~ guest post by Linda Reynolds
There’s much to be said about “going green” in your home, but have you thought about what you can do in your yard, other than an organic vegetable garden? There’s plenty of ways to make your yard beautiful with eco-friendly landscaping.
1 :: Earth Berms
Never heard of an earth berm? You’ve likely seen one. These are manmade hills, often formed in the front yard of homes. Packed down with rubber, mulch, sediment, and other filling materials, earth berms can be covered with grass and plants of all types. They serve a practical purpose when it comes to runoff; they redirect drainage when planned strategically. Berms can also help keep heating costs and energy usage low; they can block wind and keep your home insulated. They also serve a wonderful aesthetic purpose, creating levels and interest in any plain landscape.
2 :: Composting
If you’re not already composting, consider the benefits of this natural process. It helps return essential nutrients to the soil, keeping it moist and fertile. Turn all organic waste in your kitchen and yard into fantastic nutrient-rich soil helper. From banana peels to grass clippings harvested from the lawnmower, you’ll find you likely have plenty of organic waste to recycle. It will help cut down on your garbage load, keep your soil rich and nutrient-dense, and make your plant life much healthier. Simply buy or make your own composting container and commit to dropping your organic waste in every day. Give it a little time and voila—garden-approved soil serum. Check out the sturdy yet stylish tea-making composter from Envirocycle.
3 :: Add a Tree
The type of tree you plant could also have a huge effect on your cooling and heating bills. Homes with deciduous trees benefit from the shade provided during the hot summer; when the leaves drop in autumn, you can then capitalize on the sunlight let in. Perhaps you prefer evergreen trees; these can serve as a windbreak and help keep your home well insulated all year long. Need more incentive? Adding a single tree to your home’s front yard can significantly boost property value, and make your home more enticing to searching buyers.
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4 :: Harvest Rainwater
The best rainwater collection systems can easily cost thousands of dollars, but the initial investment is paid back over time through utility savings. If you don’t have all the money upfront, there are still ways to finance your upgrades, and the sooner you do so, the more you’ll get on your return in the long run. With the advent of PACE program financing, homeowners are now able to afford a variety of energy efficient upgrades, including catchment systems. The water you collect can be used to sustain your plants and any water features you have in our yard.
5 :: Avoid Pesticides
Every year, homeowners in the United States apply 70 million pounds of pesticides to their yards. These pesticides have been linked to a variety of health issues, including birth defects and diseases. An easy way to collect the mosquitoes and other critters out of your plants? Install a water feature. Whether it be a small frog pond or flowing fountain, your yard will look fantastic and you’ll be able to avoid poisoning the soil with toxic chemicals.
6 :: Use Native Plants
Stick to native plants when it comes to flowers and bushes. These plants are naturally adapted to survive in your particular climate, which means they require less water and maintenance. Because these plants are native to your area, they attract local wildlife and insects—the beneficial kind. They’re also less likely to fall prey to plant predators, meaning you won’t have to use pesticides to begin with.
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Linda Reynolds is a wife, mother of two, and gardener extraordinaire; when she’s not writing, you can usually find her getting her hands dirty in the backyard. She’s a sucker for a good period piece, and is passionate about family issues and holistic wellness. As a member of Greenpeace and green housing consulting organizations, Linda is also an authority on sustainability and eco-friendly construction.