Plant Smart

Best Practices

You don’t need a PhD to be smart about planting.  A few practices can get you on your way to creating a yard that is headache-free and healthy for you and the environment.

Sprinkle sporadically, fertilize frugally! Don't water your lawn every day…it doesn’t need it. Most lawns only need one inch of water per week. You can tell if the lawn needs water by stepping on the grass – if it springs back easily, it doesn't need water. And when you do water the lawn, do it in the early morning, not midday, to reduce the amount of water that evaporates. For a dousing of water saving ideas for lawn and garden, visit here. And about that fertilizer…one option is to forego it altogether. Try a mulching mower. The fine clippings will break down and nourish the lawn. If you must fertilize, do it once a year and preferably in the fall. This will reduce runoff and minimize the harmful effects of too much nitrogen and phosphorus entering our waterways. Consider using organic fertilizers and even your own compost made from leaves, grass clippings, and kitchen leftovers.

Reduce your chemical and gasoline dependence! Traditional yard chemicals aren’t good for people, pets, or wildife. Try organic pest control products or even beneficial insects. For weed control, consider using corn gluten. Try increasing your tolerance and acceptance of a few weeds. Some, like clover, actually fortify your soil with nitrogen. Better yet, reduce the size of your lawn and replace it with low-maintenance native trees, shrubs, grasses, ferns, and flowers. If your lawn is small, consider using a hand-powered or electric mower instead of a gas-powered one. You’ll save money and reduce air pollution, including greenhouse gases like CO2. For a naturally provoking look at chemical-free lawn care, check out these these techniques and tricks.

Save the rain! Prevent storm water runoff. From driveways, roofs, roads, lawns and other hard surfaces, rain carries away many pollutants and delivers them to streams. The voluminous, fast-moving water erodes stream banks and the pollutants degrade water quality. The water yearns to be retained and released slowly into the ground, where it can be organically filtered and recharge aquifers. Buy or make your own rain barrels to place under your downspouts then use the water for your lawn or garden – a bit of old-fashioned conservation for today. For a barrel-full of rain barrel information, visit here. If you have the space, build a rain garden. Begin with a specially-designed, shaped, and sized depression; add pebbles and soil; “top” with plants tolerant of a little inundation; and you have an attractive garden with a mission. Visit this site to wet your appetite for rain gardening.

More trees! Trees provide enormous benefits to your home, from shade, to habitat, to beauty to carbon sequestration. Look for trees that are native and work in your space. If you are fortunate enough to live by a stream, plant away!. Streams need buffers of trees, shrubs and other vegetation to stay healthy. Tree roots stabilize streambanks. Falling leaves provide food for aquatic macroinvertebrates – the base of the food chain. Plants filter polluted runoff moving across the land before it enters the stream. Wildife find refuge in forested streamside corridors. If you’re a streamside landowner, conserve what buffer may still exist, expand it or establish one. Leaf through this excellent step-by-step guide on backyard stream buffers.

Eradicate invasives! Invasive plants are plants which grow quickly and aggressively, spreading rapidly and displacing other plants. They are usually introduced by people either accidentally or on purpose, into a region far from their native habitat. They represent a significant threat to indigenous flora and fauna. With minor infestations, it may be possible to eliminate the plants manually, but sometimes herbicides may be necessary or a combination of both. Learn more about these unruly invaders, visit here.