Let me begin by saying “I am not a tree hugger.” I have been involved with landscaping in one way or another for over 50 years since I started mowing neighbor’s yards when I was twelve until now as a landscape coach/consultant many years latter. I have seen many gardening trends from trying to eliminate all bugs in the garden to full blown organic gardening. Eco-friendly gardening is a sensible approach of encouraging sustainable gardening practices that encourages healthy plant growth with minimal insecticides and less chemical fertilizers.
Eco-friendly gardening strives to:
- Eliminate wasting water. Not all plants need the same amount of water. Turf grasses that we use for our lawns take far more water than most trees and shrubs. Thanks to the use of automatic sprinkler systems, we can control the amount of water we put on our lawns. Most sprinkler systems can be set to run on the days that local municipalities allow for watering. You can also set the number of minutes each station runs. Lawns do better with shorter run times than you might suspect. Try running your system for ten minutes on each station about four o’clock in the morning. Once all the stations run, set the system to run again for ten minutes on each station. More water will soak into the ground and your lawn will get more water than running your system for 30 to 45 minutes at a time, reducing water usage, saving you money, and reducing runoff.
- Protect watersheds from runoff. The less water that runs into our streets and storm sewers, the less water runs into our watershed. More pollutants enter our waterways from our homes than you might think. Fertilizers that aren’t absorbed by our lawns wash into the waterways. Chemicals we use such as weed killers, insecticides and cleansers that are not used properly wash into our watersheds. How much pollution do you think a city of 100,000 or more ends up in storm water overflow?
- Healthy plants are not chemically dependent. All plants have certain needs in order to thrive. Some plants need more sun than others and some need more shade. Some need more iron and others more phosphate. Plants planted where they will perform well don’t need chemicals to thrive. If you are constantly having to treat a plant to get it to grow, you probably have it planted in the wrong place.
- If you resort to chemicals, use them responsibly. Enough said.
- Compost and recycle to reduce waste. Cities everywhere are starting to offer recycling on a regular basis. Many have begun composting programs where their citizens can get compost in bulk. But every household can reduce their waste by making a compost pile and recycling their vegetable scraps, egg shells, coffee grounds and tea bag with their yard clippings, junk mail and Amazon boxes. Every bit of compost you make will improve your soil and your plants’ health, and reduce waste in our landfills.
- Landscape to protect biodiversity and Eco-friendly systems. The United Nations just released a report stating one million plant and animal species are on the verge of extinction. Whither you believe it or not, we can see the changes in our own communities as new neighborhoods and businesses continue to grow. We as individuals can’t change the world, but we can effect our own neighborhoods, communities, and cities by encouraging biodiversity and eco-friendly systems.
- Garden to protect air quality and reduce energy. Plant a tree. It doesn’t have to be in your own garden. Many community HOAs require a certain number of trees in the front yard. It looks great and helps the environment until the trees get so big they shade the yard so the grass won’t grow. Support reforestation projects to replace harvested trees elsewhere. Trees do more to produce oxygen and reduce energy consumption than any other plant in the garden. You might also consider reducing the size of your lawn. Lawn maintenance is a thriving business because we don’t have the time, energy or even the desire to do it ourselves. Reduce the size of you lawn and reduce your carbon footprint.
Don’t be afraid to play in the dirt.