Lifestyle Design

20 Green Living Tips for Your Yard

Image: luigi diamanti /

We were working on a gravity fed drip system for our container garden on our deck this past summer.  We didn’t quite getting it working, but we have some ideas for some upgrades next year to reuse the water, both in the system and from our fish tanks.  This will keep the overall water consumption down and should make for happier plants.

1. Install motion detectors on your outdoor lights.

Instead of leaving on your outdoor lights all evening, install motion detectors so they only come on when needed. This relatively simple change can save as much as 30% of the electricity needed for your outdoor lighting.

2. Wash your car on the lawn.

This does double duty – you get a clean car and you water your grass at the same time. Plus you are using a lot less water than is used at commercial car washes. Be sure to use a bucket or a trigger hose attachment so you only use the amount of water you need.

3. Sweep walkways, patios and driveways.

Instead of spraying them down with your hose and wasting water, get out the old fashioned broom. They’re just going to get dirty again soon anyway!  And you’ll be getting some healthy exercise.

4. Make your swimming pool more energy efficient.

Pools account for as much as 60% of a home’s summer energy costs – and more in parts of the world where pools are used year round. Cut this down by as much as 20% simply by using a solar blanket to help keep the pool warm. Save another 20% by turning down your pool heater by a few degrees.

5. Use all natural fertilizers.

Unfortunately fertilizers never stay on the grass and flowerbeds where they are applied. Every time it rains the chemicals spread into the ground water, which can pollute lakes, rivers and streams and even our drinking water. Avoid any problems by choosing all natural fertilizers. They cost a little more but they are much gentler on our environment.

6. Get a rain barrel.

Every time it rains a lot of great water goes right down the drain. Instead, install a rain barrel and capture this water for use on your flowerbeds. You can even hook your hose up to most rain barrels and use it to water your lawn. They are very easy to install – all you have to do is hook them up to your eaves trough downspout. Then when it rains the water collects in the barrel instead of going down the sewer system.

7. Use solar or LED lights in the garden.

A beautifully lit garden is a wonderful space to spend time during the warmer months. But instead of installing lights that are not energy efficient, choose solar or LED. Solar lights have their battery charged by the sun all day so that they are ready to go in the evening. LED lights do use electricity but only a small fraction of what regular light bulbs use. In fact one string of white LED fairy lights uses only 2 watts of electricity and the bulbs last up to 100,000 hours.

8. Find natural ways to keep pests out of your garden.

Insects are a fact of life in the garden. And many are actually beneficial to your yard. But when you find that your plants are being munched on, it’s time to find natural solutions to deal with the pests. Instead of reaching for chemicals, opt for natural insecticides. For example, a saucer of beer will keep slugs off hostas. And planting chives beside your roses will keep aphids away. There are also all natural insecticidal soaps that you can “wash” your plants with.

9. Plant a tree.

Help make the air cleaner and your neighborhood more beautiful by planting trees in your yard. No matter the size of space you have, there is a tree that will work for you. Talk to your local nursery about the spot where you would like to grow a tree and they will help you select one that will grow to a manageable size for your area and has a root system that will not interfere with anything. Some municipalities offer rebates for planting trees so be sure to check that out.

10. Conserve water.

There are several things you can do when preparing your flowerbeds that will help you to conserve water in your garden. An important one is to plant native species because they are acclimatized to the amount of rain you get in your area. Also, be sure to add compost to the soil to help it retain any moisture it does get. And top off your beds with mulch, which will keep moisture in and has the added benefit of keeping weeds out.

11. Opt for a variety of different plants.

Large numbers of the same plants are much more likely to attract pests and diseases than a garden with a mixture. So when you’re doing your planting be sure to mix it up! You’ll not only have healthier plants but you’ll also attract a greater variety of creatures which can be beneficial and make for a much more interesting garden.

12. Don’t use pressure treated wood.

Although it is readily available and less expensive than other types of building materials, you should never use pressure treated wood when building fences, decks and sheds. It is full of chemicals that continue to be emitted in to the atmosphere for many years. This is not only bad for the environment, but is also bad for you as you breathe it. Spend a little extra and get untreated wood such as cedar. If you go to a lumber mill instead of your local building center you will find more variety and usually save some money.

13. Use an alternative to peat moss.

Peat moss is readily available at garden centers for use as an additive to soil. Its ability to hold moisture makes it very useful for gardeners. And although having to water your gardens less is great for the environment, peat moss is not. Peat is harvested from ancient wetlands and by removing it the natural filtration of groundwater is disturbed, natural flood prevention is altered and the homes of many species of wildlife are destroyed. A great alternative to better hold moisture in your soil is coir (coconut fiber).

14. Choose the right type of grass for your area.

By sowing grass that is ideally suited to the weather where you live, there will be less work to maintain it. Look for drought and disease resistant varieties at your local garden center and talk to them about how to care for it.

15. Don’t water your grass during the day.

When you water your grass during the day, a lot of that water simply burns off from the heat and sunshine. Instead, water early in the morning or in the evening when the sun has started to go down. This will also reduce the risk of burning your grass, which can happen when the sun is reflected through water drops.

16. Opt for energy saving mowers and trimmers.

Did you know that some older lawn mowers actually produce more pollution than cars? If you are still using inefficient garden tools, now is the time to switch. There are many different brands of mowers and trimmers available that are battery powered or manual. Using these instead of gas or electric powered garden tools can save you money and they are much better for the environment.

17. Choose the right types of trees.

When planting trees, consider the location you want to put them before deciding on the type of tree. This will ensure that you choose trees that will give you necessary shade when you need to stay cool and that will allow sun to shine in when you need heat. For example, if you have a room where the sun shines in during the warmer months and heats it up, plant trees outside these windows that will provide shade. By choosing deciduous trees (ones that lose their leaves) you will have the benefit of allowing the sun to shine in during the winter months and helping naturally heat your home.

18. Don’t rake up your grass clippings.

By leaving grass clippings on the lawn you create your own fertilizer. As they decompose they put important nutrients back in to the soil that make your lawn healthier and stronger. You also save all those clipping from going in to a landfill site.

19. Plant your own vegetable garden.

A lot of resources are needed to produce the food we buy at the supermarket.  From the water used on the crops to the fuel needed for transportation, there are many negative environmental repercussions.  Growing your own food is a great way to be more environmentally friendly.  And home grown vegetables always taste better!

20. Use a soaker hose or watering can.

If you must water your lawn or gardens, choose an option that conserves as much water as possible. For small jobs, opt for a simple watering can. For larger jobs, choose a soaker hose. They use 70% less water than most types of sprinklers.

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