This blog chronicles my life as I try to balance healthy lifestyle habits with my husband's penchant for pizza rolls and my daughter's desire to watch iCarly 8 hours a day. It contains a mostly humorous, kind, and somewhat spiritual look at everyday life and the people who live it.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Green Tip Tuesday: Planning a "greener" yard next spring

Believe it or not now is the perfect time to begin planning for a more earth friendly yard next spring.  Have you ever heard of xeriscaping?  Xeriscaping is landscaping in a way that reduces your dependance upon watering.  While the use of native and drought tolerant plants is nothing new, the idea of planning my yard to make the most of those plants, while still attracting butterflies and bees, was a foreign concept to me.  I thought landscaping occurred by looking at what was already in my yard, adding some stuff to it that looked good, trying not to have too many planting beds so I didn't have to mulch a lot, and calling it a day.

I didn't know I was supposed to plan.

Well now I do and here are some tips I've learned:

1.  No matter where you live many drought-resistant plants have some characteristics in common: they have leaves which are small, thick, glossy, silver gray or fuzzy.  Look for these plants at your local nursery and be sure to ask the nursery attendant for more drought resistant plants.

Creeping phlox is perennial, gorgeous, and drought resistant

2.  Use native plants.  Trying to keep a tropical plant alive in my northeastern climate would require not only a tremendous amount of work, but also a tremendous amount of water.  Forget the exotic palm trees, I'm sticking with silver dogwoods which are, you guessed it, native to the northeast.

3.  Mulch.  Me and my black thumb thought that mulch was just to make the dirt look good for the neighbors.  I didn't realize how important mulch is to retaining soil moisture, insulating plants' roots, and regulating soil temperature.  Mulch layers should be several inches thick.  Beware: colored mulch is dyed mulch so many of the benefits of the mulch are reduced by the negatives of the dye.

4.  Weed your landscape beds.  Having a lot of weeds competing for water may pull water away from your landscape plants causing you to have to water more often.

5.  Use perennials when possible.  Perennials tend to be more drought resistant by their very nature.  Use annuals sparingly because in addition to requiring more water they frequently are not as hearty and require more fertilizer, pesticides, or plant food.

6.  Consider some hardscape:  landscape walls, rocks, gravel, benches, etc., can all be beautiful additions to your planting beds and require no water at all.  I'm not saying you should fill your lawn with garden gnomes (though you'll never hear me besmirch the gnome!), just a few well chosen implements can replace plants quite nicely.

The differing sizes of rocks and mulch fill in this area nicely

If you're lucky enough to have an irrigation system it's a great idea to install a moisture-sensitive monitor so the sprinklers only run when necessary.  If you're lucky enough to have a gardener then thank your lucky stars, give him or her a refreshing glass of lemonade, and go relax.  If you're me then you'll be out there this fall digging up the poorly-placed-too-big-for-the-bed-and-in-the-wrong-place-for-sun-requirements plants and finding new homes for them.

Now go play in the dirt!


Swb said...

Ok- now you're just showing off....seriously- you never cease to amaze me with your know how. Really, I'm not worthy.
But I will share my green tip today- since I'm not always good about bringing my own shopping bags into a store- I did ask for paper bags today and then made book covers for all my son's books for school instead of buying those horrific stretchy covers that never fit's that?!

Beth said...

SWB you totally rock! You reduced and reused, all in the same day. I have very fond memories of cutting up paper grocery bags to make book covers. My daughter's books are all covered with the wildly patterned, stretchy nylon stuff. We re-use the same ones each year, but somehow it's just not the same as making your own.

Thanks for reading!