How to Maintain a More Natural Landscape

Reader Contribution by Holly Welles
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Most North American neighborhoods don’t deviate much in their landscaping. In suburbs across the country, you’ll find well-manicured lawns, trimmed shrubbery, inoffensive trees, and perfectly spaced flowers. It’s an admittedly attractive layout, but its effect on the environment isn’t so pretty.

Roughly 90 million lawnmowers, leaf blowers, weed trimmers, and other small-engine tools in the United States contribute about 5 percent of the country’s air pollution. With this in mind, it’s easy to understand why homeowners have shown increasing interest in a more natural landscape. 

If you’re ready to commit to eco-friendly landscaping, we’ll walk you through everything you need to know about making your yard a little more green. Most of these changes are straightforward, and even if you don’t spend much time in your garden, you’ll find them simple to implement.

Photo by Pexels.

1. Pick Wildlife-Supporting Plants

Most homeowners choose plants and flowers for their aesthetic value, searching for species which complement their space and lend it color or depth. Fortunately for them, they don’t have to compromise the beauty of their landscaping to make a home for wildlife in their area. They can serve both themselves and nature.

When you choose wildlife-supporting plants like hedges, you’re structuring your space while creating a natural habitat for a whole host of animals. Birds, hedgehogs, and other small mammals are attracted to hedgerows for their food and shelter. While the property belongs to you, sharing it is still vital.

2. Reduce Your Fertilizer Use

While fertilizer accelerates the growth of your plants, excessive use has consequences for your expenditure. When you layer too much fertilizer on your lawn, it’ll grow too quickly, and as it grows, you’ll need more water to sustain its health. You’ll also need to spend more time using your lawnmower, increasing your emissions.

In truth, you only need to fertilize your landscaping twice a year. As long as you fertilize once in the spring and once in the fall, you shouldn’t run into any issues later on. As for the type of fertilizer you should use, organic products are best, providing your plants all the micro- and macro-nutrients they need.

3. Raise Your Mower Deck

You want your landscape to look natural, of course, but waist-high grass isn’t attractive. Fortunately, it’s easy to maintain the appearance of your yard and remain on good terms with neighbors, all while using fewer resources. As long as you cut only the top third of the blade, you’ll limit growth and reduce your workload.

Raising your mower deck to keep your grass tall has other benefits beyond slowing its growth. Your lawn won’t require as much water or produce nearly as many weeds. When your turf is lush and dense, it crowds out any weed seeds which would otherwise take advantage of a stressed space with less shade.

4. Choose Native Species

As you browse your local greenhouse for seeds to add to your inventory, look for native species which will work well within your garden. You might feel tempted to purchase big, bright flowers with visual appeal, but if they’re non-native, you’ll find you’re doing more work for upkeep. Naturally, this leads to higher expenditure.

Native, noninvasive plants are ideal for your landscaping because they’re able to establish a balance with other plants more easily. When searching for these native species, you don’t have to go to a greenhouse — a trip to your local farmers’ market will suffice. Vendors will be happy to guide you in the right direction.

5. Collect Water With Barrels

Your methods of maintenance are just as essential to natural landscaping as the species of plants you choose. You can always find new ways to reduce your resource consumption, and, with a little creativity, enhance your garden’s appearance as well. Consider the use of barrels for water collection

When you attach a wooden barrel to your downspout, it’ll fill with water, which is both eco-friendly and attractive given the right setting. Beyond a barrel’s functionality, it’ll bring a rustic charm to your landscaping — something modest and straightforward that will make your garden feel friendlier.

An Opportunity for Growth

As you design your lawn’s layout, remember, you don’t have to conform to the dominant aesthetic. A natural landscape is an easy alternative which is just as visually appealing, and far more beneficial for the environment. Homeowners like yourself have made the changes on this list to incredible effect.

While you review your options, consider wildlife-supporting plants, native species and strategies for conserving resources. You’ll find these aren’t limitations, but an opportunity for growth.

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