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Three local, ecological gardeners weigh in on the best practices to make your lawn an environmentally friendly landscape.
“The most important rule is to do no harm. We can do much more to make our green spaces healthier. For biological life, we need to increase biodiversity. We recommend improving soil health and adding native plants. This will contribute to better health at home and improve air quality around your house. You can build something almost like a private nature preserve on your own property. Mulching grass clippings and shredding leaves adds nutrients back into the soil and acts as a natural fertilizer. Most people overwater their lawns; you can save water by not using irrigation systems if you don’t need them. It’s never too late to start making improvements somewhere.”
—Jay Archer, Green Jay Landscaping
“With a clear goal in mind, the most important thing is to not get overwhelmed when starting off on the journey to being more sustainable. Start by planting just one native tree. Gradually add more trees as your time and budget allow. Trees provide all kinds of ecosystem benefits, such as oxygen, carbon storage, soaking up water, and supporting a rich diversity of species. Some excellent native tree choices for the yard are red oak, white oak, pin oak, red maple, flowering dogwood, serviceberry, and American holly. Ask a local nursery what they recommend for protection from deer browsing, whether it’s applying an organic deer repellent, installing deer fencing around the tree, or a hybrid of both.”
—Amanda Bayley, Plan It Wild
“Grass is a full-sun plant that requires at least one inch of water per week. You will not grow it in the deep shade. I encourage clients to be realistic and have a lawn only where it’s needed for play and in full exposure to the sun. There are other options that can work for shade, either planting ground covers, like creeping Jenny, liriope, or pachysandra, mulch, or gravel. In cases of small, shady yards with kids and dogs, I recommend some of the newer artificial turf options. They look realistic and don’t have the crumb rubber infill that gets everywhere. It is expensive but has relatively no maintenance and is perfect for that golf-course look year-round. And while it’s plastic, it does save water and helps with drainage.”
—Catherine Wachs, The Lazy Gardner