Ideas for having a Green Landscape

Going “green” and being eco friendly in your own back yard means a lot more than the color of your lawn and landscape. In fact, you may not always want your lawn to look so green you don’t want your lawn to be filled with natural but green weeds! Listed below are ideas to green your landscape in healthy, sustainable and environmentally friendly ways.

Green landscaping, sustainable or eco-landscaping is a method to design, create, and maintain your landscape to save the planet, time, money, and energy. Green landscapes nurture wildlife; reduce air, soil, and water pollution; and make healthy recreation spaces.

  • Plants

Plants are central to the “green” part of green landscaping. When thinking about what to plant, consider native plants or cultivars derived from native plants (sometimes referred to as “nativars.”) Native plants are naturally adapted to your regional environment. Stay close to home when making your choices, however. Just because a plant is native to Canada doesn’t make it good for your location.

When considering natives, check with local experts to avoid any natives that are invasive or aggressive. For example, purple loosestrife, a beautiful plant once grown in many gardens, is now banned in many areas because it spreads too easily to wild areas, choking out other plants.

Instead of building a fence for your yard, plant a living wall or a hedge to provide wildlife habitat. These can be done in very unique ways and encourage local wildlife to visit and provide them with much needed habit.

Plant deciduous trees (trees that shed their leaves in winter) on the side of your home that is hot during summer, so they provide cooling shade in summer and allow warmth in winter. Planting trees is a great way to help keep that air clean and counteract the effects of CO2.

  • Hardscapes

Hardscaping (refers to the built environment including paved areas like streets & sidewalks, structures, walls, street amenities, pools and fountains, and fireplaces and fire pits) can also be green. Permeable pavers are a more environmentally friendly choice than concrete for driveways, for example, because they allow water to flow into the ground instead of runoff into storm sewers, lakes, rivers, and other bodies of water.

Recycling or reusing bricks, stones, glass, concrete pieces, and other materials is a green alternative to buying or creating new materials for landscaping. Choose recycled plastics or sustainably harvested materials for fencing and decks.

  • Water Responsibly

In the heat of summer, allow your lawn to go dormant instead of keeping it green with watering. Grass is naturally programmed to go into dormancy. Water infrequently, if at all. When you do water, be sure it’s a deep soaking; shallow watering promotes shallow root growth that is more susceptible to drought and insect problems.

Use organic mulch in garden beds and around trees to conserve soil moisture and prevent weeds.

Look into xeriscaping, also known as drought-tolerant landscaping. Especially in dry regions where water is in short supply, using the right design and plants can provide a beautiful display without a lot of supplemental water.

An easy way to going green with water is to collect rainwater runoff from your roof in rain barrels. Use that free, naturally soft water for your garden needs.

Install a rain garden — a landscaped garden placed in a shallow depression where runoff from your home’s roof or hardscaping is directed instead of a storm sewer. According to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) nearly 70 percent of water pollution comes from storm water runoff, and half of that pollution comes from chemicals used in our yards and homes, so creating rain garden helps stop pollution at its source.

  • Reduce or Avoid Chemicals

By reducing or avoiding chemical fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides, you benefit water, air, and wildlife.

First, do a complete test on your soil. You may not need to add any chemicals! If your soil needs nutrients, consider adding compost and other organic materials to improve the quality of your lawn and garden soils. Healthy soil nurtures healthy plants.

Avoid overfertilizing with chemical nitrogen and phosphorus fertilizers, which can run off into groundwater sources, adding to water pollution concerns. Never allow your grass clippings or leaves to stay in the street; they are a major source of water pollution. Blow the chopped grass and leaves back onto the lawn where they’ll decompose and add nutrients.

Apply only the smallest amount of nitrogen-base fertilizer you need; excess nitrogen can “burn” lawns.

Apply fertilizer to lawns only in fall and spring when it is most beneficial to the grass. A quick-release fertilizer applied in fall — not spring — is the most important because it helps grass build reserves for spring growth.

  • Reduce or Stop Fuel Emissions

The emissions from lawn mowers, snow blowers, chain saws, leaf vacuums, and other outdoor power equipment are a significant source of pollution, so think before you use them – or purchase them!

Avoid spilling gasoline when you fill a gasoline engine or a gas can at the fuel pump.

Switch from gasoline-burning machines to cleaner-burning electrical engines. Bear in mind, though, that using electricity causes pollution. Use manual tools such as reel push mowers and hand tools. It is not only environment friendly but also healthy.

Mow your lawn less frequently. In addition to saving energy and time, your lawn benefits with being less mown. Remove no more than one-third of the leaf-blade length at any time. Keep your grass at least 3 inches long in summer to cool the soil, preserve moisture, and help the grass maintain a healthy root structure. Research shows that mowing higher means fewer weeds because taller grass shades and out-competes the weed seedlings.

Reduce fuel emissions and save time with a smaller lawn. Transform part of your lawn into gardens filled with low-maintenance, easy-care shrubs and native plants.

  • Waste Not

To create green landscaping, you don’t need to change your landscape. It can be as simple as reducing the amount of solid waste you produce. For example, instead of bagging lawn waste such as twigs and leaves, create compost piles. When the yard waste has decomposed, add the finished product to your lawn and gardens to increase fertility.

Other green landscaping activities to consider:

Avoid bagging your lawn clippings unless they’re so long that they’ll smother the grass. Let clippings fall to the ground, where they will quickly decompose and add nutrients. If you have to buy compost check and see if you can get it from recycling facility and try and not use plastic bags to collect it in.

Buy mulch in bulk to avoid tossing away multiple plastic bags.

Recycle your plastic garden pots and trays.

Share large tools with your neighbours to reduce the need for buying equipment you only use once in a while and it will be even helpful with your social life.

Landscaping can be fun and provide a great way to keep the earth the way it should b. Take the time to plan your garden and you’ll be able to enjoy your own green ‘planet’ when you need to get away.

Like what we’re doing? Want to share your story or tell others? Do you have a green business in Calgary and want to get in front of a large local audience? Let’s build a green community together!