Nearly everyone strives to be sustainable, but avoiding chemical cleaners in your home and recycling plastic bottles isn’t nearly enough to call yourself green. In particular, you should look to how you treat your outdoor spaces: If you are pouring oceans-worth of water on your lawn every day, and if you must replace the dead greenery in your garden every few weeks regardless of how well you maintain it, you can’t conscionably call yourself eco-friendly.
Fortunately, it is possible to have a beautiful yard that is as green as you are ― you just have to be more careful with your methods and materials. Ecoscaping is a relatively new style of landscaping that works to create a beautiful outdoor space that doesn’t tax the environment and waste precious resources. Here are a few ways you can ecoscape your backyard so your yard is as sustainable as you are.
Limit the Size of Your Lawn
Lawn grass is rarely a native plant. If you take a stroll in the untouched natural spaces near your home, you are unlikely to find lush, naturally growing lawns in the woods or even in the fields. This is because the species of grass planted in backyards of residential spaces are incredibly resource-hungry: They require abundant water, food, and attention to survive.
However, there are plenty of good reasons to want to preserve some lawn space around your home. For one, grass is a safe, comfortable place to play and entertain guests. For another, green, healthy lawns are quite beautiful. Fortunately, tearing up your lawn and replacing it with wood chips or rock isn’t the only solution; instead, you can opt to maintain a smaller lawn so you reap the benefits while cutting down your use of resources. By confining the grass in your yard to a particular space ― perhaps attractively shaped to balance the look of your home and yard ― you can save money, save the environment, and save the charm of your outdoor space.
Commit to Consistent Lawn Maintenance
Plenty of homeowners sink ridiculous amounts of time and energy into maintaining their lawns, but such an approach is not only untenable for most people, it is also unsustainable. In fact, with consistent and concentrated maintenance, you can ensure your lawn is healthy without wasting abundant resources. If you don’t have the time to commit to regular maintenance, you might hire lawn care professionals to provide safe, sustainable service.
By choosing the correct grass seed for your region, preventing dangerous weeds and fungus with pre-emergent weed control, and mowing and watering properly for the season, you can sustainably maintain a lawn in your yard year-round.
However, if you do nothing else, you should keep an eye on the soil beneath your grass. Annual testing for nutrient levels, acidity, oxygen content, and more will prevent expensive and exhausting dead patches that are definitely not green.
Choose Native Flora
Even in the Sahara, indigenous plants grow, which means you can definitely find plants native to your area to use around your yard. Native plants naturally thrive in your climate, which means they shouldn’t require excess resources that can be unsustainable. Perennials are some of the best options because you can often plant them once and rarely worry about them.
Contrary to popular belief, every region has indigenous flora that can be attractively landscaped, or “naturescaped” as some environmental activists call it. A visit to a local nursery should provide you with inspiration. Plus, if you naturescape properly, you might be able to register your yard as a wildlife habitat through the National Wildlife Federation.
Build a Water Feature
Unlike decorative fountains, environmentally friendly water features can do much to increase the greenness of a yard. You might consider building any of the following into your eco-scape:
- Rain garden. In rainy regions, homeowners can dig depressions into the soil that collect rainwater and facilitate its addition to natural groundwater systems. You can cover the depression with stones and water-loving plants.
- Water barrels or cisterns. Collecting roof run-off or rainwater and using that water for yard irrigation is another sustainable option. The barrels are both cute and functional additions to any yard.
- Ponds. Building a pond into your yard can create a healthy space for native flora and fauna to grow naturally. You can even add indigenous fish species to create an entire ecosystem in your ecoscape.