Tips for a Sustainable Lawn and Garden - Evolved Mommy
Guest post by Katie White of DIY Mother
Simple fixes to beautify your home while reducing your footprint
The single largest irrigated “crop” in the United States is the suburban lawn. It takes up about 60% of the average American household’s water usage, and with drying aquifers and water shortages threatening 36 states, lawn care has become one of the most dangerously unsustainable practices in contemporary culture. Fortunately, there are ways to keep your lawn and garden beautiful without waste. Here are some good ways to start.
Change the way you mow
It might sound like a lot of work, but I actually prefer my light push mower to the bulky monstrosity of a gas mower I used to have. Push mowers have come a long way in recent years; they’re efficient, responsive, and easy to use. A push mower also leaves clippings which nourish the soil, shade out weeds, and avoid moisture loss. They’re also quiet, which your neighbors will appreciate.
Mow in the cool of the morning or evening—not only will it be easier on you, but cutting the grass in the heat will bleed your lawn of moisture. Also, don’t trim your lawn shorter than 3 or 3 ½ inches. Your grass needs a certain blade length to gather enough sunlight to survive, and if you go shorter, you force the grass to work harder to maintain that length, which means it will grow faster, using up soil nutrients and water. Avoid the extra watering, mowing, and fertilizing by allowing your grass to reach a healthy length.
Water more efficiently
Even if your lawn isn’t well-suited for your climate, you can save a lot of water by simply changing the rhythm of your watering. The best time to water your lawn is before sunrise; or, if you’re not an early riser, right around dusk. If you water your lawn in the heat of the day, you’re losing a large portion of it to evaporation, and it does your lawn no good.
It also helps to give your lawn a good drench, and water less frequently. If your lawn has deep roots, water for an hour, once a week; the root system will absorb the water and store it up. If your lawn has shallow roots, water for fifteen minutes every three days. On particularly hot days, a quick five-minute spray can cool and moisturize your lawn without too much waste.
If you live in a desert or semi-arid region, the air will suck up moisture like a sponge, so when you buy irrigation equipment, avoid anything that mists or vaporizes—you want to water your lawn, not humidify the air. For extra credit, check out irrigation barrels that can store up rainwater for your lawn.
Try non-traditional landscaping
If you’ve tried the above solutions, and your lawn just isn’t thriving on the amount of water you’re using, you should ask yourself whether your grass is really suitable for your climate. For a relatively low-impact solution that shouldn’t get you in trouble with the homeowners’ association, check out drought-tolerant grass to replace your lawn. They’re just as attractive as the wetter varieties, and your lawn will be the envy of the neighborhood if you’re ever placed on water restrictions.
If you want to get adventurous, check out xeriscaping—gardening with desert and semi-arid plants to suit your local climate. If the picture you have in mind is a desolate, rocky wasteland for a front yard, do some quick Googling and check out the amazing, colorful environments that people have built, using nothing but desert and drought-tolerant plants. They’re beautiful, sustainable, and practically zero-maintenance.
Katie White is a writer and handywoman from DIY Mother who is passionate about self-reliance and conservation. She takes pride in making her home a more sustainable and comfortable place for her husband and two kids. She lives in Dallas