A healthy environment is important for everyone, and landlords and tenants can contribute by making wise choices about lawn and garden care.
In many cases, ecological maintenance is easier and less expensive than more harmful ones, and they produce lusher, healthier, and more abundant greenery.
Here are eight eco-friendly ways to maintain your lawn and garden, while controlling weeds.
1. Leave grass cuttings
Instead of going to the trouble of raking a lawn after mowing, let the cuttings remain where they are. They quickly decompose into the soil, providing nutrients and eliminating the need to add chemical fertilizers.
This is a boon for the environment because fertilizer production creates atmospheric pollutants. Plus, many commercial fertilizers end up in the groundwater, eventually damaging lakes and streams. Grass cuttings benefit the soil by adding nitrogen and acting as a moisture barrier. Leaving cuttings on the lawn is a win-win-win for the lawn, the environment, and whomever cuts the grass.
2. Avoid gas-powered lawn and garden equipment
In one hour, a gas-powered lawnmower creates as many atmospheric pollutants as 11 automobiles, and a riding mower emits as many pollutants as 34 cars, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. This doesn’t mean you need to hire someone to cut the grass with a push mower or, worse yet, do it yourself. That’s an option, but the market is full of electric and battery-powered lawn care equipment. Take advantage of innovations in electric technology, and cut your fossil fuel consumption in the process.
3. Grow grass suitable for your climate
Kentucky bluegrass grows best in—you guessed it—Kentucky. But in warm, arid parts of the country, such as Arizona and California, this type of grass takes extra care and extra water, and even then, it may not thrive. Fescue, however, should do much better. Do some research before planting grass seed or laying sod on your rental property, and you’ll save resources and man-hours. Here’s a zone table to help you choose the best grass for your area.
4. Fertilize your garden with yard waste and kitchen compost
If you can have a garden in your rental property, you can grow your own food and save on your grocery bill. Keep a compost bin in the kitchen, throw in your food scraps, and add these to an outdoor compost pile when the bin fills up. Turn the compost every few days to keep it mixed, and soon you’ll have the highest quality fertilizer you can get, and it won’t cost you a dime.
5. Make friends with insects and worms
Soil is alive, and it needs oxygen to thrive. You can aerate your lawn and garden manually every season to make sure the soil gets the air it needs. But there’s an easier way. Give a new home to a colony of worms. Spread them throughout the lawn and garden, water thoroughly, and allow them to work their way into the soil.
Ants also do a great job of aerating the soil, so unless you’re having problems with an indoor infestation, leave them alone to do their thing. Ants feed on harmful insects, pollinate flowers, and distribute seeds as well.
6. Water deeply but less frequently
Lawns need lots of water. If a sprinkler system delivers the water, much of it evaporates before it even hits the ground. To minimize this wastage of a precious resource, program your system to come on after midnight. The air is cooler at night and less capable of absorbing moisture.
To ensure the roots get enough water, leave the sprinkler on for an extra five or 10 minutes. Offset this by watering three times a week instead of every day. If there is rain in the forecast, turn off the system until the rain stops. Can’t get to your rental property to do this? Install a Wi-Fi watering system that you can operate with your PC.
Keep your garden thriving by installing a drip system. Drip technology was developed in arid Israel to maximize watering efficiency, and it’s easy and inexpensive to set up. Devote one or two sprinkler zones to the drip system, and run those zones late at night at times when the sprinklers aren’t running.
7. Roll in the clover
White clover was regularly added to grass seed until the 1960s, when gardeners began considering it a weed. If it is a weed, it’s a friendly one that adds lush green coloration to the lawn. It grows well in poor soil, and it’s easy to plant. Just sow the seeds directly on top of the existing lawn and water well. Sow two ounces per 1,000 square feet of lawn for a moderate ground cover that will tempt you to take off your shoes and lay down for a midday contemplation of cloud patterns.
Note: If your rental is in an HOA complex, check to make sure growing clover is allowed.
8. Create a buffer
If you have a property that borders a body of water, such as a lake, river, or stream, leave a 10-foot buffer between the lawn/garden and the waterway. Allow whatever vegetation is in the buffer zone to grow naturally. The buffer zone creates a space that prevents whatever fertilizers you might use from entering the water. Moreover, the natural vegetation binds the soil and helps protect against erosion.
Lawns and gardens benefit the community
Tropical storm Harvey struck the Gulf states in August 2017, and brought a powerful lesson. In large cities covered with pavement and concrete, lawns and gardens are even more important than they are in rural communities. Exposed soil, even when covered with grass or foliage, absorbs excess water and can help mitigate damage from flooding. For landlords and renters who heed this lesson, yard maintenance and landscaping becomes a form of community service. A well-tended lawn or garden not only enhances the aesthetic appeal of the neighborhood, it may be a lifesaver.