Despite the bit of May snow falling, lawns are greening and needing care. Lawns are the most resource-intensive form of landscaping. However, there are ways to reduce the environmental impact of lawn maintenance.
If a lawn is a must for you, here are some green tips for a green lawn:
Watering lawns and gardens accounts for up to 50% of domestic water consumption during the summer. It’s no wonder, during peak summer months, watering restrictions have become almost commonplace. Cutting down on water use isn’t about obeying a municipal ruling. Saving water also decreases the amount of energy used to treat and pump clean water to your home. You’ll also save money on your water bill. It’s simple to keep your lawn green.
- Water once a week. One long (an hour) watering is better than several short ones. Perhaps a bit more frequently if your grass gets hours of full sun. If it’s been raining, cut back. Consider getting a rain gauge to measure rainfall and act as a guide.
- Measure the amount of water your sprinkler leaves on the lawn. It’s easy, put out a container such as a measuring cup the next time you water and see how much water accumulates. As a rule, lawns need about one inch of water for each watering.
- Get a timer. Once you know how long to leave the sprinkler on to give your lawn enough water, use a timer. Most of them fit between the outdoor tap and the garden hose and have a dial with both an on/off setting and a shut-off feature.
- Install a rain barrel. Your eaves trough downspout must be able to drain directly into the barrel. Rain barrels are inexpensive to purchase and can provide you with free water. The runoff from an average roof will completely fill a 60-gallon rain barrel after only 0.2 inches of rain fall.
- Keep grass at around 2-3 inches high to promote deeper roots, which reach down further into the earth to find moisture. Cutting the grass shorter will promote shallow roots and dry out the lawn more quickly.
For a healthy lawn and your own health, don’t use pesticides. Use natural fertilizers instead. Many environmentally friendly products are easy to use and highly effective. They often contain minerals, the natural by-products of partly decayed organic matter. All these ingredients encourage your grass to grow healthy and strong.
Diatomaceous earth is a non-toxic, safe insecticide made from fossils of freshwater organisms and marine life. Crushed to a fine powder, it is deadly to any insect but won’t harm humans, animals, fish, fowl or plants. For plants, you can use it in spray form, mixing 1/4 pound per 5 gallons of water, making sure to keep the mixture well agitated. Or you can dust your plants—after you’ve watered or it’s rained (so the earth will stick to the leaves).
Instead of using chemicals, try regular white vinegar. Vinegar can help get rid of such weeds as Canada thistle, broad-leaf plantain and English plantain, but you have to spray them while they’re seedlings. Once they’ve matured, the vinegar will kill the exposed plant, but won’t kill the root. The best natural way of getting rid of dandelions, crab grass and other weeds that show up in lawns is to remove them manually. Soap-based products, in liquid spray form, can also be effective in spot-treating some weeds such as bindweed.