Creating An Eco-Friendly Yard
By Stephen Saint-Onge
Simple things you can do to transform your yard into an eco-friendly paradise, and still save time and money in the long run and increase the value of your home.
Everyone tries to do their share to make our planet better. We recycle, we conserve, we use energy-efficient light bulbs when possible, and we carpool. But what about our own back yards?
Green Living as Lifestyle
On a recent road trip, I visited an ecological landscaping company called Linden Landscaping & Design based in Vermont, a state known for healthy, ahead-of-the-curve, eco-friendly thinking. This company strives to educate, empower and motivate homeowners to embrace green living lifestyle choices without sacrificing good design principles. I met with the owners, Rebecca and Tim Lindenmeyr, at their farm located on the shores of Lake Champlain, to discuss how a homeowner can incorporate some eco-friendly practices into their landscape.
Rebecca, a certified Horticulturalist, board member of the Vermont Nursery and Landscape Association, and Chair of the Sustainable Practices Committee discussed her ideas about creating outdoor rooms:
“Our gardens, our yards are extensions of our homes. We can look out our windows and see flowering trees or a pathway that leads our eye to a sitting area. Our landscapes invite us to come outside and spend time there with family and friends. It doesn’t have to be a large space to be unique and beautiful. I urge clients to really see their outdoor areas in new ways, as if they were rooms extending from the home. It’s my job as a designer to create “rooms” that are useful, elegant and require very little care. Investments in low-maintenance outdoor living spaces pay off in the long run, in so many ways, both for the homeowner and the planet”.
Tips for Ecological Landscaping in Your Own Backyard
Replace the lawn areas close to your house with plantings and let large areas of lawn farther away from the house grow up into meadows, only cutting it a few times per season. Mow a walking path through the tall grass that winds around the perimeter of the property, creating play areas, sitting/picnic areas, ponds, etc--something the whole family can enjoy! Also eliminate the chemicals used to treat your lawn with organic methods (www.safelawns.org). A minimized lawn means reduced mowing, less work and fewer emissions.
Plant perennial flowers and ornamental grasses which only require a once-a-year haircut. They also provide food and shelter for butterflies and birds. Be sure to select varieties that are hardy and not invasive for your region. If done right, these garden beds don’t have to constantly be maintained and will still provide beautiful blooms and leaf structure all season long.
rune-Free Trees and Shrubs.
Plant deciduous trees on the south side of your house to provide shade and keep your home cooler in summer months. Select shrubs to be planted around the foundation of your house that do not require pruning to reduce pruning maintenance, and try to select varieties that also provide berries and shelter for wildlife. I recommend Rhododendron ‘PJM’, Syringa ‘Palibin’, and Hydrangea ‘Limelight’ as three flowering shrubs that are low-maintenance, do not require pruning and work well in foundation plantings to provide blooms in May, June and July-August respectively.
Install Eco-Friendly Hardscaping.
Hardscaping is a great, low-maintenance alternative to lawn and can lead visitors to your home in an elegant fashion. Create patio areas, walkways and fire pits with stones or materials that are local, recycled and porous (to reduce runoff).
Create Edible Gardens.
Fruits, vegetables, and herbs are not only great to look at, but can save you a trip to the supermarket. Edible gardens are fun, delicious, and educational for the whole family.
Build Healthy Soil
– Feed the soil in your garden beds with local compost and protect it with organic mulch to keep moisture in and the weeds out. The plants will be healthier as a result and will need fewer chemicals to fight disease and pests.
Use a Rain Barrel
– Catch rainwater that comes off your home and use it instead of potable water for irrigation, fountains and pond-less waterfalls in your garden areas. Go one step further and create a rain-garden that filters storm water runoff and gives it time to soak into the ground and recharge groundwater sources.
For more information about what you can do to start making your own backyard an outdoor room and one that is eco-friendly visit: