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Show solidarity with Mother Nature-Earth Day is April 22nd

Posted on April 8, 2013
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Earth day

Easy ways to enjoy your yard more, maintain it less, and celebrate Earth Day

Based on information from Consumer Reports magazine

April 22 is Earth Day, so now's a good time to consider greener alternatives to having a huge lawn.  In a Consumer Reports survey, almost a third of homeowners who made changes to their lawn in the last year reduced its size replacing grass with patio space, ground cover, flower beds, even artificial turf.

Why should you consider cutting the size of your lawn?

A smaller lawn saves work, time and money.  This is especially important with rising water costs and the rebates some municipalities offer homeowners who trade their lawns for low-water alternatives. 

Shrinking your lawn can also solve annoying problems. For example, one homeowner replaced part of his lawn with a border of low-maintenance perennials, shrubs, and ornamental grasses to reduce cut-through foot traffic on a corner.  At the same time, he improved his home's curb appeal.

Go native

Native plants that are accustomed to local climate and soil conditions survive with less water and fertilizer. To learn more about native species of plants, trees, ornamental grasses and shrubs, check with local nurseries or contact your cooperative extension service.

You can also visit the Environmental Protection Agency's WaterSense website for a state-by-state plant selector. Going native may be an easy and attractive to having a large lawn.

Plant an edible garden

Edible gardens are fun, practical, attractive and easier than ever to grow. Home centers carry large assortments of herb and vegetable seeds and starter plants. Before planting vegetables, it's a good idea to test your soil. Soil testing kits are available at nurseries and hardware stores or you can check with your county extension service. 

Container gardening in pots or raised planters allows you to control the soil if testing turns up a problem.  You can also amend the soil in larger beds if needed.  Vertical gardening with wall-mounted planters or trellises is another option.

Create an outdoor room

Outdoor rooms are growing in popularity, with lawn still playing an integral role. Homeowners are looking beyond the usual folding chairs and grill, equipping open-air gathering spaces with:

  • Weather-resistant furnishings
  • Rugs
  • Fire pits
  • Televisions

Retailers are making these projects easier by selling modular kits for fire pits, benches, and more. 

Follow sustainable yard practices

About half of the homeowners in the Consumer Reports survey mulched when mowing, depositing clippings on the lawn instead of bagging them. This puts nutrients back into the soil, reducing the need for fertilizer by as much as 30%.

Drip irrigation, which puts water directly onto root systems, is also catching on. So are weather-based sprinkler controls (available at most hardware stores), which use climate sensors, Wi-Fi communication, and other technologies to monitor local conditions and irrigate more efficiently and appropriately.

Use less water

Switching from an all-lawn yard to one that's 40% lawn and 60% trees, shrubs, ground cover, and hardscape may cut your water needs as much as 50%, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. In a typical yard, that leaves 2,500 square feet of lawn, which is still plenty of space for kids to play.

And, of course, rain barrels are a great way to conserve water and treat your native plants to the rain water they'll love!

For more consumer advice and the latest lab-tested ratings on thousands of brand-name products, use your Union Plus discount to subscribe to Consumer Reports online for just $22/yr. (reg. $30).

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