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Good Steward Post

Stewardship in the Home Landscape

Updated: Dec 16, 2022

In the Bible God gives His first commandments to man in Genesis 1:28. In it, we find the directive that man is to have dominion over all living things on earth. As a company, we believe this means man is responsible for caring for his dominion as a steward would care over a noble’s estate. For the great majority, this simply means taking care of our own properties, particularly the land our homes are on. Practically speaking, the land where our homes are used to be wilderness in part of a thriving ecosystem. As our homes were developed, that wilderness was often destroyed. Native prairie, forests, or shrub were usually destroyed for agricultural purposes; then overtime this agriculture land was converted to suburban subdivision. Native plants are rarely used to landscape these developments, usually exotic turf grasses and shrubs are used simply for ornamental purposes.

Sadly, these foreign turf grasses and shrubs provide minimal support to our native ecosystems. Native wildlife thrives in conditions where their native food (plants) is present. Some species, particularly species of butterfly and moths are unable to survive at all without native plants. This unique relationship is demonstrated with monarch butterflies and milkweed species. Monarch butterflies lay their eggs on milkweed flowers as they are designed to eat that specific plant. Without milkweed, monarch caterpillars will not eat and turn into future monarch caterpillars.

The continual spread of human development is having dramatic negative effects on our ecosystems. In Illinois only 1% of the original prairie is still in existence today; similarly, 70% of the original Illinois wetlands and 65% of Illinois forests have been destroyed. Looking across the United States, the typical American home’s landscaping consists of turfgrasses from Europe, and shrubs or bushes from Europe or Asia. According to Popular Science, Americans spend $76 Billion on lawn care. Sadly, these foreign lawns are equivalent to biological wastelands as they provide little to no food to our native wildlife. The late entomologist E.O. Wilson predicted the sixth great mass extinction event will occur under our watch if we don’t preserve half of the earth to natural wilderness. In his book, Nature’s Best Hope, entomologist and ecologist Douglas Tallamy helps us put this in practical terms: convert 50% of our existing landscaping to native plants (p. 62).

According to Douglas Tallamy, the U.S. has over 40 million acres of lawn and 500 square miles are added every year (Nature’s Best Hope, p. 47). Just a few pages later Tallamy shocks us by stating 85% of invasive woody plants in our natural preserves escape from home landscaping! For hundreds of years Americans have adopted similar landscaping practices: lush, green manicured lawns bordered with ornamental shrubs and flowers from Europe and Asia. It is only natural that landscaping companies have adopted to providing these same services. If we are to care for our dominions, one of the most practical ways is to convert our exotic lawns and shrubs to native groundcovers and native shrubs.

If we are to preserve and restore our native habitats, Americans need more native landscaping. Whether you are a DIYer, a fellow landscaper, or a future customer of Good Steward Ecoscapes, we invite you to join us in Backyard Conservation and incorporate native plants in your landscape.

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