Nurturing your outdoor space does more than create a pleasant family environment. It also helps maintain the health of our planet. Everything from beneficial insects to birds, butterflies and other wildlife depends on one another. Your turf plays an important part in this healthy ecosystem. Plus, staying in sync with nature will actually make gardening easier and more rewarding.
Here are some ideas for getting started.
Go native with your plant selections. Choosing shrubs, trees and flowers that grow naturally in your area means you’re likelier to have more robust, worry-free landscaping. Use evolution to your benefit. Native plants are better suited to local conditions, so they’ll be more resistant to your area’s most common plant diseases and weather fluctuations. You may be pleasantly surprised to discover you need less water to keep them healthy.
- Invite neighborhood birds into your space. They’ll help themselves to harmful bugs, reducing your need to use chemical insecticides.
- Choose the right type of turf for your zone and daily use. As with native plants, the right turf will require less monitoring, analyzing and treating. It’s okay for your grass to go dormant when water is less available. The right grass variety will be resilient and turn green when rain returns.
- Nourish your yard’s beneficial organisms. From the earthworms that help to break up soil compaction and improve your soil structure to the microscopic bacteria that supply essential minerals, you can encourage these beneficial organisms by allowing mulched leaves and lawn clippings to remain on your lawn over the winter, and avoiding over-watering. Southerners take note: Consider applying microscopic beneficial nematodes to your lawn once or twice a year. They love to feast on termites and fire ants.
Nix the artificial turf. There’s nothing like the real thing, baby!
A good lawn can:
Lower your energy bills. Think of your lawn as a high-end outdoor air conditioner. It’s generally going to be about 30 degrees cooler than asphalt, and 20 degrees cooler than bare soil. Plus like today’s top-of-the-line a/c units, your lawn filters out natural and man-made air pollutants, improving the air quality.
- Filter rainwater and reduce soil erosion. You may see just a wet lawn and a few puddles after it rains. In reality, your grass is hard at work slowing and absorbing water runoff, while cleansing impurities from the rain water.
- Produce oxygen. A 50 x 50-foot area of turf generates enough oxygen for a family of four. Fake grass made from old tires can’t do that.
- Soak up carbon dioxide. Leaving your grass clippings in place after mowing is good for the environment. NASA notes that if more Americans allowed their clippings to decompose on their lawns, our lawns could store up to 37 billion pounds of carbon each year. Plus, those clippings are filled with nutrients, reducing your need to fertilize by as much as 25 percent.
- Support biodiversity. Your lawn works in conjunction with your trees and other landscaping to provide a healthy environment for a variety of wildlife.
We love our lawns, and there’s no question that they can have tremendous ecological benefits. Following these few simple guidelines can help you create a healthier ecosystem in your yard that saves money and natural resources. It can also free up more of your time to enjoy your beautiful outdoor space.