ECOLOGY BEGINS AT HOME
Make sure that your gardening practices are green
By Paul R. Huard
Copley News Service
A well-groomed lawn is the American way of highlighting a beautiful home and the landscape surrounding it. More than 30 million acres of residential property in the United States are lawns alone.
However, a new kind of concern about "being green" has entered many homeowners' lawn-care vocabulary. How can you care for a lawn in a way that keeps it lush and reduces the impact on the environment?
Fortunately, the answers are easy. Any homeowner can save money and still have a gorgeous yard by utilizing inexpensive and low-tech yard care solutions that are environmentally friendly. Here are a few tips:
PLANT NATIVE SPECIES
Native plants have adapted to their environment and require less water, fertilizer and maintenance than non-native species. Indigenous bird, animal and butterfly species are more attracted to native plants, resulting in the possibility of "watchable wildlife" near your own home. Planting native species of plants and grasses also will reduce the need for fertilizers and pesticides, because they have already adapted to grow appropriately and to survive natural predators.
USE OF FERTILIZERS OR PESTICIDES
Most households use pesticides at a rate 10 times greater than farmers use pesticides on their crops. This overuse of insecticides, herbicides, fungicides and fertilizers adds up to have a profound effect on human health, water quality and wildlife, including killing more birds than the West Nile virus. Follow direction closely and use only enough chemicals to get the job done.
There are also natural replacements for these chemicals, such as insecticidal soaps, horticultural oil and a few others.
MAINTAIN PROPER GRASS LENGTH
A mower set to a range of 3 to 3 1/2 inches will allow grass to grow to a longer length, which crowds out weeds and helps the soil retain moisture. If your mower can mulch the grass, use that feature and leave the grass clippings on the lawn to provide nutrients and to prevent water from evaporating. This also keeps yard waste out of landfills.
Most people over-water their lawns, which results in unhealthy grass and wasted water. If you walk across the yard and can see footprints, it is time to water. Restricting watering can save 750 to 1,500 gallons of water a month. Also, when you do water, apply a sufficient amount - enough to make 6 to 8 inches of soil wet. This will enable the plants to grow deeper roots, decreasing the need to drench your lawn to keep it green.
ELECTRIC LAWN EQUIPMENT VS. GAS-POWERED GEAR
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the average gasoline-powered mower emits the same amount of pollutants in one hour that an early-model sport utility vehicle emits in 23,600 miles. If 20 percent of homeowners switched to electric mowers, carbon monoxide emissions would drop by 84,000 tons annually and homeowners would save 73 percent of total energy costs associated with yard maintenance.
There are numerous electric outdoor appliances, including lawn mowers and leaf blowers that are powerful and offer cordless options. If you do buy a gasoline-powered mower, buy a four-stroke engine instead of a two-stroke mower. Two-stroke engines emit 40 times more particulate matter pollution.
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