Garden in Smaller Footprints: 10 Tips for a Low-Carbon Garden

As much as half of household water use can be attributed to landscaping and garden uses, and a good amount of fossil fuels go into producing and using garden tools and equipment. Prepare for spring with these 10 tips to create a yard and garden that support your local ecosystem and reduce your dependence on fossil fuels.

| January/February 2009

  • It’s easier than ever to find solar landscape lights.
  • It’s easier than ever to find solar landscape lights.

1. CUT THE GAS. Leaf blowers, lawn mowers and weed-whackers use inefficient, two-stroke engines, which exhaust as much as 30 percent of their fuel mixture unburned. Instead, use people-powered devices such as rakes, brooms, push mowers, hand clippers and saws, and skip the gym on lawn-care day.

2. PASS ON THE GRASS. Grass is a heavy consumer of labor, money and chemicals.  Start trimming down grassy spaces by growing native plants, evergreens or shrubs and adding rock features or other water-free landscaping.

3. GO NATIVE. Invasive species are taking hold of fragile natives in damaged ecosystems, affecting biodiversity on a grand scale. You can help by planting low-maintenance natives, which support local ecosystems and require little water and zero chemicals.

4. CULTIVATE EDIBLES. Almost every yard has space for a small vegetable garden or mini-orchard. Food gardens reduce grassy areas, and eating homegrown provides fresher food and eliminates the fuel required to deliver produce to your grocery store.

5. LIGHTEN UP. Solar outdoor light fixtures are now widely available. For existing fixtures, use efficient bulbs. Install adjustable motion sensors on porch lights so they pop on only when needed.

6. THINK AND PLANT BIG. Plant as many large trees as your site will allow. They’ll cool your house in summer, shelter wildlife, control erosion and absorb tons of overly abundant carbon dioxide. Choose deciduous trees for your home’s south side, so the winter sun can warm your home.

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