7 Tips to Make Your Yard & Garden More Eco-Friendly
There is an abundance of benefit to be gained from building an eco-friendly yard and garden. Not only are you supporting the environment, but you’re also aiding your own mental health through planting. Whether you’re looking for the best trees for your backyard or perennials that keep your home looking good all year long, consider the following tips and tricks on increasing sustainability at home.
1. Choose Native Plants
Native plants indigenous to the given region have adapted to the soil and conditions where they naturally occur. This means they’ll require less fertilizer, pesticides, and water in their regular upkeep. Additionally, native plants have a symbiotic relationship with every form of life surrounding them — another part of what makes them sustainable.
Tips for finding native plants:
- Do your research - Finding native plants begins with research. Perform an online search or dive into an ecology book for plants native to where you live.
- Native Plant Finder - Use the National Wildlife Federation’s Native Plant Finder for an easy way to find what’s native to your area.
2. Reduce Your Lawn
In the same vein, reducing how much of your yard is covered in grass lawn is another eco-friendly choice, especially if you live in a dry region. Traditional grass lawns can be difficult to maintain if they are non-native. Grass lawns need a lot of water, as well as fertilizer and pesticides. If you don’t want to completely get rid of your lawn, find a section of your yard that would look good with plants, rocks, or mulch.
Options to reduce your lawn include:
- Replace your lawn with native plants - You can downsize your lawn and replace it with native and flowering plants for a sustainable choice.
- Use mulch - Add mulch to your garden annually. Mulch suppresses weeds, retains moisture in the soil and keeps it cool.
- Use rocks - If you live in an especially dry area, such as the southwestern U.S., consider replacing part of your lawn with rocks. Around the rocks, you can place plants, such as flowers or cacti.
3. Conserve Water
Though watering is essential to yard and garden upkeep, there are ways to cut down your consumption, providing benefits to both the environment and your wallet.
Consider these tips next time you water:
- Remember the best times to water - Early morning (5:00 to 9:00 a.m.) is generally the best time to water your garden. Temperatures are still cool, and water is able to quickly make its way into the soil and reach the roots. This minimizes the loss of water to evaporation. Watering in the late afternoon, on the other hand, may cause beds to stay wet overnight, potentially leading to plant diseases.
- Type of hose - Soaker hoses are your best bet at efficiently watering your yard or garden. These hoses conserve water by delivering slower than other hoses.
- Water near the base - Always water near the base of your plants. Watering directly on the leaves can damage them, and bring about fungus and pests.
- Harvest rainwater - Rain barrels, cisterns, and rain chains can all be used to harvest rainwater and store it for later usage. Harvesting rainwater is an easy way to reduce your water footprint while keeping your greenery nourished.
4. Start Composting
Composting is an excellent way to make your garden more eco-friendly. It reduces your carbon footprint and food waste. The practice entails recycling organic materials. As the materials decay, they become nutrient-rich soil.
Anything that comes from the ground can be recycled in your compost. Your banana peels, avocados pits, apple cores, and cucumber ends are just a few examples. Grains also grow out of the ground, meaning leftover pasta and stale bread can be composted as well. You can even compost coffee grounds, tea bags, plant prunings, leaves, egg shells, and newspapers or wood shavings, among many other organic materials.
What you can’t compost includes: meat, fish, bones, dairy, fats (such as oil and butter), and diseased yard waste. The latter means that if a plant in your yard becomes diseased and dies, it cannot be composted. The same goes for dog poop. Both of these matters introduce potential diseases to the compost, making it unusable.
Follow these tips for composting at home:
- Remember what you can and cannot compost - Adding the wrong materials to your compost can seriously harm it. Always remember what you can and cannot compost.
- Avoid smells - Compost is decaying, meaning smells are inevitable — but there are ways to contain the smell. Always secure your compost container with a tight lid. You can also put your compost container in the freezer.
- Be patient - Composting can take months before you begin to see soil. Be patient as you add organic materials.
5. Plant Trees
Trees present a plethora of advantages to the environment. These organisms fight climate change, clean the air, prevent soil erosion, and attract wildlife. Absorbing carbon dioxide and releasing oxygen, trees nourish the earth around them. Whether you’re looking for fast-growing trees to fill out your yard before the summer, or privacy trees to make your home feel more secluded, there are a variety of trees that will suit your needs and better the ecosystem around them.
Planting trees is surprisingly easy. You don’t need to worry about the season as these are perennial plants. Anytime you can dig a proper planting hole (without the hindrance of snow or ice) is a good time.
Follow these tips for planting a tree in your yard:
- Dig a proper planting hole - The general rule of thumb is to make your planting hole 3 to 4 times wider than the current root mass.
- Carefully remove the plant from its original location - Be careful moving the plant from one location to another. Make sure the root and surrounding soil stay intact. Never yank the tree out of its container — slide it instead.
- Plant high - You want to keep the plant’s root mass about 25% higher than the surrounding soil. Spread soil and mulch around the exposed root mass to cover it up.
- Eliminate air pockets - Always eliminate air pockets by patting down the soil after planting.
- Remove tags and labels - Lastly, make sure to remove any tags or labels from the plant as these disrupt its growth.
6. Attract Pollinators
According to Penn State’s Center for Pollinator Research, pollinators and plants have a give-and-take relationship — “Pollination results in the production of seeds and is necessary for many plants to reproduce. Meanwhile, pollinators receive nectar and/or pollen rewards from the flowers that they visit.” Just like humans and trees, pollinators and plants rely on each other. Selecting plants to attract pollinators thus benefits both them and your greenery.
Consider these tips to attract pollinators to your yard:
- Use a diverse array of plants - Planting a garden that consists of a diverse array of plants — perennials and seasonal — can help attract different pollinators.
- Mix up the colors - Likewise, different pollinators respond to different colors, making it a good idea to add variety to your color palette.
- Add water - Pollinators need water to survive, making it smart to add a birdbath, fountain, feeder, or pond to your yard or garden.
- Use pesticides sparingly - Pesticides can drive away pollinators. Make sure to use them sparingly and wisely. If you’re going to use pesticides, spray in the early evening when bees and other insects aren’t active. Never spray pesticides on plants that are in bloom. Lastly, consider using natural pesticides.
7. Use Natural Weed & Pest Controls
Controlling pests and weeds is necessary for maintaining your yard and garden. However, some weed and pest control products can do more harm than good when it comes to the environment. Switching to natural, organic weed and pest controls is a sustainable option that still cultivates a healthy habitat for your plants.
Other tips for switching to natural weed and pest controls include:
- Pull weeds by hand - The best way to remove weeds is with your own hands. Although tedious, removing weeds by hand or with garden tools is going to be your most sustainable option.
- Use insects as a form of pest control - Some types of insects offer a natural form of pest control. Perform a little research matching predators to pesticides to find what works for your yard.
- Don’t use treated seeds - Lastly, avoid using treated seeds and do research on where your plants are coming from. Reach out to your nursery or their supplier to get a full scope of how they’ve been grown.