Summer officially starts on June 20, but many areas of the country are already experiencing summer-like conditions. If you’re conscious about keeping your environmental footprint small, have you thought about what is best for both your lawn and garden as well as the environment in general? Check out these 10 tips on how to be green-minded when caring for your yard this year.
Commonly available yard care materials, like fertilizers and pesticides, usually contain man-made chemicals. Not only are they often harmful to the environment, they’re usually more expensive than organic alternatives. Going organic in your garden is a process that should be completed from the ground up, literally. Build healthy soil with manure and add your own compost as you go (as discussed later in this article). If you find pests or plants in your garden, make sure you eliminate those using only organic solutions like pyrethrins, sulfur powder or citronella sprays.
Mulching not only prevents those annoying weeds from sprouting in your garden, it’s also the best method for conserving soil moisture. If you live in a dry climate and/or somewhere with strict watering restrictions, mulching helps you conserve valuable moisture. Experts recommend adding two to three inches of mulch to your garden and around landscape plants. Some of the best organic mulch options are shredded tree bark, cocoa bean hulls, pine needles, grass clippings and coir.
Native plants—also known as indigenous plants—are plants commonly found where you live. Gardening with native plants requires less work, less water, and will be healthier since they’re suited to the climate, precipitation and soil of the region. Native plants are a sustainable option because they serve as shelter and a food source for insects and birds that reside in your area.
While a beautiful lawn as green as the fairways at Augusta National is a goal for many of us, this kind of lawn is costly and has a major environmental impact–from watering and gasoline for mowing and trimming–unless you live in an environment where rainfall naturally supports it. Perennial grasses that require less water, low-growing shrubs, groundcovers and stone walkways are all options that will reduce the need for additional watering.
No matter the amount of grass in your yard, watering efficiently is important, especially as many communities impose water restrictions. Xeriscaping is one option because native shrubs and perennials require much less watering overall. Capturing natural rainwater from your gutters in rain barrels (especially if you live in a region with steady rain during the spring and fall) and directing it to your lawn and garden during dry summers is another way of reducing the need to water.
Growing your own food is sustainable, reducing the cost of transporting food from farms and better utilizing the ground at your disposal. And, it can be a healthier option, since you’ll know everything that touches it. Fruits, vegetables and herbs are all viable options. Grow by seasons for best results and to reduce environmental impact. Many vegetables will grow well during the spring but are too sensitive to survive the summer heat, so plan to harvest them accordingly. Tomatoes and peppers grow very well during the summer, and there are various cool season crops like turnips and squash you can try during the fall and winter.
Perennials, which can last for years, are some of the best plants you can buy. Small perennials will grow bigger year after year, as opposed to annuals, which die and have to be replaced. When shopping, check the plant tag to see if the plants you’ve chosen are tailored to the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone where you live.
At the end of the season, collect the dried seeds from your plants and store them in a dry space of your home for the winter. You can dry them on paper towels and store them in zipper-style storage bags. They will then be ready for sowing once spring rolls around. Marigolds, sunflowers and morning glories provide some of the most reliable seeds.
Compost allows you to put back into the earth some of what you have taken out of it. Use those grass clippings each time you mow your yard, deadheaded flowers, and fallen leaves, mixed with fruit and vegetable trimmings from the kitchen to build your soil’s nutrients for spring plants.
A gas-powered lawn mower creates about as much pollution as a cross-town trip in your car. Look into purchasing electric yard equipment such as mowers, trimmers and blowers. You may find using these easier and more practical than you’d believe if you have a smaller property. These rechargeable devices will also save you money and trips to the gas pump.