Lawns need a lot of water, fertilizers, and pesticides in order to be maintained and at their greenest, which makes them not so great for the environment in a variety of ways. As a homeowner, you can cut back on the negative environmental impact of your lawn and landscaping by using eco-friendly products and making conscious decisions about the greenery surrounding your home.
Check out these tips to help reduce your lawn’s carbon footprint while also helping you to make your property a lush, lively place to entertain.
1. Water Wisely
There are approximately 40.5 million acres of lawns across the United States. Not only is this a lot of grass; it requires a lot of water to keep the grass green. In fact, we use 20 trillion gallons of water each year just to water our lawns! And unfortunately, a sizable amount of that water is wasted. For example, watering your lawn at the hottest time of the day results in a lot of waste due to evaporation. Not only is your grass not getting the water it needs, but you’re spending money on drinking water unnecessarily.
Instead, help conserve water by waiting until cooler, low-light times of the day to turn on the sprinklers. Set automatic sprinklers to water plants in the early morning or in the late evening, after the sun goes down. On days when it rains, turn off the system completely to avoid over-watering your grass. Just make sure to adhere to water restrictions during times of drought.
2. Cut Grass with a Reel Mower
Switching to a reel powered mower can benefit homeowners in many ways. Reel mowers cut the grass just as well as the gas-powered mowers, but require no fuel. They are also less expensive to purchase and maintain, and are much quieter than their motor-powered counterparts, meaning you can complete early morning mows without waking the neighbors. Reel mowers also require some effort to push, providing the added benefit of good exercise! Good for the wallet, the environment, and the waistline, reel mowers are a real triple-threat.
3. Capture and Use Rainwater
Rather than pay for treated water to keep the grass green, take advantage of rainy weather. Use a rain barrel to capture rainwater when it falls, then use that water for your lawn, flowers and vegetable garden. When using a rain barrel, follow these tips:
- Cover the rain barrel with a lid. Do not leave the rain water exposed to sunlight, as this can cause the growth of algae.
- Never drink the rainwater. Water should not be used for human consumption unless it’s been cleaned and filtered. The water in your rain barrel may contain pollutants, bacteria and toxins that are dangerous to drink.
- Avoid sprinkling fruits or vegetables with water from the rain barrel. When using the water from your rain barrel, keep the water low to the ground and avoid sprinkling it on the fruits or vegetables in your garden.
4. Seek Out Organic Fertilizers
Organic fertilizers are less processed and more natural than chemical fertilizers, which makes them better for the environment and potentially less harmful for the vegetable garden. However, finding organic fertilizers can be a challenge in some settings. Check the garden center at local home improvement stores or plant nurseries for the best options. You can also order organic fertilizers online.
5. Use Worms to Create Healthy Soil
Fertilizers aren’t the only option for boosting plant growth. Worms are totally natural, good for the soil and can promote healthy plant growth without chemical fertilizers. You can encourage the growth of the worm population in the soil by mulching in your garden at the beginning of the spring and at the end of the growing season. You can also put more worms directly into the soil during planting. Just be careful to use outdoor earthworms and not worms meant for indoor composting.
6. Use Chemical-Free Pest Control
Controlling outdoor pests can be a challenge, even when using chemical-based products. In fact, it’s not uncommon for chemical pest control products to not completely solve the problem and presents a hazard for homes with pets and children. However, there are eco-friendly ways to regain control of your lawn and garden, such as neem oil. Neem oil is an extract that comes from plants and trees. Because it’s completely natural, it’s safe for the environment and generally considered safe to use in vegetable gardens and on flowers. Neem oil prevents insect infestation and the development of powdery mildew on plants. When using neem oil, be sure to follow all manufacturer’s instructions and remember to wash vegetables well before eating them.
7. Create Your Own Compost
Compost is a natural fertilizer and also makes soil better for growing plants. Although compost can be purchased from a home and garden center, you can easily make your own compost from garden and food waste. To make your own compost pile, start with a layer of soil, then lay down a layer of dry material like straw or dry leaves. Next, cover your dry material with a layer of food scraps, then continue to add dry material and food scraps to your compost pile in layers. Stir the compost pile occasionally to aerate the mixture.
8. Plant Trees for Privacy
Need more privacy in your backyard? Before turning to a fencing company, consider planting some trees instead. A tree fence adds both aesthetic appeal and practical utility. Evergreens in particular are good for privacy because they never lose leaves and thus create a permanent, eco-friendly barrier between your property and your neighbors. The North Carolina Native Plant Society shares a variety of tree options that do well in the local climate.
9. Go Native
Bluestar/Blue Dogbane/Willow Amsonia
Turk's Cap Lily
Native plants need to be watered less frequently than other plants because they’re adapted to the environment and are used to the average rainfall expected in your area. Once established, native plants may need little or no supplemental water in order to stay healthy. Plus, they tend to be resistant to plant disease, making them a low-maintenance landscape option. To curb your home’s water consumption, try planting some native flowers or shrubs in your garden. You can find a list of which North Carolina native plants to try and which to avoid here. It’s also important to choose native types of grass when possible.
Clearly, there are a handful of environmental considerations to keep in mind when it comes to lawns and landscaping. Incorporating eco-friendly lawn and garden practices has numerous benefits. With just a few changes, you can reduce your water consumption, save energy, and keep chemicals out of the environment. Going green in your outdoor space is a great way to save a little green.
What are your go-to eco-friendly lawn and garden products?