprivation, or a lack of time in natural environments, is connected with depression. Conversely, time in nature decreases stress and anxiety and lowers heart rate, blood pressure, and muscle tension. Other studies have shown time in nature increases energy, positive emotions, cognition, and creativity while relieving attention fatigue. Exposure to nature has been connected to better pain tolerance and quicker recovery time in hospital patients.
- Improved public health: During rain events, chemicals from synthetic fertilizers and pesticides commonly used in traditional landscaping can be found in stormwater runoff. This can cause unintended consequences for areas beyond the treated land — not only for plants and wildlife but as potentially dangerous runoff into public water supplies. Naturescaping requires little in the way of fertilizer or pesticides, reducing risky runoff.
- Wildlife boon: The idea of landscaping with native plants has gained momentum in recent years thanks, in part, to the plight of the bumblebee. American bumblebees, essential pollinators in agriculture, have seen a U.S. population decline of 89% in the last 20 years. They and other pollinators are considered “keystone species,” because so many other species depend on them. Traditional landscaping has led to habitat loss and pesticide poisoning for declining populations of pollinators from hummingbirds to monarch butterflies. Traditional landscaping also leads toward monocultures, where popular non-native plants are over-employed and native food sources are squeezed, adversely affecting local birds, insects, and animals.
- Ease of maintenance: Naturescaping focuses on native plants. Simply, native plants are plants that evolved in a given area. They are adapted to the climate, are a component of the ecosystem, and tend to grow to appropriate sizes for the conditions. As such, they require less work and resources (pruning, watering, fertilizing, spraying with insecticides, winter protection, etc.).
- Time and money saver: Traditional landscaping requires consistent watering and maintenance. Naturescaping is designed to take care of itself, so you can spend more time enjoying your outdoor environment and less time primping it. Native plants generally get by fine on typical local rainfall, as such saving you money on watering, helping to conserve water, and avoiding a potentially harmful runoff. Plus, native plants mean perennial plants. You can save money by avoiding yearly purchases of spring, summer, and fall annuals.
- Equipment reduction: Naturescaping will reduce or eliminate your need for items such as lawnmowers, hedge trimmers, weed trimmers, and blowers. Beyond the expense of operating, maintaining, and storing this gear, you’ll also cut back on the air and noise pollution created by their operation.
Plant Your Flag
The idea of a traditional yard and garden is etched as deeply into the American dream psyche as a white picket fence and two and a half kids. Naturescaping sets aside those conventions to embrace local biodiversity.
Your plants will be grown locally, so even the act of getting them to your landscape will have a lesser environmental impact. You’ll run less often to the garden center, reducing your footprint yet again.
When you say yes to naturescaping, you’re saying yes to working with the contours of the land rather than against them. You’re choosing plants appropriate to the land rather than trying to contrive a landscape appropriate to the plants. Also, you’re saying no to spending 30% to 60% of your household water bill on watering the lawn. You’re inviting local wildlife into your world.
You’re creating a space that invites your senses to wander through it rather than gaze upon a static “look,” that at once creates a feeling of serenity while igniting your curiosity with the haphazard and occasionally random beauty of nature in action. Also, you’re welcoming the opportunity to educate your neighbors about the beauty and benefits of naturescaping.