to live a more environmentally friendly life? Start in your own
backyard. The harsh weather, water shortages and pervasiveness of
pests make it a good idea to think "green" when it comes to
landscaping our gardens and yards.
Let it Rain
When rain and
melting snow run off roofs, driveways and lawns and flow down the
storm drain and right into our rivers and lakes, they carry with them
pollutants like oil, salt, fertilizer, pet waste, transportation
chemicals, and all sorts of other things that shouldn’t be in our
fresh water. "By planting a rain garden, we can try to keep some
of that water on our property rather than getting into the sewer
system," according to Gary Urban of Hawks Landscape Inc. in Elm
Grove. "A rain garden consists of taking a specific area in the
lawn and lowering it maybe a foot and a half to catch the water.
Native plants planted in the rain garden also help to soak up the
water, while the roots will break up hard soil and let the water
infiltrate the soil," he explains.
Urban says an
easy thing to do is place a rain barrel beneath a downspout to collect
rain water so it can be recycled to water lawns and plants.
people use lawn maintenance companies to treat weeds, fertilize their
lawns and mow them. I know from personal experience that the various
chemicals used to treat weeds and pests can also destroy some of the
creatures that benefit a lawn," says Carl Merisalo of Century
Landscaping in Hartland. "For example, some chemicals can wipe
out earthworms that are natural aerators in a lawn. So, it’s good to
know what is being used," he says.
in the appropriate location can make a big difference in the condition
of our lawns and gardens, says Bill Wandsnider of Wandsnider Landscape
Design in Menomonee Falls. "What we want to do is select the
right plant for the right place, such as drought-resistant plants for
shady areas. At the same time, certain plants can attract birds, which
can mitigate insect problems. Native plants such as viburnums,
dogwoods and serviceberry provide a wide range of seed, cover and a
place for birds to live," he explains.
"With the advent of some of the pests that are becoming more
prevalent in this area, installing appropriate plants is becoming more
important to reduce the amount of chemicals we use. For instance, with
the increase of Japanese Beetles we, as a landscape installation
company, are trying to minimize the use of plants that are very
susceptible to this bug," he says.
Another way to
preserve the soil, If you have the correct space for it, is to
consider going natural, Urban says. "Reduce your lawn space and
add low-maintenance native plants where you can," he says.
Cool, and Warmth
also can protect your home from the elements and keep it cooler in
summer and warmer in winter, Urban says. "Plant shade trees on
the south side of your home to shade it in the summer. Make sure they
are deciduous trees that drop their leaves in winter so the sunlight
can get through and help warm the house," he says. "Shading
your air-conditioning unit helps it run cooler, too."
homes are located, we usually see highly disturbed soil. Plants won’t
grow right, and that means more chemicals and more water,"
Wandsnider says. To encourage healthy soil, he suggests composting.
"Composting is not a new idea, but it is still very important.
Nature creates compost without human intervention, such as lawn
clippings, leaves and other plant waste." M