According to Scott, gardeners could help maintain the health of the
planet and their pocketbooks by planting native species in their
yards. "By planting prairie grasses and native trees and shrubs,
gardeners will not only create natural shade and wind block to
reduce the homeowner's energy bills, but they will also reduce
greenhouse gas emissions, which contribute to climate change," said
Scott. "This type of conservation practice is yet another option for
green thumbs to reap what they sow."
Native plants also adapt to
their surroundings more easily, reducing labor and water usage.
Plants absorb from the atmosphere, then use sunlight and water to
create carbon molecules like sugars and plant tissue. As plant roots
die, the carbon molecules in the roots remain underground unless
they are exposed to the air through tillage or other disturbance.
Therefore, grasslands are an excellent storehouse of soil carbon. If
managed properly, soil can remove more carbon dioxide from the
atmosphere more economically and quickly than any other method. Land
management practices such as planting prairie grasses and native
vegetations increase soil carbon, restore the land, prevent erosion,
improve biodiversity and increase productivity.
Planting hardwood trees as a conservation practice is one of the
best ways to control carbon from being released into the atmosphere.
Trees require minimal maintenance and also play a big part in
fighting against climate change. One tree will absorb 1 ton of
carbon dioxide -- a major greenhouse gas, which contributes to
global warming -- in its lifetime.
[to top of second column]
Contrary to popular belief, while typical yard grass is pretty, it's
not always greener. Short-rooted turf grasses, which typically cover
entire yards, require frequent mowing and regular applications of
water and fertilizer. Though readily available, relatively
inexpensive and quick to stabilize, they do not have the sustained
drought tolerance of native prairie grasses, such as switchgrass,
big bluestem and Indian grass.
Native prairie grasses could be used to combat the challenging
task of controlling erosion, because they develop extremely deep
roots. They are hardy plants that need less mowing, fertilizer,
pesticide and water, thus benefiting the environment and reducing
maintenance costs. Native plants are adapted to local conditions, so
they are more likely to be self-reliant and more resistant than the
native vegetation is to an invasion by non-native or woody
"By adopting conservation practices and landscaping the yard this
summer with trees and native prairie grasses, one person can make a
difference in the global fight against climate change," said Scott.
Environmental Protection Agency
file received from
Illinois Office of
Communication and Information]