Oodles of garbage might not be the first thing you think of when it comes to yard and lawn care. A debate about the use of chemicals, sure; but I'd like to shine the spotlight on the volume of waste that often goes with yard care. Many people throw out piles of grass clippings, weeds, fertilizer bags, black plastic pots from greenhouses, and the list goes on.
One of the ways I keep our summer garbage to a minimum is to avoid pretty much all of those things. Here are a few things I do to keep my yard maintenance low-waste and environmentally friendly.
1) We use a push mower. Granted our lot is only 25ft wide, and of that a very small amount is actually lawn. However we love that there’s no cord to manage, and no smelly fuel to deal with. We allow our grass clippings to mulch on the lawn. If you're not familiar with this (lazy but also beneficial) technique you can read more here.
Push mowers do require a bit of maintenance. After each mow, you are supposed to rinse it off. I’d say I was pretty good about it when we first bought it, but nine years later I’ve gotten a bit lazy… That said, when performance wanes, it is fairly simple to clean and sharpen. We picked up a low-tech sharpening kit at Lee Valley Tools, which is where the mower was purchased.
2) We use rain barrels. We made two rain barrels out of reused food-grade oil barrels. They aren’t the most subtle yard decorations as they are bright blue, but they do the job! We use rain water for the garden as much as possible. It keeps our water bill down and is better for the plants since it doesn't contain chlorine.
3) We water in the evening. To minimize water loss of our precious rain water to evaporation, and just to use less, we water after the sun has gone down for the day. That way the water can soak in and be absorbed all night.
4) We have three flower beds all planted with perennials. In the yard we love our Hasta Lillies, Tiger Lillies of various colours, ferns, and Irisis. We prefer these because they are more drought tolerant than annuals as they have deep roots. It also avoids those disappointing single-use thin black plastic pots that most annuals come in.
5) We use compost – lots of it! Each year we amend our soil with compost we have made in our own back yard. If we need an extra boost I get some aged manure from a riding stable (though that has definitely brought in some new weed seeds!) Our routine is to pull down the vegetable garden in the fall and put on any finished compost from the bottom of our compost bin. That way our bin is less full as we head into winter when it fills up with frozen kitchen waste.
6) We don’t use any added synthetic chemicals. I don’t allow them in my personal care products as I have experienced first-hand how they negatively affect me, so I’m sure not going to spread them in my yard where our family plays! For any gardening issue I have encountered there has always been a simple, natural and effective solution, if I just look for it.
A few examples: instead of spraying for mosquitos we put fish in our pond to eat any larvae and window screen mesh over our rain barrels. We make sure not to have any other standing water in the yard. To manage lawn weeds we pull them out by hand and I often harvest them for salad or smoothie additions (tasty options are young dandelion leaves, young plantain, portulaca and lambsquarters). Or we just mow/weed whack over them and they blend right into the grass. This avoids having to disopse of any hazardous waste containers.
7) I save our leaves in the fall. Bagged leaves get used in our compost and as mulch in our flower beds. Leaf mulch reduces how much water is needed, blocks weeds from coming up and means we don't have to buy packages of commercial mulch. Win, win, win.
I'm sure there's plenty more small ways in which we avoid throwing out much of anything to do with our yard. It's even home to many recycled treasures.
Environmentally friendly gardening can be a real spectrum, I find. Where do you fit? Do you have a high-waste yard care habit that you can't let go of? Are you an all-natural gardener? Tell us about how you care for your yard and join the conversation below.