Five Ways to Go Green
in Your Yard
Written by: Dottie Baltz
I'm always looking for ways to save energy, save money and save the environment all at the same time. In researching for this article I found some exciting information I wanted to share with you.
- Switch from a gas powered lawn mower to a reel mower
I know, I was a little skeptical too, but this Scott's mower has been getting great reviews. I think I will be asking Santa for one this Christmas.
If you have a small yard, there is no reason why you need to spend lots of money and pollute the air we breathe with a gas powered, noisy mower. Large yards are another story, but the majority of us have less than an acre to deal with. We have an acre, and I feel I could definitely use a reel mower to maintain our lawn. This year I used our push mower more often than the riding mower, just to see if I could do it. We have a lot of garden beds, so it was actually a little faster to just use the push mower. Our push mower is not self propelled, so I don't see that it will be any different than a reel mower. In fact, it should be easier because the reel mower weighs less. And as long as you purchase the sharpening kit, you should have no problems with a reel mower.
I am really looking forward to being able to hear the birds while mowing the lawn, and the neighbors won't mind if I want to mow at 6am in the morning because it's so quiet.
If you are not ready to take that leap, at the very least your lawn mower should be tuned-up every year and make sure the filter gets changed at the same time. This will save gas and pollute the air less. If you use a riding mower, consider using a push mower part of the time. You'll get more exercise, and they will use less gas.
- Install a rain barrel to conserve water
We installed a rain barrel a few years ago I've never been happier. This year, I only turned on the hose a couple of times. I use the water in the rain barrel to water all my container plantings and I can even hook a hose up to it and use it to water my vegetable garden. You just have to make sure that your rain barrel is elevated above the ground so that gravity will take the water from the barrel down through the hose. Use the shortest hose you can. I plan on installing another rain barrel on our greenhouse so that I can water more beds with a hose since it will be in a different part of the yard.
I was surprised at how fashionable rain barrels have gotten. We made ours using a food grade 55-gallon barrel that we found out for the trash at a nearby horse farm.
In addition to conserving water with a rain barrel, you can save water from your home to water your house plants and garden plants. Save any water that you boiled potatoes or eggs in or steamed vegetables in (make sure it's room temperature before using). Put a bucket in the shower to collect the wasted water as you wait for it to warm up. You'd be surprised at what you can save.
- Start a compost pile
This is probably my favorite way to go green. It just doesn't make much sense to have to pay to throw away materials that can be easily composted and turned into food for your plants. You can compost all biodegradable materials except for meat or dairy products (as they will attract rodents and can harbor unsafe bacteria). Just keep a small pail on your counter or under your sink to store the materials in and take them out when it's full. They make many fashionable styles of containers now that even have charcoal filters built into the lids so they don't smell. I generally empty mine once a week in the winter, and more often in the summer. You can even freeze your scraps and then add them to your pile at a later date.
Here is a list of common items that can be composted: all plant material (avoid diseased plants), non-glossy newspaper and junk mail (shred first so it decomposes faster), leaves, sawdust, ashes (in moderation), vegetable and fruit peels, egg shells, coffee grounds (including the filter), tea bags, paper towels, uncoated paper plates, and grass clippings. You can even use manure from animals that don't eat meat, such as rabbits, hamsters, cows, chickens and horses. Do not use manure from cats and dogs or other meat eating animals.
There is a great article about composting from Colorado State University here and another good site can be found here. If you are new to composting, I recommend getting a good book so that you can refer to it often. I've also written articles on "How to compost without a compost pile" and "How to make a trash can composter for$10 or less".
- Switch from Synthetic Fertilizers to Organic Fertilizers
This was the easiest for me to implement in my own gardens. For one, it's so much less expensive than buying synthetic fertilizers. The best and cheapest fertilizer you can use is good old fashioned compost. If you make it yourself, it's even cheaper. You can buy it by the truckload at most landscaping companies or nurseries these days and it comes in a bag for convenience at your local big box stores.
Occasionally you may need more than just compost, as in the case of roses, clematis, fruits, vegetables and other heavy feeders. Or maybe your soil is really bad and you need an additional boost besides the compost you are adding. Choosing a slow release organic fertilizer will not burn your plants and using them per the manufacturer's instructions will not harm the environment either. I found that synthetic fertilizers for plants are like junk food for people. It tastes good and gives you a quick pick me up, but it doesn't have any lasting nutritional value and you always feel sluggish after eating it and want more.
- Control weeds organically
You don't need chemical herbicides to control weeds. It might seem like the easy solution but in reality it's more harmful than good. Pulling weeds by hand or using specialized weeding tools is the obvious solution, but labor intensive if you have a large area to cover.
You can help prevent the problem by laying several layers of non-glossy newspaper underneath your mulch. The newspaper blocks all possible light from reaching the weed seeds, therefore preventing them from germinating. The newspaper will break down over time and enrich the soil. Depending on how many layers you used and what climate you live in, you may need to lay down newspaper once a year or once every two years. Either way, I generally don't have to weed a thing for a whole season. It's worth the effort to put down the paper in the spring.
Another way to control weeds organically is by using products that contain corn gluten or by using vinegar based products. The vinegar should be reserved for areas like walkways and driveways as it will kill all vegetation.
I've written a more in depth article about weed control here.
I hope you enjoyed this article and I hope it inspired you to go a little green in your garden.