These ten simple steps can help make our environment greener, cleaner, and safer for everyone:
1. Stop using fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides. They are unnecessary, wasteful, and harmful to the environment: they enter the water table and pollute ponds and streams. If you use a lawn service that routinely applies these products, you are paying for things you do not need. If you feel you must fertilize, do it less often. Once a year, in early fall, is more than enough.
2. Use organic lawn care products. Most fertilizers are petroleum-based products that gradually degrade the soil structure. Again, fertilizers are unnecessary, but I know you don’t believe me. So switch to organic products and use them less often.
3. Use a mulching mower. Mow with a mulching mower, or have your lawn service do so, and let the clippings remain on the lawn. They will quickly break down and disappear, and they serve as natural fertilizer.
4. Let the grass grow long. Set the mower blades to about 3 inches. Longer grass has more chlorophyll, so it can carry out more photosynthesis and continue to grow healthy and strong.
5. Stop watering your lawn. It is unnecessary, and it wastes fresh water, a precious and scarce natural resource. Lawn grasses naturally go dormant in hot weather. If the grass turns brown in summer, it is not dead, just resting. It will green up as soon as it rains.
6. Stop trying to grow grass where grass will not grow. Lawn grasses are adapted to sunny sites. You cannot grow a lush green lawn on a site that is shady or very wet. Instead of grass, choose from the wide selection of beautiful native plants that are adapted to your specific site.
7. Choose the right plant for the right place. Planting a tree or shrub or perennial that is adapted to your site will save you time, money, and aggravation.
8. Choose native plants rather than exotics. Native plants will attract native insects, butterflies, and birds, many of which are endangered because of disappearing habitat. They will NOT become invasive, as many exotic ornamental plants have done and are continuing to do.
9. Choose pure species rather than hybrids or cultivars. A plant that is a member of a species was grown by nature, not be a person or a laboratory. It is likely to be cheaper, easier to grow, and more attractive to pollinating insects
10. Leave the leaves. In the fall, when the leaves come down, don’t discard them. They represent the future health of your soil. Take out your trusty mulching mower, and mow over the leaves. This chops them into small pieces, which will quickly break down into the lawn. You may have to do this several times over the course of the autumn, but it’s still easier than raking. You will save the town money and energy, because DPW won’t have to pick up your leaves, and you will help protect the rainwater drainage system from becoming clogged with leaves.
Our front lawn was mowed three days ago. This picture shows what the lawn and clippings look like after three hot, dry, days. The dead grass has dried to a pale tan. As soon as it rains, it will disappear. And notice how green the grass is; it has not been fertilized in 20 years.