An “eco-friendly” garden or landscape is really just about working with nature, not against it! The term “eco-“in the phase eco-friendly garden” refers to ”ecology” the interactions between organisms and their environment. Such a garden or landscape is one that is designed with nature and environment in mind. You may also know the practice as “environmentally friendly” or “sustainable gardening”
1. Choose the Proper Plants
The eco-friendly rule of thumb is to go native! Plants that already fit your climate will thrive with less care and stress. They’ll support the health of your entire yard, too, attracting pollinators and beneficial bugs. Non-native, invasive plants often wipe out native species which harms the entire ecosystem.
In general, group plants that have similar needs: Put shade lovers together, heavy drinkers together, ph partners together, and sandy vs. loamy soil seekers together. Match plants and conditions and think of your property as having different zones. The results will save you time, effort, and replacement expense.
For example, lavender enjoys dry sandy soil and full sun; avoid planting lavender next to elephant’s ear which loves moist soil and shade.
2. Welcome Pollinators and Friendly Bugs That Eat Pests
Pollinators- from bees to butterflies- are vital to our flowers and food. In fact, about one-third of every bite of food come from pollinators!
Having native plants and reducing pesticides are two big ways to encourage pollinators in the garden.
Bees are the most important pollinators in most ecosystems. Are you familiar with native bees? They are small, solitary bees such as mason bees which are responsible for most pollination. (Honeybees are not native.) Native bees support sustainable native plant and pollinator communities.
Other insects- wasps, flies, ladybugs, and beetles- are beneficial to plants for pest elimination. For example, lacewings and ladybugs eat aphids which destroy crops.
Note: You don’t need (or want) to “buy” native bees or these good bugs. It’s better that they are local. By providing native plants and the right habitat, they will come to you!
A garden with diversified sources of nectar (e.g., shrubs, trees, and flowers-ideally, natives) that bloom from early spring through late fall can attract insects and ultimately benefit the entire garden. For example, bright flowers such as sunflowers, candytuft and marigolds create places where ladybugs and lacewings can shelter and lay eggs.
3. Encourage Birds
A healthy ecosystem invites a wide variety of wildlife into it. Many of your feathered friends will snatch up slugs, snails, grubs caterpillars and other pests that destroy plants.
- Select native plants that attract the kind of insects, berries, and seeds that birds eat.
- Put up bird feeders and nesting boxes (including those that you have made) to encourage more to visit.
- Birds also need water. Install or make a birdbath for them! It should be shallow (1 to 1.5 inches deep) and contain a few small stones or pebbles for birds to rest on.
4. Be Water – Wise
Using water thoughtfully is a very important part of an eco-friendly landscape – and makes garden and yard so much easier to manage! Here are tips:
As advised above, select your plants with care! If you have a dry area, consider plants that are more naturally drought-tolerant such as lavender, sedum, Dianthus (“pinks”)
And speedwell. If you have a wet area consider water-tolerant plants such as perennial iris, canna and elephant’s ear and cinnamon, marsh and holly ferns.
In terms of irrigation, sprinklers waste quite a bit of water; at minimum use sprinklers that have timers. Of course, vegetable and flower gardens should not be sprayed from overhead this is an easy way to encourage disease. Use a watering hose and water directly at the soil level. Even better; For gardens, flowers beds, trees, and other non-lawn areas, installing a drip irrigation system which puts the water right into the soil, right where you want it.
Harvest your rain water! A rain garden is a shallow, depressed area in your landscape with highly permeable (not hard) soil, This spot collects rain water from a roof, driveway or street and allows it to soak into the ground. Planted with grasses and flowering perennials, rain gardens can be a cost effective and beautiful way to reduce runoff from your property. Rain gardens can also help filter out pollutants in runoff and provide food and shelter for butterflies, song birds and other wildlife.
Alternatively, install a rain barrel to catch water and use it on your plants.
Mulch it! Mulch such as compost slows water down, so that more moisture goes into the soil instead of running off. Water does not evaporate from the soil surface as quickly. Mulch provides nutrients to the soil and helps suppress weeds. Mulch can be applied three inches thick in existing ornamental beds, but don’t pile it to close to tree trunks or the base of plants.
Finally, consider reducing the size of the lawn. Can some of your lawn be converted to a wild flower meadow. Look into the newer low-water use grasses to see if they will flourish in your climate.
5. Plant Companions
With companion planting, certain plants are grown near each other improve each other’s health and yields. Usually, companion plants help ward off pests. For example, dill and basil planted among tomatoes can protect from tomato hornworms.
Also, mix flowers and vegetables together! You don’t have to choose between ornamentals and edibles. Many types of flowers confuse the “bad” pests and help you grow a healthier garden.
6. Avoid Harmful Chemicals
All gardens have some pests, but deter them in ways that won’t harm the food you are growing! For example, slug and snails can really chow down on lettuce. However instead of spraying with chemicals, create barriers such as crushed egg shells which these soft bodies will avoid. Put a band of petroleum jelly around containers because these pests won’t be able to climb up. Another favorite tactic: put tuna tins filled with beer into the ground: slugs love beer!
From Diatomaceous Earth to Neem Oil, there are many less toxic methods now that really work. Remember that chemical fertilizers run into rivers, oceans and wetlands. Pesticides and herbicides tend to kill many more creatures than one or two bugs, as annoying as they might be.
7. Try Composting
Do you have room in the corner of your yard? Instead of throwing out kitchen-based scraps and yard trimmings, dispose of them in a compost pile. You’ll encourage compost-making worms and bugs which will help create a rich, fertile soil for your garden within months. It’s a great way to use fallen leaves, too!
There’s also in- garden or in-situ composting which when you are composting directly where you’re going to grow.
Ever heard of vermicomposting? Just have worms eat your garbage! It’s an easy way to recycle food waste indoors year round.
If you have roses or ornamental gardens, consider “compost tea” which is a natural fertilizer to help plants thrive.
8. Avoid Being Wasteful
In general, caring about yourself and nature means being less wasteful with the earth’s resources. For example:
Buy in bulk when you know you’ll need a lot of topsoil, mulch, compost, or other materials. This cuts down on paper bags.. Many garden centers will even deliver right to your yard.
Use, recycle, or return old plastic pots and trays.
In fact, you could even make your own pots!
9. Give Grass a Chance
If you’re going to grow grass, eliminate the chemical pesticides you spread on lawns in favor of alternatives that are healthie healthier for you, for the lawn, and for the environment.
Start by checking your lawn’s PH (acidity) with a test kit available at most nursery and garden supply stores. Soil PH affects the ability of plants to absorb nutrients. Spread limestone to raise the PH level; spread aluminum sulfate to decrease the PH level.
Grow grass that is suitable to your needs, not just in terms of climate and soil, but also purpose. Ask your Tyler Landscaping to recommend seed for grass that suits your site.
Don’t shave the lawn; mow it to be 2.5 to 3.5 inches tall all season. Cut it to about 2 inches in autumn.
Water about 1 inch per week and always in the morning; place a measuring cup among the blades to gauge the amount of water used.
And, if possible, use a hand mower, instead of an electric or gas model. You’ll appreciate the freedom from fumes and noise and perhaps sleep more soundly after walking your property.
10. Buy Good Tools
Don’t be penny -wise and pound foolish. For example, forget about the $1.00 garden hose. It’s probably going to break quickly and just become another item to throw out. Vinyl hoses are generally the least expensive but have the shortest lifespan. Rubber hoses are more expensive, but tougher, more flexible, and lasts longer. Also, get a brass coupling, not plastic, to cut down on leaks!
Go for quality over quantity, Do you really need to purchase every tool for every landscape use? If you use a tiller once a year, consider borrowing a neighbor’s tiller. If you have your own set of tools, lend the weed eater out twice a year.
Also if you have time, stop at garage sales and thrift stores. It’s amazing how many garden tools are just sitting in someone’s garage and usually the older tools are better crafted than the new ones! If you have your own tools just sitting around and unused, donate them to a neighbor or thrift shop.
We hope these eco-friendly ideas help you create a more natural, low maintenance garden and landscape.