As odd as this sounds, the yard is a natural place to start if you want a greener, more energy-efficient lifestyle. Adopt some of these organic and conservation-minded practices and your patch of land can use less water and chemicals while also helping you reduce your home energy usage.
1) Invite plant protection
Planting trees can cut down on daytime heat gain from the sun’s rays, and reduce heat loss in the winter. In fact, if you move between tree shade and sun-heated asphalt, you can experience as much as a 25-degree temperature difference, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.
To reduce summer cooling costs, plant deciduous trees on the south side of your house for optimal roof shading, and plant shorter trees on the west side to minimize that end-of-day sun glare. To help your house hold in more winter heat, plant a windbreak of coniferous trees on the northwest side of your house.
2) Reduce your turf
Less bluegrass means you can reduce your water costs and the amount of fertilizer runoff entering our waterways. Consider a pergola or an arbor; the open spaces at the top will let in the breeze. Vines can add more shade to your yard and even your sunniest windows. Devote part of your yard to xeriscaping, which makes use of plants that can thrive even with little water.
3) Reconsider your mower
Americans use more than 600 million gallons of gasoline to mow the lawn, or 5 gallons per household, according to Yale University. If you’re in the market for a new mower, consider an electric model, which is quieter and uses less energy, or even a push mower.
4) Set up a composting station
Instead of using chemical fertilizers, fortify and enrich your garden dirt with a ready supply of natural matter with beneficial microbes. And you can cultivate compost very easily in your backyard! In a matter of months, your veggie scraps, garden waste and other goodies will be ready for next spring’s planting.
5) Gather the rain
Reduce your water usage in the garden and collect your roof runoff in a rain barrel or a cistern.
6) Weed control
Again, to avoid the chemical sprays, use a little smart garden strategy to encourage the flowers and veggies while keeping away the weeds. Place grass clippings, mulch or leaves in the spaces between your plants and yank up any unwanted guests, especially before they go to seed.
7) Native plants
At least part of your garden should be devoted to plants and flowers that grow naturally in your area. These plants will need much less watering and tending while helping your local habitat by attracting butterflies and bees. Native plants can also stem the spread and invasion of exotic species, which are found in all too many gardens. If you check with your local library, master garden program or garden center, you should find some options that work well for you!
8) Conserve water
Don’t water your plants during the heat of the day, or you’ll hasten evaporation. Better yet, install drip irrigation, which will send water right to the roots and reduce evaporation. (Plus, it’s much less labor for you.) Plant ground cover to shade the soil. Mulching also helps lock in soil moisture.
9) Invite the insect eaters
Many species of songbirds love to feast on insects in the summer. To help them discover your garden and its buffet of tasty caterpillars and creepy crawlies, set up a couple bird feeders, a bird bath, or a nesting box or two. Or set up a bat house. Bats can eat a tremendous number of flying insects in one evening — up to half their body weight — which can eliminate some of your garden and yard pests.