Spring will soon be upon us again and not only is it a time of renewal for nature, it’s also the time of year that many of us take stock of our own little piece of nature—our backyards. What better time than now to start thinking about greening those outdoor spaces for the sake of the environment, nature and the safety of your family and pets?
By employing environmentally-friendly practices in your backyard, you will be helping to conserve water, reduce carbon, keep chemicals out of ground water and oceans and attract all sorts of garden wildlife while creating a natural haven for your family to enjoy—it’s a win-win for you and the earth!
Here are some ways to green your landscaping and tread a little more lightly on Mother Earth:
- Don’t mow too low! Set your lawnmower to a mowing height of 3 inches. This helps your lawn create a deep root system and will thus require less watering and it crowds out weeds, too. Also, when it’s time to get a new mower, consider buying a manual mower. They’re efficient, will last much longer, never need gas and produce no emissions!
- Leave your grass clippings on the lawn. They will decompose and return nutrients back into the soil, which reduces your need to fertilize grass.
- Plant native landscaping. Because it is already suited for your weather and soil, it will not only require less attention and water but it will also attract native birds, wildlife and beneficial insects. Best of all, it will be naturally resistant to your area’s diseases & pests which means you won’t have to resort to pesticides and fungicides.
- Plant a tree! Trees remove pollution from the air, provide shade, convert carbon to oxygen and provide a home for wildlife.
- Stop using chemicals on your lawn and gardens. This is a big one! Pesticides, herbicides, fertilizers and insecticides are bad for nature, detrimental to our water supply, deadly to our oceans (The Gulf of Mexico has dead zones where there is NO aquatic life due to fertilizer runoff) and harmful to human and animal life, including your pets.
- Instead, pull weeds the old-fashioned way, fertilize naturally with composts and check your local home store for more natural pest control options such as soaps, oils, baits and non-toxic sprays.
- Start composting your leaves and food and paper waste and use it to naturally fertilize your gardens and greenery. Compost is the best source of nutrients for soil, supplies beneficial organisms, prevents erosion from heavy rains and slows down drying of the soil during droughts.
- Install rain barrels (with bug screens!) under downspouts and use the collected rainwater to water your plants and shrubs.
- Plant native flowers to attract butterflies to your backyard.
- Plant a vegetable garden and let the kids help! Nothing will bring you closer to nature than growing your own food. Children will be fascinated by watching their bounty come out of the ground and rumor has it that they will be more inclined to eat said veggies because they helped grow them!
- Choose eco-friendly materials for your backyard such as reclaimed bricks and fixtures and for decks, choose woods harvested under forest-stewardship programs or wood analogs made from recycled plastics.
- Hang a birdfeeder from a tree, then sit back and watch the show!
- For the outside of your home choose caulks, paints and other finishes with low or no volatile organic compounds (VOC) to reduce toxic outgassing into the air.
- Put a layer of mulch around plants to reduce evaporation and help them retain moisture. Minimize evaporation by watering plants and lawns in the early morning when temperatures are cooler.
- Mulch around trees but leave space between tree trunks and mulch. Placing mulch right up against the trunk encourages bugs.
Enjoy your green backyard at night by listening to all the wildlife you’ve attracted and enjoy it in the morning by watching the birds and butterflies that are naturally attracted to the habitat you’ve provided for them!
Having a lovely, nature-filled, chemical-free backyard is just one of the many benefits of backyard environmentalism. In the long run, it will save you money, conserve natural resources and best of all, it will demonstrate to children the importance and necessity of nature and help them cultivate a love and respect for the earth.