While you may not think that your beautifully landscaped yard could possibly make a difference in the health of the planet, think again. A properly planned landscape can be very beneficial to the environment, even more so than just letting your yard go to the weeds.
There are many ways to create this, and here are some of the ways your yard can contribute to reducing your environmental footprint. Some of these are about using less water, while others have to do with planning your yard to reduce your need for chemicals and other pollutants.
Reduce Water Usage
Everyone can agree that reducing our environmental impact as much as possible is a positive thing. When it comes to your yard and garden, one of the easiest ways to do so is to reduce your usage of water. Using less water in your yard can save you both time and money as well.
This precious natural resource is often taken for granted, and the path that clean water takes to get to your home can be long and energy intensive. A mere 3% of the water on the surface of our planet is drinkable, so it makes sense to use it wisely.
From simple changes such as a timer on your sprinkler, to more in-depth landscape changes, there are many ways to reduce your usage of water around your yard.
Take a look around you the next time you’re in a less urbanized area, and see what types of plants are growing without any maintenance whatsoever. These are the kind of plants that don’t require extra watering, and would make a great addition to your low-water yard. You’ll also be using plants that will require less fertilizer, which will reduce your chemical usage around the home.
Go For A Low Maintenance Yard
If you’re starting from scratch with planning your entire yard, it’s possible to create a landscape that requires almost zero maintenance, also known as ‘xeriscaping.’ By choosing native plants and ditching the lawn, you can have a yard that is both beautiful and natural looking.
A low maintenance yard that requires no mowing reduces your gasoline and oil usage as well, since you won’t need that mower.
If you prefer the manicured look in your yard, it’s still possible to choose plants that require minimal watering to reduce their environmental impact. If you do choose to keep the grass, consider trimming it a bit longer to lengthen the time between mowing sessions.
Put the Water Exactly Where You Want it
Since we are talking about reducing water usage, unless you have a large, grassy area surrounded by gardens, the traditional sprinkler system may not be your best route. Consider using a drip irrigation system throughout your garden beds with water only being directed at the base of each plant that needs it.
This reduces water lost to evaporation as it sprinkles through the air, as well as the watering of plants that don’t really need it.
Use Mulch to Your Advantage
While you may think that mulch is merely for cosmetic purposes in your garden beds, they can actually help with your water conservation goals. A thick layer of good mulch is a great way to reduce evaporation and keep your ground moist for a longer period of time.
There are many different types of mulch depending on your landscape style. There are the organic products which break down like shredded bark, wood chips or even nut shells. Or a more permanent ground cover such as different gravels and lava rock, if that’s what you prefer. If you have a lot of brush and fallen limbs on your property, you can even rent a chipper to make your own mulch. Recycling at its finest!
Combined with a drip irrigation system at the base of each plant, a well-mulched yard is a great way to significantly reduce your water needs without the need to completely change your landscape. If using plant-based mulch, you’ll also be recycling plant product, which is a great way to reuse unwanted plant material.
Group Plants by Water Needs
If you don’t have the option of drip irrigation system, consider putting plants together based on how much water they need. That way, you won’t be drowning the cactus while attempting to keep a tender petunia alive.
Timed to Perfection
Have you ever turned the sprinkler on in your yard in the morning, only to return home after a long day of work to see it still running in the same spot? This can certainly be frustrating, especially if you pay for your water. Not only are you out money, but gallons of water have seeped into the ground and really provide no benefit to your yard.
A well-designed in ground sprinkler system is one of the best ways to ensure this does not happen. You don’t have to worry about moving the sprinklers, and they can be easily set on a timer to turn on and off by themselves as needed.
If an in ground system just isn’t in the cards for you right now, you can get a timer for your hose at the local hardware store for less than $20 that will ensure your sprinkler isn’t left on for eight hours. Simply screw onto the hose bib, and then screw the hose directly into the timer. Set it for the amount of time you want the sprinkler to run and go about your business.
Increase Shaded Areas
Rather than having a large expanse of grassy area, consider planting more shrubs and trees to provide shade for the rest of the plants. This will help keep them cool, and reduce evaporation due to the hot sun.
Another way to accomplish this is to build shaded areas, such as arbors and trellises. You’ll want to plant leafy vines that will climb them and provide shade in the summer. Feel free to plant your more delicate plants in these shaded areas, so you won’t need to worry about them drying out as quickly.
Another benefit to having more trees on your property is providing a haven for wildlife. It is common in urban areas for humans to have disturbed the natural habitat for the animals that are indigenous to the area. Having plenty of trees and shrubs in your yard can help allay this issue, providing hiding places and nesting areas for birds and small mammals.
Instead of letting all that precious water run off your roof during a rainstorm and into the ground, consider getting a rain barrel to collect it during the summer months. These can be easily hooked up to your existing gutter system, and used to water plant. Think of it as saving all that rain when you really need it.
Keep in mind that you may need to check with your local officials before doing so, as regulations for rain barrel usage vary depending on where you live. But as of this writing, you may “harvest rainwater” in Minnesota.
Another way to collect rainwater, rather than allowing it to run off into storm gutters, is to have a pond on a lower area of your yard. You can direct runoff into it, and prevent flooding of the street drains. Less water in the streets means fewer chances for gasoline and oil from vehicles to make it to the river or oceans.
Additional Benefits to Keeping in Mind Environmental Impact
Beyond the desired reduction in environmental impact due to using less water and chemicals, there are many other benefits to you as a homeowner. Here are a few things to think about:
• You’ll save time by using these tips, simply due to spending less of your day out there watering your yard by hand, or moving sprinklers around.
• If using municipal water, you’ll save money on your water bill each month.
• Even if you’re on a well, it’s not free water like you might think. There is still the chance that your well could go dry if overused.
• Using chemicals can be dangerous to your family’s health. Letting a professional plan your yard can reduce the need for weed killers and chemical fertilizers alike.
By implementing the tips in this article, you’ll be surprised by how easy it is to reduce your environmental footprint. You can have a beautiful and well-maintained yard without the guilt! It just takes a little planning, and we’re here to help.