Sustainable Yard Care
Keeping a neat and enjoyable outdoor space around your home doesn’t need to be a war on nature fought with weed killer, fossil fuels, and store bought ornaments. In fact, pesticides can leach into our air, water and soil, and ultimately into our bodies, causing a variety of side effects from mild skin irritation to more serious effects like cancer. Avoid that and the waste of other resources by applying some routine maintenance and a little creativity, and your yard can be a welcoming oasis for both you and the local birds, bees, butterflies and plants. There are even ways to incorporate chickens and your workout routine… seriously, read on.
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Don’t Get Caught With Your Plants Down
Falling leaves and rogue plants left unchecked can do actual damage to your house. Most homeowners know to rake up autumn leaves on the lawn, but before you send them off with your local yard waste trash, consider repurposing leaves as mulch to protect garden beds over winter or as a stockpile of high-carbon “browns” for your compost pile. Leaves are particularly sneaky though when they accumulate in your rain gutters. There they can cause water to back up and spill over into areas where pooling leads to foundation leaks. Leaves and clogged water can also weigh down the gutters, causing strain that can eventually cause them to break down prematurely. Installing gutter guards and doing spring cleaning annually should keep water flowing to its intended destination. Another good annual task is to check for any plants growing along the foundation of the house: sneaky vines can work their way into cracks and holes causing damage over time.
The Gentle Lawn Life
While the sound of lawn mowers is synonymous with summer for many of us, wouldn’t you prefer to live without the deafening noise and gas guzzling of a lawn mower? Reduce the need to mow by killing off any areas of lawn that you don’t really want. Sheet mulch the lawn in the fall with your raked leaves, and by springtime you’ll have an area ready to be turned over into a flower bed or vegetable garden without needing to use chemicals or a gas-fueled rototiller to make it happen. You can also replace grass with ground cover that needs less fuss and looks even more lovely. And for the area of lawn you still want, maintain it the old fashioned way with a push reel mower and enjoy the zen-like benefits of human-powered mowing that’s quiet, meditative, healthier for your lawn, and gives you a solid workout too. Then, put your animals to work by fertilizing the lawn with a rabbit or chicken tractor, and ward off any lawn grubs with beneficial nematodes.
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Turn Trash into Treasure
With the lawn under control and the leaves and plants in check, you may want to dress up your outdoor space a bit. But before you head off to Home Depot to drop hundreds of dollars on plastic planters and lawn gnomes, take a look around you for free objects you can give new life. Old wooden crates or wheelbarrows make lovely flower containers, and you can make an eye-catching trellis from an old wrought-iron headboard or by binding together scavenged birch branches. There’s also dozens of uses for discarded shipping pallets, which can often be picked up for free from local warehouses. They make great vertical gardens and corrals for your gathered leaves or compost.
Welcome nature in with these approaches to healthy yard maintenance, and you’ll soon find more harmony in your outdoor space and in the natural world around you.