Green is the buzzword across the country right now. Whether it’s recycling plastics, changing to energy-efficient light bulbs or using nontoxic cleaning products, everyone seems to be looking for ways to lessen their impact on the environment.
One area in which it’s easy to see immediate results is our yards. By gardening more ecologically, we can reduce pollution, create wildlife-friendly plantings and conserve water. It’s just a matter of being smart in the yard.
Here are some tips to make you a more ecologically minded gardener:
- Plant Trees. One of the simplest acts to reduce pollution and global warming is to grow trees. Trees absorb pollutants such as carbon monoxide and particulates. When properly placed, deciduous trees also cool houses in summer while allowing the warming sun’s rays to heat houses in winter.
- Mulch Plants. To conserve water and reduce weeding, apply a 2- to 4-inch-thick layer of organic mulch, such as shredded bark, around trees and shrubs. In dry areas, use native rock or stone mulches to conserve soil moisture.
- Find the Right Plant. Plant the right plant in the right location. Choose plants adapted to your growing region. Native plants are great because they are used to growing in your climate, and some produce berries for local birds. Site the plant in an area with well-drained soil and proper sun exposure. Make sure the ultimate size and shape of the plant will fit the location. There’s nothing worse than having to drastically prune a tree or shrub because it’s grown into the power lines or is blocking a window.
- Keep Plants Healthy. By properly watering and fertilizing your landscape plants, you’ll keep them healthy and less likely to be attacked by insects or diseases.
- Compost Your Garbage. Kitchen and yard waste make up more than 30% of the waste we send to the landfill. By composting kitchen scraps and yard debris, you’ll be making great soil for your plants and reducing the amount of trash in the landfill.
- Grow Less Lawn. Lawns have their place in the yard. However, with a smaller lawn you’ll reduce pollution because you won’t have to use the power mower as much. A conventional gas-powered lawn mower pollutes as much in an hour of mowing as driving a car 100 miles. Try using an electric or push mower instead and plantings more trees, shrubs and gardens.
- Leave the Grass Clippings. Keep your lawn healthy by mowing high (up to 3 inches tall for cool-season grasses) and leaving the grass clippings on the lawn. The clippings will decompose to feed the lawn, and you won’t have to send them to the landfill.
- Water Wisely. When watering your lawn, trees and shrubs, remember that infrequent, deep watering is better than frequent light watering. Water in the morning so plant leaves dry before evening. Wet leaves are conducive to diseases. Water a few times a week so the water soaks 1 foot deep into the soil.
Planting trees helps clean the air.
Photo courtesy of the
National Gardening Association.
Charlie Nardozzi, a nationally recognized garden writer, book author, speaker, and radio and television personality, has appeared on HGTV, PBS and Discovery Channel television networks. He is the senior horticulturist and spokesperson for the National Gardening Association and chief gardening officer for the Hilton Garden Inn.