5 Ways to Nurture the Earth (And Save You Effort!)
Imagine turning on the news tonight, and instead of the usually gloomy outcast, the reporter announced that bat populations were returning to normal levels, that monarch butterflies were taken off the endangered species list, that fresh water was in ready supply from coast to coast, and that mosquito control was no longer necessary.
Does that sound like a fantasy? It doesn’t have to be. If every one of us took a small step in the right direction, we’d be so much better off than we are today.
I’m not going to jump on a soap box about global warming or fuel efficiency or renewable resources. I’m just going to talk about your yard. Yes, this is a gardening article, NOT a political one!
Here are 5 ways your yard can help nurture our beautiful Earth (and save you time, money, and effort!). I’m not suggesting you do this all at once (although if that’s your thing, we can help you with that!). Even doing just one thing at a time will make a huge impact.
1. Get rid of your lawn.
I might offend a few avid lawn-mowers when I say this, but a grass lawn is boring! Not to mention that mowing your lawn requires fuel, creates harmful emissions, and often requires fertilizers that end up in our ground water or natural water bodies. Plus-- grass lawns provide home and food for very, very little wildlife.
What's the alternative? Try planting clover, expanding your plant beds, or using native ground covers. Or you could go with the Cool Ponds style... and just replace your lawn with pond.
2. Plant native plant species.
When we say "plant native species" we mean "versus non-native plants." And we mean both in your water feature and in your yard! Natives are so wonderful, and here's why:
|Service berry shrubs are one of our favorite natives.|
Low maintenance: Once established, most natives will never need watered again-- many are even drought-tolerant! And forget about fertilizer. You don't need it.
Habitat-friendly: Wildlife needs shelter and food. Many native shrubs, perrenials, and trees will provide this! Foliage provides a great place for critters to hide, nest, and roost. Look for dense grasses, thick shrubs and trees. Native species also attract native insects, which will help your gardens flourish and help feed wildlife.
Aesthetics: Natives are not boring. You can have a different blossom in your yard every month from March to October.
Water conservation: As I mentioned earlier, you don't need to water these plants!
|Yes, this is a native! This is Butterfly Weed.|
3. Make your backyard habitat friendly.
|Beautiful wildflowers or perfect habitat? Maybe both!|
A habitat has food, water, and shelter. If you have a water feature already, you're a third of the way there! The National Wildlife Federation covers this topic pretty extensively, so head to their website to learn more. Plus you can even certify your backyard as a wildlife habitat! Talk about bragging rights.
4. Capture rain water.
|This waterfall is a part of our rainwater harvesting system.|
Unless you've been living under a rock, you've heard about the water shortages on the west coast. And although we don't feel those shortages too much here in the Midwest, water conservation is something we should all be concerned with. Allowing rainwater to fall into storm drains and dump into the oceans means it's effectively useless. What a waste!
Capturing rain water for use in your backyard (watering plants, topping off your water feature) not only helps the environment, but also your water bill! The best rain water capturing is unobtrusive, aerates the water to prevent anaerobic bacteria build-up, and allows easy use of the rainwater afterwards.
And imagine that-- we've got the solution for you! A rainwater harvesting system.
5. Stop using chemical pesticides.
This last one is probably the most hot-button topic I'm covering. Pesticides are pretty common these days. I won't cover the impacts on your own health (read this if you want to give yourself the heebie jeebies). And I'm not talking about agricultural uses, either. Let's just talk about your yard.
Here's the general rundown about why pesticides are a bad idea:
"Broad spectrum" pesticides kill a wide range of insects, including many that are very beneficial to your yard, your community, and even your food! Have you heard about colony collapse disorder in honey bees? Yup, that's a pesticide issue. We need bugs! We need them to break down waste in the soil, to fend off foreign insects from our plants, to pollinate our plants, to feed other critters in the food chain... the list goes on.
If pesticides get into your pond, they could kill your fish. If they get into a natural water supply (rivers, streams, even ground water), it could harm local fish populations.
Pesticides can harm soil fertility or animals directly. Remember DDT's powerful effects on bald eagle populations?
Okay, so the bad news is all well and good, but what do we do instead? Plant native plants to encourage bad-bug fighting native insects or try planting these insect-repelling plants.
I'm not saying there aren't occasions when pesticides aren't necessary: just use caution and judge the risks before applying.