Most people don’t even know their yard is harmful to the environment as well as the wildlife that depends on it. It’s hard to recognize a bully, especially if that bully is a beautiful, lovingly groomed garden or yard brought into existence by your skillful green thumb. A garden can look green and still have a not-so-green impact on the ecosystem near your home and the world at large. Just realizing that your garden isn’t as eco-friendly as it could be is a great first step, but here are five ways you can take action now.
1. Start with the basics – naturally green soil fertilization.
Get your garden dirt tested to see if it needs more nutrients, and then try to find what you are missing by composting and using grass clippings from your lawn to fertilize it.
You can make the soil more fertile in a garden that you want to produce many food crops by alternating where you grow these, and the soil replenishing cover crops. Designate an area for food crops and one for cover crops, and then alternate the two crops in the following year. If you’ve tried these truly natural ways of fertilization, you should buy products labeled natural, organic and slow-release and ONLY use them if you know the ground isn’t frozen and the weather won’t look like rain anytime soon which will just displace the products to any water areas nearby which hurts the wildlife there.
2. Most “pests” are good, stop using pesticides.
The use of compost, mulch, regular lawn mowing, and even attracting good bugs will keep a garden and lawn very healthy, taking care of any potential pest problems. The bad involved in pesticides use can include hurting animals, reducing biodiversity and risking cancer and birth defects. These surely outweigh the good of eliminating the 5-15% of actual harmful pests in your garden.
3. Use a manual lawn mower.
I know, I know – it’s a pain. The gas powered mowers pollute a crazy amount and the battery powered machines do their damage to the environment with lead pollution in the manufacturing stage before they even reach your home. Get your work out in and help the environment at the same time!
4. Don’t over water.
Household water use during the growing season is mostly spent outdoors where it either evaporates or runs off to pollute lakes, rivers, and oceans. Water your plants in the early morning when the temperature is the coldest of the day to prevent evaporation. You can add on a sprinkler timer to your outdoor water system easily and usually for under $40.
A soaker hose or drip irrigation system is also worth looking into as these will be the most efficient way to water. When watering the plants make sure that your annual plants get the most water, your perennials get a little less, and the older trees and shrubs receive the least.
5. Eco-friendly extras
The miscellaneous items we put in our yard such as décor, patio furniture, and other accessories should not be harmful to the environment, but the sad truth is that most of them are. Research any wooden items before you buy and make sure they are certified by the Forest Stewardship Council. There are many environmentally friendly options, such as the one-way breathable fabrics that are now being used to make outdoor furniture covers to protect from mold, mildew and debris. Make sure you are using protective covers that are earth-friendly and constructed of materials that last a long time.
Another way to add a bit more eco-friendliness is to upcycle household items that you would otherwise throw away. You can make a doormat out of your family’s old flip-flops, line old glass bottles up into a beautiful edge for garden pathways, and create mini greenhouses out of plastic juice/milk jugs.
Now armed with these simple steps to follow, you don’t have to stand idly by while your yard bullies the environment. The Earth will thank you for your help, and your garden will flourish for it.
Lisa Henfield writes articles about environmental design and ecosystem impact for KoverRoos.com. She also contributes to MotherEarthLiving.com and CheapVegetableGardener.com to further explore her passion for gardening and the environment.