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While lush, green lawns and gardens are beautiful to look at, many people spend more time working on their landscaping than they do enjoying it. The problem is that many people douse their lawns with harmful chemicals and pesticides or waste water by over-watering or watering at the wrong times.
It takes little effort to make your lawn and garden areas less toxic and more beautiful. Best of all, you can create landscaping that requires little or no maintenance, watering, or fertilizing.
Here are five ways that you can cultivate a beautiful lawn and garden that is self-sustaining so that you can spend more time enjoying it and less time tending to it.
1. Reduce the Lawn Coverage on Your Property
It's no secret that lawns need a lot of upkeep, water, and fertilizing to look good and stay healthy. Aside from requiring a lot of your time it also requires a lot of water. When you consider that only 1% of the earth's water is drinkable and that your water comes to your house ready to drink, you can see why using hundreds of gallons of drinking water on your lawn can impact the earth.
Instead of lawn, try more regional ground coverings if you seek vegetation or perhaps make a shift to an artistic display of rocks and gravel if you are in a drier climate. By landscaping with low maintenance and low water-using plants you can reduce the strain on both yourself and the earth.
If possible, plant a strategically located tree or two. Trees not only add oxygen to the air, but they look beautiful and provide welcomed shade in summertime. Furthermore, trees can shade the home from harsh summer sun thereby reducing air conditioning costs and energy demands.
If opting for a larger tree species, you may want to consult with a local garden shop or landscaping expert to find the best possible tree for your location. Either way, you'll want to consider the potential height of final growth and the radius covered by its branches and root system. This will ensure that you don't plan the tree too close to your home.
2. Whenever possible, go native!
Plants that originated and thrive in your climate region have already learned to adapt to the temperatures, seasons, sunlight, rainfall, and soil conditions of the region. Do some research and find out what flowers, trees, and plants are local to your area. Many local garden shops and even your local library will have books that you can use. A good online tool to refer to is the Native Plant Database at http://www.wildflower.org/plants.
In almost all cases, native plants will require little to no maintenance and will be stronger and healthier than experimental foreign plants and grasses. The less native a plant is to your locale, the more effort it will take to help it survive.
3. Compost or Seek Natural Alternatives to Chemical Fertilizers While fertilizers may be touted as a great way to keep your lawn looking green and healthy, the trade off just isn't worth it. There are ways to keep your lawn and garden areas beautiful without delivering harmful chemicals to the water table and the cycle of life. Some alternatives include natural compost or even just grass clippings and leaves. Both of these decompose relatively quickly and deliver the healthy nutrients from which they grew right back into the soil for plants and grass to consumer.
Sometimes you can get compost from municipalities but if you must go it alone, know that you can compost almost all lawn, garden, and kitchen waste! This includes lawn clippings, old tea bags, fruit and vegetable peelings, egg shells, fish heads, cardboard cereal boxes, and so much more. All of this can be chopped up and mixed with your compost pile. Using compost as fertilizer saves money and helps save the planet and your lungs from harmful chemicals.
If you must use a store-bought fertilizer, make the switch to organic fertilizers. Lawn and plant fertilizers are among the greatest polluters of our watershed so opt for organic whenever possible for a healthier landscape, healthier wildlife, and a healthier environment.
4. Grow Your Own Food Organically
We're not saying you need to sustain yourself on the lay of the land, but gardening fruits and vegetables is not only enjoyable, it's healthy! Even if you just tend to a single tomato plant, a cucumber vine, or some easy-to-grow bean plants, you are helping to reduce both your energy consumption and your food budget.
Rather than having these items picked at some mega-farm somewhere, peppered with pesticides to keep them 'fresh', shipped to your grocer, and eventually selected by you, growing your own food ensures freshness...from vine to table!
Fruit trees actually require very little attention and can produce large amounts of food for years to come. While vine fruits and vegetables require a bit more effort, the peace, taste, and healthy benefits are well worth it.
Mowing high, at least 3 inches, helps your grass actually grow faster and more lush. It also helps create a healthier root system.
5. Collect and Use Rainwater
By installing a rainwater collection system, even if it's a down and dirty homemade contraption, you can recycle it for use in your lawn and garden. If it rains occasionally in your area then there is a good chance that you will be able to use this recycled water when you are experiencing dry spells.
Collecting and storing rainwater will save you money, save your community's or your well's water supply, and keep your lawn beautiful in the process. All because you're collecting what would have normally washed away.
Collecting rainwater isn't difficult to do even if you don't want to purchase an actual rainwater collection system. Check with local farms or classified ads for a tank or barrel. Place the barrel underneath your gutter or downspout and add a piece of wire mesh to keep out debris.
You can even modify your gutter downspouts to empty into a rain barrel with an installed hose spigot for easy and free eco-friendly lawn and garden watering.