Emily Steinwehe plants a peach tree, one of many edible yard options most homeowners don’t think of.
“Everybody should be growing something,” says Emily Steinwehe. But sometimes the only thing many homeowners are growing is their lawns. Steinwehe wants to change that with her business, Emily Plants.
What started as a fruit tree share program among friends (she planted on their properties and split the costs and harvest) has grown to an almost full-service landscape business here in Madison. Steinwehe can reach more people and educate them about sustainability and edibility in their yards.
Steinwehe has been gardening for over a decade and also holds seasonal gigs at Door Creek Orchard and Aldo Leopold Nature Center. “I’m happy to provide advice so people don’t make the same mistakes I made,” she says.
Her services can be as simple as identification, for someone wondering what they have in their yard, and consultation, for people who want help coordinating plants that work well together.
Steinwehe will also do the full circle of planning, purchasing, planting and pruning, and follow up with care and maintenance guides so customers can keep their garden thriving. She aims to blend beauty and function in the garden, using plants and trees in relation to each other to attract pollinators, for instance.
She focuses on edibles, perennials and native plants. Peach, pear and chestnut trees, along with raspberry bushes, asparagus plants and unusual fruits like pawpaw, persimmon and honeyberry are just some of the offerings Steinwehe touts as easy-care plantings that work well in Wisconsin.
Steinwehe also encourages people to get rid of their lawns because, while a lawn is better than pavement, people can improve the sustainability of their properties by adding more of the deeper-rooted plants like shrubs, trees and native perennials, providing a storage system for carbon in the soil. The process of carbon sequestration, in which deeper-rooted plants take carbon particles out of the atmosphere and hold them in the soil, is a way to slow down the accumulation of greenhouse gases and defer global warming and the dangerous effects of climate change.
“Whenever I drive around town and see a big lawn that doesn’t have any shade,” says Steinwehe, “I think about knocking on their door and asking if they’d like to start a community garden.”
Steinwehe will also help customers set up simple rain gardens and get started on composting. She’s a proponent of reusing organic matter, like taking the leaves from your trees and mulching them to improve your own soil, rather than setting them curbside for a truck to take away and burn fossil fuels in the process.
Services run $25-$50 per hour, but says she wants to be accessible to anyone because her goal is to create a better future for our environment, one yard at a time.