University of Vermont Extension
Department of Plant and Soil Science
MORE GREEN GARDENING
Leonard Perry, Extension Professor
University of Vermont
gardening”, avoiding and lessening negative impacts on the environment
providing positive impacts, is becoming of interest to many gardeners
increased concerns over our environmental future. Some of these
include recycling, composting,
using alternative controls for pests and diseases, minimizing use of
and synthetic fertilizers, and using cover crops and mulches. Here are
a few more.
This means regular as needed, and high (two to three inches). During
summer when soil is moist and grass is
growing, you may need to mow twice a week.
However, I often see many still mowing as much during dry periods when
grass isn’t growing. Then you may get by
with mowing every 10 to 14 days. Mowing high keeps grass less stressed,
resulting in fewer if any chemicals for problems and maintenance.
Leaving grass clippings recycles organic
matter and nutrients back to the soil.
If you do collect grass clippings, add them to your compost.
Develop a landscape plan to minimize mowing. Even making curved edges
to beds, rather than
sharp corners, and avoiding cul-de-sacs of lawn will minimize mowing.
Large areas under trees are often better
suited to massed groundcover plants than lawns.
Leave large sunny areas that aren’t heavily used unmowed, or mow only
once or twice a season. Consider adding
wildflower meadows, keeping in mind these can be difficult to get
and last long term.
Use “green” tools and equipment. If you can use a rake or broom or
edgers, avoid the power blowers and string trimmers. This gives you
exercise as a benefit, and for
the environment lessens the use of fossil fuels, air
pollution, and noise pollution. If a small
lawn, consider an electric or even reel push mower. If you have an
older lawn mower, upgrade to a
newer one if feasible as these pollute less.
Keep in mind the pollution from one hour of lawn mowing has been
to driving a car 100 to 200 miles. An
estimate from Yale University is that more than 600 million gallons of
gas are used yearly in the United States just to trim and mow lawns.
Small engines like leaf blowers and trimmers
often pollute more than mowers.
Water may become a key crisis of this century. Almost three dozen
currently experience at least some water shortages. Use mulches to
conserve water. Soils with lots of organic matter require
less water. In very dry areas, plant
drought tolerant or xeriscape plants.
Use trickle or drip water systems, and only as needed. Overhead
watering can waste up to half the
water just to evaporation into the air.
Install a rain garden.
These are gardens designed to capture storm water runoff, preventing it
from entering waterways before sediment has been filtered out. Up to
70 percent of pollution in our
waterways in some areas has been attributed to storm water. Rain
gardens allow sediment and contaminants
to settle out before the water moves on.
Clay soils are not good for these, sandy soils being ideal. A mix of
native perennials and shrubs can
make such gardens quite lovely. Keep
them watered until established, and weeded, as you would other gardens.
Choose landscape plants and plans to minimize
maintenance. Allow shrubs to grow
natural, and choose ones for shapes desired.
This will lessen or avoid trimming (usually done with electric or
gas-powered hedge trimmers.) Avoid
planting trees and shrubs that will shed leaves where not desired, so
removing (such as with leaf blowers).
Choosing the right plants for the right site can avoid excess use of
fertilizers and soil amendments.
Use landscaping to reduce home energy use. Shade trees have been
estimated to reduce
energy used for air conditioning by 15 to 50 percent. The net cooling
effect of a young, healthy
tree equals ten room-size air conditioners operating 20 hours a day.
Ground temperatures can drop by 36 degrees in
as little as five minutes when shaded.
Deciduous trees, those that lose their leaves in winter, shade homes in
summer and allow warming from sun in winter.
Evergreens planted on windy sides of buildings act as a windbreak,
reducing winter heating bills up to 25 percent.
Keep in mind accessories too. Use
solar-powered lights for night lighting, for instance.
Create wildlife habitats and food sources with your
landscaping. For food plants choose
plants to provide seeds, berries, nectar, nuts, fruits, sap, or even
pollen. For water, provide a bird bath
(even one heated in winter), a small water feature or water garden, and
shallow water puddles for butterflies.
For cover, provide evergreens, dense shrubs, thickets, wood or rock
piles, a wooded area, and groundcovers.
A diversity of plants and habitats is ideal.
Plant trees. In
one year, an average tree produces enough oxygen for a family of four.
One tree will absorb the carbon dioxide from
four cars, every year. Planting trees
remains the cheapest and most effective means of drawing excess carbon
from the atmosphere. Trees also reduce energy use around buildings as
this the year to keep the environment in mind when planning the garden
landscaping, choosing plants, and providing care through the season.
Return to Perry's Perennial