In recent years the go green initiative has been gaining ground into mainstream popularity. More and more people are making attempts at “going green” whether it is by carpooling to work or upgrading appliances at home to save on utility bills. While you think of all the energy vampires and electronics that you use every day in your home, you may not think of best practices to conserve water and energy in your backyard. Here are some options and tips for going green in your backyard.
Setting up your backyard for success
If you are re-arranging your backyard for the best possible way of conservation then draw it all out. Mapping out what plants go where is extremely important; not only for visual appearances but so you can efficiently water similar plants together. When mapping out your backyard you may want to consider having a sloping hill that will catch water at the bottom. Plants in this area would then be self-watered and need less effort from you to maintain them.
Less of a backyard means less to maintain. By planning to build on a new deck to your house, choosing the right gazebo for your yard, or simply extending your house with a patio, you are leaving less area for maintenance and more for enjoyment. When you are cleaning your deck or patios never clean them off with a hose. Always brush them off with a broom to conserve water, or if you must, use a leaf blower.
If you live in an area that is prone to droughts like the West and Southwest, then planting native plants that need little to no water may be your best option for water conversation. If you do need to use plants that use water, group them together to get the most out of your water and to avoid excess watering if they were spread out. Another option in these areas of drought is using mulch and native landscapes throughout your yard instead of a grass lawn. Mulch helps to cool the soil and reduce evaporation when laid around trees and plants.
Effective watering systems to work smarter, not harder
A common practice for green gardeners is the use of rain barrels. Rain barrels can be installed to catch water runoff from drains and collected for later use. Hoses and nozzles can be inserted to the barrel allowing you to water nearby plants. Of course you should always enclose your rain barrel to deter from insects and pests as well as reduce evaporation.
Another option is installing a drip irrigation system. Drip irrigation systems can be used for both for flower and plant gardens as well as food and vegetable gardens. Essentially a drip irrigation system is a hose with tiny holes spread out along the hose for water to escape and slowly drip and water the soil. This conserves more water than a sprinkler as much more water is wasted because of evaporation of the droplets or not getting water directly to the root as a drip irrigation system can. Pro tip: setup a timer so that your drip irrigation system runs at the best time of the day and doesn’t require you to remember to water a garden or plants. Soaker hoses may be used in a drip irrigation system as they slowly emit water to plant roots. They can be installed on top of the ground or be buried underneath it to reach the root faster.
Maintaining your green yard
Once you have an efficient watering system setup and your backyard to your liking there are a few tips you can follow when maintaining to get the most of your yard. Maybe the most common mistake is cutting the grass too low. The misconception that most of us think is to cut it really low and it will take longer for it to grow back until you have to cut it again. While this may be true, you are hurting your grass in the long run and may have to pay for it in the form of weeds. When mowing your grass it should be cut no lower than 2 inches, but preferably around 3-4 inches is best. This means that there will be 3-4 inches of deep roots below the ground, as well as deters weeds because of the lack of sunlight to the soil. So by cutting your grass a little higher you may have to cut it more often, but you will need to weed it less, if at all.
When watering plants, make sure you are watering deeply at the root, so you don’t end up watering the whole yard and wasting water. Deep watering or soaking ensures it gets down to the root where a quick sprinkling may not and may evaporate quickly. Always try to water your yard and plants in the morning to prevent bacterial growth overnight when it is cooler and darker. While you want to water thoroughly, avoid over watering which can wash away or dilute the fertilizers that you used. If you have any water features like ponds, pools or fountains try to cover them when they are not in use to conserve water evaporation. If you are in a drought heavy area it may be best to reconsider the need of a pond or fountain though.
Organic fertilizers typically release more nutrients than synthetic fertilizers, but at a slower rate which means results may take longer. On the other hand, it means less fertilizing for you and always remember to water after fertilizing. If interested, see more on the benefits of organic lawn care and the differences between organic and inorganic fertilizers.
By planning out and setting up your backyard for success, installing efficient watering systems, as well as following some basic maintenance tips you could cut costs when it comes to your backyard. Once you have your backyard tackled, check out this consumer guide to home energy savings to really go green at home. If we missed any tips on going green in your backyard please let us know in the comments below!
Author Bio: Michael Juba resides in the Amish country of Lancaster County where he works for web design and marketing agency EZSolution. He enjoys spending his time going out with friends, getting to as many Philly sports games and concerts as possible, and watching an endless queue of movies on Netflix.