Interesting Fact: “For every 1% that you increase your soil’s organic matter, you increase the water absorption capacity by 16,000 gallons of plant-available water per acre, down to one foot deep” (EPA).
- Pick plants that will make your gardening easier. When choosing plants and flowers for your yard, try to use native plants because, as you would expect, they tend to adapt better to the surrounding environment, and also have evolved to be more resistant to local diseases and pests. In many cases, they also require less maintenance and watering.
- Add compost to the top layer of your lawn to make the most out of each drop of water. Compost will increase the amount of water absorbed and will decrease watering frequency. You can also save money and contribute less to landfills by composting your own biodegradable materials.
- In addition to curbing weed growth, placement of mulch over a plant’s roots will save water and inhibit moisture evaporation.
- In order to save water, it is crucial to find out exactly what your lawn requires so as not to over-do a good thing. Listen to your grass and follow the watering indicators it gives you:
If your grass is lacking its luster or holds onto your footprints after you walk across it, now is the time to water.
- Soaker hoses offer a great alternative to sprinklers and can conserve up to 50% more water.
- Consider using an outdoor water timer to ensure that you are watering correctly and only when necessary for healthier plants and less wasted water.
- Water lawns separately from other plantings.
- When using a sprinkler to water your lawn, make sure that you are watering only your lawn and not your driveway.
- Make sure to give your soil some time to soak up water, so if water puddles, stop and wait for it to be absorbed.
- The early morning is the best time to water as evaporation increases throughout the afternoon, and evening watering could lead to mold or plant diseases.
- Take advantage of the rain! Try to direct the run-off from gutters into your lawn so it will be absorbed rather than streaming into other water supplies.
- Lawns need only about one inch of water a week to stay green in the summer, so be conscience of this fact, especially if your area is in the midst of a drought.
Interesting Fact: Lawn mowers and other gas-powered lawn care equipment contribute to 10% of the nation’s air pollution, according to the EPA.
- For more durable grass and less weeds, set your lawnmower blades higher. Your grass should typically be about 2 to 3 inches in height. A Caveat: Don’t try to overcompensate if you have been out of town for a while by cutting your lawn down to 2-3 inches all at once. Never cut more than 1/3 of your grass height at once, work gradually down to optimal height to reduce the chances of traumatizing your grass.
- Keep mower blades sharp! Dull blades tear and damage the grass rather than cut it.
- Mow at the right time: Early evening is the best time to mow, after the heat of the day but before dew settles. High heat can make for already strained grass, and wet grass will lead to clogged mowers.
- Keep Clippings, Remove Thatch: When mowing your lawn, do not bag the clippings. Grass clippings are an amazing source of organic material; leave them on your grass so it can fertilize itself. Thatch however, (dead grass and root tissue between the live grass and soil) can block water, sunlight and nutrients from reaching the roots. Make sure to dethatch regularly.
- Get in contact with your local Cooperative Extension Office to find out the appropriate height of your lawn for your climate.
- Mulching lawn mowers will “cut down” your mowing time (and mower carbon emissions) considerably since you do not have to bag your clippings. If you have smaller grass areas, consider switching to a push-mower. They are modern, lightweight, and environmentally friendly. They are also a great way to burn some extra calories!
- Electric mowers present a great alternative to gas mowers as they reduce pollution, make less noise, and are less expensive to fuel. Electric mowers also start automatically with the push of a button, how easy is that?
FERTILIZERS AND PEST CONTROL
Interesting Fact: The EPA estimates that only 35 percent of lawn fertilizers ever reach the grass plant; the remainder is volatized into the air or seeps into groundwater.
- Before using a pesticide, make sure that you actually need one. Verify that pests are the root of your problem and that they are not simply covering up a deeper issue. By fixing the underlying issue, you will reduce the possibility of future pest problems.
- Allow some pests in your yard. Not all bugs are bad and nature may even rid itself of the bad ones before you need to take action.
- If a particular plant is consistently plagued by pests, replace it with a more pest-resistant one.
- A diversified garden with a variety of plants will ensure the protection of the rest of your plot should pests attack.
- Use spot treatment to avoid abuse of pesticides “Natural organic” or “slow-release” fertilizers are more environmentally friendly and can lessen nutrient run-off.
- Use compost tea on your lawn instead of harsh chemical spray treatments. This nutrient rich, liquid derivative of compost helps the soil create its own nitrogen, and also adds beneficial bacteria and fungi to the soil for maximum health.
- Get your lawn off drugs! Synthetic fertilizers overload your lawn with nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. While such practices make your lawn look greener, they often lead to a weakened soil system which is more vulnerable to attack by insects and diseases which then make synthetic pesticides and fungicides necessary. Gradually, lawns become dependent on this cycle of chemical treatment, and chemical treatments often wipe out all soil organisms, good and bad.
- Organic fertilizers not only feed the grass, they nurture the soil, creating a mutually beneficial relationship for both parties. A natural soil environment is loaded with good soil organisms, all of which play a vital role in recycling nutrients.