Greenscaping Your Yard, Garden or Green Roof
Many happy hours can pass while in your yard or rooftop garden. You spend your weekends mowing your lawn, pruning your trees and tending to your vegetable garden. And the hours outside can make you feel relaxed, happy and healthy. But did you know your dedicated gardening might actually be causing harm to the environment? Sadly, while thousands of Americans spend a good chunk of their leisure time tending their yards, they’re simultaneously producing enormous amounts of yard waste.
And when yard waste like grass clippings, branches and leaves decomposes, it can produce gases like methane that are actually harmful to the environment. In addition, the pesticides and fertilizers many of us use can be washed out of our yards by rain or irrigation. These chemicals drain into our waterways and eventually our oceans, contaminating them and threatening both the environment and our health.
To help all of us keep the world a healthier place, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has created guidelines for greenscaping, the term it’s chosen for safer, more environmentally friendly yard care.
Of course, these guidelines apply not only to regular yards, but also to rooftop gardens, green roofs and green balconies, as well. The following points will help you start greenscaping, no matter how big or small your green area is.
Whether you own a large yard or a small balcony, always choose plants that are appropriate to the climate and environment. This minimizes the need for watering, fertilizer and pesticides, since the plants will be able to get most of their nutrients from the soil and will also be resistant to local pests. In arid areas, this approach is often referred to as xeriscaping (the conservation of water through creative landscaping). Instead of planting a large lawn, minimize that grassy area and fill it in with native plants that require less water and other maintenance.
Pruning, trimming and repotting are all part of being a good gardener. Instead of simply bagging your plant waste and bringing it to the landfill, where it will eventually emit harmful gases as it decomposes, consider starting a compost heap or bin so you can make your own fertilizer. If you have a lawn, leave the clippings on the lawn after mowing to function as natural fertilizer. And, when it comes to weed control, consider doing it the old fashioned way: Get down on your hands and knees and pull up the unwanted plants… and then throw them on your compost heap.
Again, the best way to minimize the need for watering your garden is to choose plants that are native to the environment. However, if you do have to water your garden, keep the following points in mind:
- Water sparingly. Never soak the soil.
- Avoid pre-programmed lawn sprinklers and evaluate regularly whether your garden needs additional water.
- Avoid watering if there’s a chance of rain or if the ground’s frozen.
- Note that if you have a rooftop garden, the weight of water can be too heavy for the building. In addition, if the water can’t run off properly due to faulty or blocked drains, overflow and leakage can cause structural damage to the building. Make sure the roof can handle both the added weight and the overflow of extra water before irrigating.
Possibly the most eco-friendly way to give your plants the nutrients they need is to make your own compost from household and yard waste and apply it to the topsoil. (You can even make compost if you live in an apartment!) If you still need some form of fertilizer, ask for environmentally friendly options at your local gardening center.
Before there were humans making pesticides to kill pests that ate our plants, there were insects that ate those pests, and many of those insects are still around. Ladybugs, lacewings and hoverflies are just a few of these insects. You can purchase them online or at a store and let them loose among your plants, where they will function as natural pest control. Learning about greenscaping is an interesting and fun process.
Keep the points above in mind, and next time you’re enjoying your garden, remind yourself that you’re also contributing to a healthier planet for all creatures.