Stand Up for Your Backyard’s Ecosystem

Image via Dennis Mojado

Do not be daunted by green gardening! Making eco-friendly, environmental choices is easier than you think. All you need to do is start with small steps toward a greener, more natural yard – a yard that is designed to save water and provide a friendlier habitat for local animals. Tiny decisions like these can make a big difference – and give you a remarkable new yard.

Native Gardening

Green backyards begin with thoughtful planning and an awareness of your surrounding ecology. When landscaping, try to form your yard like the surrounding ecosystem. That does not mean you have to let everything grow wild; instead, choose plants, rocks, and soils that are naturally found in the local environment. Indigenous species will last longer, prove hardier, and blend beautifully into your landscape.

As you research local flowers, shrubs, and groundcovers, consider reducing lawn space whenever possible. Grass lawns use lots of water, siphon energy through constant mowing and depend upon chemicals in order to survive. If you replace your lawn with native plants whenever possible, you will save on energy and give wildlife a natural shelter or food source.

Natural Protection

Pesticides are always a concern when it comes to eco-friendly gardening. But thanks to years of research and innovation, you do not have to depend on toxic chemicals to kill bugs and keep pests away. Your hardy native plants will take care of part of the problem. For the rest, DIY organic pesticides made with citrus oils or similar ingredients will drive insects away. However, these are very short-term sprays, so apply them frequently. Milky spore and other bacterias can fight against specific bugs like the dangerous Japanese beetle. Diatomaceous earth cuts and kills insects but is harmless for larger creatures.

To keep weeds away, try weeding! It is a completely all-natural and highly effective method of removing troublesome plants. Herbicides that use acetic acid can kill weeds, but must be used selectively. Others prefer to use corn gluten to prevent new shoots from spreading.

Friendly Fertilization

Composting is one of the most eco-friendly garden projects. The idea is to use spare (and otherwise wasted) vegetation to create mulch perfect for natural fertilization and new flower beds. If you choose to compost, be sure to study the process and learn how to use compost materials effectively before you start. A mismanaged compost project will fail and could even be dangerous.

If you cannot spare a yard corner for composting, use natural fertilizers such as rock phosphate, fish emulsion, and cottonseed meal to help give your plants the nutrients they need. Spread mulch yearly, if possible–mulch will help plants use water more effectively constantly all season. Natural mulches like cocoa shell are a better choice than less effective bark mulch.

Irrigation Projects

The term “xeriscaping” describes gardening with as little water as possible. Your native plants will help with this process. To encourage water savings, you may want to choose the hardiest, most drought-tolerant plants possible. Groundcovers and native shrubs are best suited to survive with little to no watering. If you need to use synthetic methods, aim for low-pressure drip lines whenever possible. Soaker hoses, porous pipes, and similar products limit waste by targeting only sections of the garden that really need watering.

Before you start digging an irrigation system, carefully consider the topography of your yard. Where will water naturally drain? If you plan your gardens at low points, you can effectively use the natural water pathways that rain will take, lessening the need for artificial watering. Feel free to take a more direct approach and install a rain barrel to capture runoff and save it for later irrigation.

Big Projects

Most of our big landscaping visions include a patio, deck, or pond. Consider tackling these projects in the most eco-friendly way possible, too. There are a lot of unthought of contingencies with big outdoor projects. For instance, a pond sculpted from natural rock can be a great source of water for wildlife, but you will need to clean it frequently to keep it looking beautiful without resorting to algae-cleaning chemicals.

Patios, made of a cement or sand base with stone on top, rarely pose environmental problems, but they will affect drainage. Wood-based projects are more tricky: Try to avoid pressure-treated boards and woods you will have to stain with toxic chemicals year after year. Composite decking can solve these problems (and they use recycled plastic). Or you could choose a hardwood and let it age naturally for wood furniture projects.

Spread the News

Once you start practicing your eco-friendly gardening techniques, share them with friends. Eco-friendly gardening is more fun when we build sustainable systems together. Always strive to learn more and apply your discoveries. Be prepared to answer questions and encourage your neighbors to follow similar plans while you show off your new yard!

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