Don’t you just love your yard? Your patch of the great outdoors is the perfect spot for relaxing in the fresh air or hosting a friendly get-together. Be sure to keep Mother Earth in mind when you organize and tend your lawn and garden, though. That way, your green space can be enjoyed by generations to come. Here’s the how-to.
Reduce the amount of water-hungry lawn grass you have on your property … but don’t replace it with impermeable concrete, as some bloggers suggest. A permeable surface like ground cover, pavers, or river rocks will permit rainwater to safely re-enter the aquifer. Another option is to go for xeriscaping, that is, landscaping with native plants which are adapted to your climate. If you must have some lawn, let the grass blades grow a little longer to hold in moisture and reduce their water requirement. Water it early in the day (before 9 am) to minimize evaporation, preferably with the help of efficient drip lines instead of sprinklers. Better yet, take your recycling a very useful step further by installing a graywater system designed to water your lawn and garden with recycled water previously used for bathing, washing dishes, and so on.
Herbicides will kill weeds, true, but these toxins are really not something you want to let loose in your yard – or the environment in general. Instead, avoid unwanted growth by planting your vegetable or flower garden in raised beds or containers; this is also much easier on your back and knees. Alternatively, spread the surface with mulch, which will keep out weeds and add nutrients at the same time. Another option is to cover the ground with eco-friendly landscape cloth.
Why use chemical fertilizers to improve the soil in your yard or garden when it is so easy to turn your kitchen leftovers into nutritious compost? In addition to enriching it with compost, be sure to aerate the earth regularly. This will alleviate soil compaction, allowing air and essential nutrients to reach your plants’ roots more readily while avoiding potential problems like runoff, erosion, or even flooding. For the ultimate combo of nutrition and aeration, introduce an earthworm colony to your property.
Keeping away insect pests
Natural predators such as ladybugs and lacewing flies will kill and eat insect pests rather than simply poisoning them -- and your yard. Ward off mosquitoes by getting rid of all sources of standing water. If you would like to install a water feature, try a circulating fountain that is powered with green solar energy, or a frog pond. (The frogs will be happy to gobble up any mosquitoes for you.)
Plant shrubs or bushes around your home to act as a natural wind barrier and insulator; this will keep you and your family naturally comfortable year round using less air conditioning and heating. Shade your porch or pergola from an excess of sun by planting vines (preferably flowering, to add charming color and scent). “Zone” your yard by grouping plants according to their water requirements; this will make it simpler to give each their quota of H2O. Choose plantings that will attract pollinators – birds, bees, and butterflies.
Green your outdoor hardscape, such as seating, retaining wall, deck, fence, and playground equipment. Build these features out of sustainable materials like recovered wood fiber, recycled post-consumer plastic, or long-lasting locally gathered stone. Use low- to no-VOC paints and finishes. Illuminate your outdoor living space with solar lights or LEDs. Do your homework to make sure a given material is indeed eco-friendly. For example, while wood is a natural substance, not all types are created equal when it comes to sustainability. Look for the Forest Stewardship Council certification which proves the wood was sustainably grown and responsibly harvested.
Laura Firszt writes for networx.com.