Goals of green landscaping are simple: save energy, reduce pollution, and nurture wildlife. Small changes in materials, plants, and water usage in landscape projects can make a big impact on the eco-friendliness of your yard.
Here are few eco-friendly landscaping and hardscaping practices that will make your yard as green as can be.
Be Selective About Plants and Placement
It may seem cool to add a tropical tree to your Midwestern sanctuary but in reality, non-native plant species can wreak more havoc on your environment than you imagine. Native plant species interact better with one another.
That doesn’t mean all species native to your region are a good choice. Some native and non-native species are invasive simply because their natural predators and control mechanisms are absent. They reproduce quickly, dominate spaces and kill other plants. The Indiana Wildlife Federation put together this list of plants to avoid.
One way to cut down on energy waste and emissions is to fill your space with small deciduous trees. They decrease the size of your mowable lawn and the gas/energy you’ll need to do so. When planted to the west and south, deciduous trees provide your home with shade in the summer and increased warmth in the winter, lowering cooling and heating costs, respectively.
Shrubs planted at the foundation can also create an insulating air space around your home, lowering heating costs.
Rethink Outdoor Lighting
Depending on how you want to use your space, you may need to hire a contractor to wire electric lighting to certain parts of your hardscape. Or you may opt for low-power white string lights to set the scene all year round.
Garden lighting without power is also possible. There are tons of solar powered lighting options that will cut your energy use—and bill—in half. Solar technology is constantly improving and many solar lighting systems promise dusk till dawn luminescence.
An often forgotten light source in garden design is fire. Adding a fire pit or fireplace feature to your outdoor space will provide lighting, ambiance, and the comforting aromas of burning wood. Candles and Chinese lanterns turn the romance way up and can repel pests depending on their ingredients.
Water Well, Not Wastefully
Everyone wants a full green lawn year round, but it takes a lot of supplemental water to keep that up. Different types of lawn grass will go dormant—not dead—in the heat of the summer. It’s natural and necessary. Brown grass is not necessarily dead, just dormant.
Infrequent watering is best for the environment. If you must bring your brown grass out of dormancy, soak your grass deeply once per week rather than lightly, multiple times per week. To help with the soaking of your lawn, you can catch rainwater and reuse it. You can make a rain barrel for as little as $20!
Drought-tolerant landscaping, or xeriscaping, is gaining popularity with those interested in conserving water or in places where water is scarce. It’s typically characterized by softscapes with less lawn grass and more drought-tolerant plants. That doesn’t mean it’s all cacti and succulents, but it does emphasize a decrease in especially thirsty plants and plant placement for the best use of water.
Reducing and avoiding chemicals is one of the easiest ways to cut down on pollution from your gardening activities. Herbicides, pesticides, and chemical fertilizers pollute water, air, and wildlife.
Rather than using chemical fertilizers, compost kitchen scraps like fruits, vegetables, coffee grounds (there are countless more) using a container or trench to add valuable nutrients back into your soil.
Bagging grass, leaves and other lawn “waste” not only require the use of eco-enemy plastic bags, they can pollute water and air when left curbside. Just blow them back onto the law and watch them decompose and act as a natural fertilizer.
Choose Permeable Hardscape Materials
Permeable hardscape materials are an important choice for reducing water waste and erosion issues. Eco-friendly materials choices include organic mulch, gravel, natural wood, flagstone, and brick. If you absolutely must pave, choose pervious concrete or asphalt to complete your project.