Greening Up The Grass

Today, driven in part by the loss of environmental quality and diminishing resources, there is a shift toward sustainable practices and a natural (organic) approach to gardening and lawn care in the United States, with implications for the commercial-landscape sector.

Cut back on your lawn by planting wildflowers and other native plants. © Can Stock Photo Inc. / barsik

This transformation is taking place through a government and public that is increasingly focused on carbon emissions and global climate-change concerns. As a result, sustainable practices in the American lawn-dominated landscape are increasingly becoming more mainstream.

Working to find alternatives to pesticides and fertilizers, landscape professionals and gardeners are going pesticide-free altogether.

They are examining the benefits of composting, growing vegetables, and adopting practices that protect the environment, such as water conservation and the use of native plants.

They are also looking to collect rain, and produce healthy soils for more robust plants without impacting the environment.

The emphasis is on increasing landscape diversity using native species. Together, all of these practices improve the health of the land and the people who live on it.

When designing a backyard space, one should think of how to improve the relationship of the homeowner with the environment. In other words, start on the ground—or even in the ground—and work your way up.

Mow Down The Yard

The lawn is a good place to start in moving toward a more environmentally friendly stance. Garden writer Joan Lee Faust writes that American homeowners use 10 times more chemical fertilizers per acre than farmers or golf courses.

Bestselling author Michael Pollan asserts that lawns are a symptom of—and a metaphor for—our skewed relationship to the land. They teach us that, with the help of petrochemicals and technology, we can bend nature to our will.

For those who are concerned about the human impact on the climate, reducing the amount of lawn mowed each week is one of the best things to do to reduce carbon emissions.

After adding in the environmental costs of mowing lawns—50-million acres in the United States—the benefits of rethinking the lawn mentality become evident.

According to Professor Douglas Tallamy, mowing the lawn for 1 hour produces as much pollution as driving 650 miles. Further, he says, homeowners currently burn 800-million gallons of gas each year in lawnmower engines to keep the grass at bay.

Converting lawns to trees or gardens not only would save money, but would create additional food and habitat for wildlife; additionally, converting would produce less and absorb more carbon dioxide.

Go green with something other than grass. Courtesy Of Carl Salsedo

To combat this dilemma, there are some simple steps to adopt a more “green” approach to lawn care. A simple solution is to reduce the lawn area. This automatically cuts the time needed for mowing, raking, fertilizing, and watering.

Grass should be cut  as high as possible to reduce maintenance. Clippings can be left on the lawn to return nutrition to the soil.

Ground covers, such as native grasses, can be used instead of turf on steep slopes and shady sites to minimize maintenance.

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