Friday, April 22, 2011

Down to Earth

A few years ago, the National Wildlife Federation published a great article called “How Green is Your Garden?“, encouraging gardeners to consider the carbon footprint of their gardens. (Did you know a garden could even have a negative effect on the environment?) She offered six tips for reducing your garden’s carbon footprint, and I was inspired to spend some time examining those tips and deciding if they were too difficult for an average gardener to implement.

Below, you’ll find the six tips along with a brief summary of my thoughts on implementing these tips in an average garden. For a detailed look at each tip, click the links to read my original posts from 2009. Happy Earth Day!


Tip #1:
Reduce the size of your lawn. Better yet, consider eliminating it entirely.

There's definitely an initial investment of time in changing your water-hungry lawn to a greener garden. However, down the line, your payoff is very rewarding indeed! Our lawn maintenance is almost zero during the winter months, and during the summer months, it takes only 10 - 15 minutes a week. Take the time to do some up-front work, and reap the benefits in the long run.

Tip #2:
Use hand tools instead of power equipment.

Although tools like a classic reel mower may take a little more exercise and cause some Beaver Cleaver remarks from neighbors, today’s models are easy to maintain and operate. If you’ve reduced the size of your lawn as suggested in tip #1, then this tip becomes pretty easy to implement. Plus, hand tools like rakes are a heckuva lot cheaper than leaf blowers.

Tip #3:
Choose materials with low-embodied energy.

The most difficult part of this tip is probably the research involved. Just remember to consider the total amount of energy involved in manufacturing the materials and transporting them to your yard. Choose materials like wood or crushed shell over concrete bricks or solid cement. Ask questions to find out where and how materials are made, and choose locally when possible.

Tips #4 and 5:
Emphasize woody plants that capture more carbon than fleshy herbaceous species. Plant trees and shrubs where they will block winter winds and provide shade in summer.

The key here is to remember that “woody plants” doesn’t have to mean trees. In a small lot, you may not want to plant many more tall trees than you already have. However, you can choose shrubs or woody plants that provide the same benefits. Plan your plantings to help your house conserve energy, sit back, and enjoy! (Don't forget - you can get 10 free trees with an Arbor Day Foundation membership!)

Tip #6:
Minimize, or better yet eliminate, the use of fertilizers and pesticides on your property.

Most Florida-Friendly plants will need minimal fertilization to thrive in our sandy soil, but when fertilizers are necessary, choose natural over synthetic. Depending on where you live, these may not be available locally, involving a little more work combing the internet. As for pesticides – many of the bugs in your garden are beneficial. Fire Ants? Don’t get me started on Fire Ants. Try a natural killer and spot treat only when you find them rather than putting down a broadcast killer on a regular basis.

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