Landscaping is big business in the U.S. for businesses and homeowners alike. With new efforts to save the planet, though, it’s time to turn some serious attention towards the way we landscape in order to determine greener alternatives for your landscaping activities.
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Americans spend $25 billion on the lawn care industry per year, and $700 million of that money is spent on lawn pesticides. With that in mind, what can we do to make our landscaping process greener – and perhaps cut the costs of landscaping to the planet as well as to our pocketbooks?
Eliminate Harmful Pesticides
It’s important to understand that there are natural methods to manage pests as well as organic pesticides for almost every pest problem your lawn and garden may have. Whether you’re trying to keep squirrels from pulling up bulbs or deer and rabbits from gobbling up your vegetables, there are things you can do that do not involve chemical pollutants that can contaminate groundwater and do irreparable harm to the planet.
- Consider using cotton balls or rags soaked in peppermint oil to deter rodents and rabbits (protect them from rain though as it will dilute the peppermint fragrance).
- Use pheromone traps (away from your garden since they attract pests) to lure pests away from your garden and trap them there.
- Fly-paper is a time-tested and effective method for attracting certain pests away from your garden and keeping them away.
- Heavily fragranced soap (SF Gate recommends Irish Spring Soap) can keep deer and other pests who don’t like the fragrance away. Some people put shavings around the perimeter of the garden, kept in drawstring pouches stapled to wooden stakes, while others leave whole bars in the branches of bushes and trees.
Water may very well be the most precious resource on the planet. Sadly, it’s often wasted in pursuit of greener lawns and cleaner cars. There are actions you can take in pursuit of a perfect lawn that will allow you to have your lush green lawn without wasting precious water in the process of getting it. These are just a few small steps you can take that will yield big results for your lawn and the planet.
- Plant native plants in your garden – plants that are accustomed to the normal rainfall and temperature of your region are not only easier to maintain, they require less added water.
- Look for drought resistant plants – these beauties come in all shapes, sizes, and colors and they are truly beneficial to your garden in a water conserving effort.
- Use grey water for watering your garden – while you do not want to use sudsy water on vegetables your family will eat, it’s a great idea for watering the grass.
- Collect rainwater in rain barrels to use on your lawn and garden – whether you’re landscaping or growing food for the family, rain barrels are the perfect solution to save valuable water for the days when rain is in short supply.
- Reduce the actual green space of your lawn – there are plenty of landscaping materials, such as sand or stone, that allow you to have a stunningly beautiful garden area, without using water. They also reduce the amount of lawn that does need water in order to remain green.
- Resist the urge to overwater – your lawn doesn’t need water every day at the exact same time. Instead of always watering your lawn, consider only watering your lawn when it shows signs that water is needed.
Reduce Pollution in Your Landscaping Efforts
One of the most common landscaping and lawn maintenance chores is mowing. During summer months when grass experiences rapid growth, some people have been known to mow once or twice per week in order to keep their lawns looking lush and green while minimizing the appearance of faster growing weeds.
The problem with this, according to the EPA, is that one hour of mowing with a typical gas-powered lawn mower provides as much pollution as driving an automobile 45 miles. Those same gas-powered lawn mowers and other landscape equipment such as trimmers, blowers, and chainsaws, account for more than five percent of urban air pollution, according to a second EPA fact sheet.
Of course this isn’t the only pollution in your landscaping efforts. While the use of fossil fuel derived fertilizers may not be an active form of pollution on your part, the process by which the fuels are derived causes pollution, and $5.25 billion is spent yearly on fossil fuel derived fertilizers destined for U.S. lawns, so it’s a big problem.
What can you do to reduce pollution in your landscaping efforts?
Consider Grass Alternatives
There are many options you have available to you instead of grass for your lawn. Keep these in mind as options to green grass. Perhaps one will appeal to you for your lawn.
Gardenista recommends allowing your lawn to be taken over by “wanted weeds” such as clover, that do not grow like grass but manage to thrive even in drought conditions and help to replenish nitrogen in the soil. You’ll have a green lawn that doesn’t need constant mowing. The article includes a healthy selection of choices available if clovers don’t exactly float your boat.
Synthetic grass is another option to consider. There are many different brands available, and when you consider the big picture for traditional lawns, fertilization, and maintenance, fake grass provides an evergreen, low maintenance concept that is appealing to many homeowners – one that just might be greener, over the long haul, than grass.
Use a Greener Lawn Mower
There are many lawn mower options today, more than ever before, that will help you take care of your lawn without polluting the planet. These are a few top choices you might be interested in trying for yourself.
- Corded Electric Mowers
- Cordless Electric Mowers
- Reel Mowers
- Solar Powered Mowers
Not only do these mowers produce fewer emissions than gas-powered mowers, but they also generate less noise, making them an option for people interested in preserving the peace while mowing the lawn.
Seek Natural Fertilization Alternatives
There are cleaner, greener alternatives to traditional chemical-laden fertilizer products – many of them are in your home right this minute. Keep these in mind and skip the chemicals. You’ll have a greener garden you can be proud to call your own as a result.
- Coffee Grounds
- Egg Shells
Each of these uses something leftover from items you use every day. Using them reduces waste and adds nutrients to the soil in your garden. It’s a win for the planet and for you.
Plant with Heating and Cooling Your Home in Mind
Trees are an important component of any complete landscaping project. Where you plant trees around your home can have a significant impact on your heating and cooling bills throughout the year.
Plant deciduous trees, those that will shed leaves in the fall, on the south-facing side of your home. This allows them to provide valuable shade from the sun during the summer months – helping to spare your cooling expenses – while allowing the sun to shine into your home, bringing much-wanted warmth, in the winter.
Consider planting coniferous trees, like spruce, first, and pine trees to block northwesterly winds in winter that can cut right through with biting cold otherwise. These trees add a buffer between your home and the wind as well as between you and higher heating costs throughout the winter.
Finally, plant trees that will shade paved parking areas on your property in order to reduce the “heat island” effect that superheats the pavement and the area around it.
Practice the Four Rs in Your Landscaping
Eventually, being a good caretaker of the planet always comes back to the four Rs.
Stop bagging up grass clippings and other yard waste to go to landfills. Currently, yard waste counts for roughly 20 percent of municipal solid waste – most of which is destined for local landfills. Reduce the amount of waste your yard produces by either reducing the amount of lawn you trim week after week, allow grass clippings to decompose in place to fertilize the soil, or by recycling them into mulch for other landscaping projects.
The University of Idaho reports that some states have banned grass clippings from landfills because of the amount of room they occupy for no real reason. The university supports the “Don’t Bag It!” initiative that promotes healthy lawns by reducing the amount of grass clippings destined for landfills.
Reclaim wood and lumber to use in your landscaping efforts. Not only does this add a rustic appeal to your lawn, but it also keeps good wood products from filling up precious landfill space.
There are all kinds of materials you can repurpose into stunning landscaping materials. From visiting home improvement or construction salvage or reclaim stores you can find anything from bricks to create garden paths, wine bottles to build a beautiful garden wall, or even leftover lattice to create stunning arches and deck covering. The only limit in this endeavor is your imagination.
If you simply can’t stand grass clippings and downed limbs and tree branches littering your landscape, consider checking with your local recycling center to see if they offer a program to recycle these things into compost. If they don’t offer a program for this, many professionals can point you in the right direction so you can recycle these materials. Otherwise, consider using at least grass clippings in your own composting efforts.
Eco-friendly landscaping can be such an adventure. The more you dive in and learn about the possibilities, the more new doors and windows open up for you and the planet. These ideas are great places to begin your efforts.
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