It’s hard to go anywhere these days without noticing reusable grocery bags, re-purposed material and recycling bins that dot courtyards and campuses. If you already use compact fluorescent bulbs, drink from reusable water bottles or carpool you might wonder, “What else can I do?”
The good news is small changes you make in how you approach your backyard and other landscapes are a big way to thank Mother Earth by showing your “go green” colors. Here are some eco-friendly tips from the Wildflower Center as part of charting a course towards greater ecological sensitivity and environmental consciousness.
Garden with native plants
Planting species that are native to your region encourages the presence of native insects and micro-organisms. Because native plants are adapted to their environment, they also often require less fertilizer, pesticides and water to maintain. As a bonus, native plants also reduce soil erosion and provide habitat for wildlife, and they help maintain genetic diversity – the foundation of any balanced ecosystem. Several guides to native plant gardening can be found on our how to articles page.
Help prevent invasive species
Identifying and removing aggressive plants that don’t belong in your backyard gives native plants more room to grow and less competition for available resources. And you can save your own resources too. Non-native species are alien to the landscape and as such often require extra water, fertilizer and herbicide. Those that escape cultivation become aggressive weeds that compete with native plants for precious resources, often displacing rare native species. Learn how to tackle invasive plants.
Rainwater is one of the purest water sources available and it’s free! Outfitting your home with a roof catchment and cistern to collect rainfall for household and agricultural use is a major way to reduce your water consumption and invest in an ecologically sustainable future. Learn more.
Use less-toxic pest solutions
The eco-conscious gardener who wants to keep healthy, pest-free plants has lots of options. You can use natural insecticides such as rotenone, or natural herbicides including vinegar and eugenol/clove oil instead of harsh chemicals. Also consider biological controls – using the natural enemy or disease of a specific pest to drive them away from the garden. Find more tips about dealing with specific pests using integrated pest management by asking a question online of our Mr. Smarty Plants service, or searching from among the thousands of answered questions.
Certain plant species benefit if planted close or next to one another, providing an easy, natural and efficient way for plants to thrive without using fertilizers or pesticides. Use the Mr. Smarty Plants database to find compatible companion species and gather more information on this gardening technique. When you’re being bombarded on all sides by media hype about carbon footprints, greenhouse emissions and melting polar caps it’s easy to get confused about what you can do. Just remember that any effort expended to improve our environment helps if it promotes a healthy, sustainable future. The “bonus” of focusing on the garden is you get to enjoy nature’s beauty and richness while helping save landscapes for the future.
When you’re being bombarded on all sides by media hype about carbon footprints, greenhouse emissions and melting polar caps it’s easy to get confused about what you can do. Just remember that any effort expended to improve our environment helps if it promotes a healthy, sustainable future. The “bonus” of focusing on the garden is you get to enjoy nature’s beauty and richness while helping save landscapes for the future.