What We Do in Our Yards Often Affects Our Neighbors and the Environment

Lush beautiful lawns are a part of summer, but they require time and money. The average lawn requires up to 40 hours of work and costs about $700 each year to maintain. But did you know that your yard and how you take care of it can help the environment?

A thick full lawn reduces soil erosion, filters contaminants from rainwater and absorbs airborne pollutants like dust and soot. Grass is also great at converting carbon dioxide to oxygen. The following are tips suggested by the EPA to help homeowners have yards that are beautiful and environmentally friendly.

  • To keep your lawn looking its best set your mower height to 2½ to 3 ½ inches. Longer grass has more leaf surface which enables the grass to take in more sunlight and develop a deeper root system, making your lawn more drought and insect resistant. Longer grass also helps soil retain moisture and cuts down on the need to water. Mow often, but never cut more than a third of the length.
  • According to a 2004 survey by the National Gardening Association, 66 million U.S. households used chemical pesticides and/or fertilizers on their lawns and gardens. But leaving grass clippings on your yard can reduce the need for these products. Grass clippings are about 90% water, will decompose quickly and provide nourishment back to the soil. They save landfill space too. Between 20 and 40 percent of landfill space is taken up by yard waste. Landfills produce methane gas which contributes to climate change.
  • Keeping your yard healthy requires good preventative care, starting with the soil. Lawns grow best in an intermediate soil that is a mix of clay, sand and silt. You can always improve the quality of any type of soil by fertilizing. Instead of chemicals, add organic matter like compost, manure or grass clippings to the soil for nourishment. If your soil is hard, compacted or has a heavy clay presence, you may want to loosen or aerate the soil to allow water and nutrients to reach the grass and plant root systems.
  • Consider reducing the size of your lawn by Greenscaping. Greenscaping makes use of native plant species as ground cover and provides a landscape that is more similar to natural habitats. Going natural can also reduce the need for chemicals, cut maintenance time and costs while still providing a beautiful yard and positive benefits for the environment.
  • Planning your Greenscape can be creative and fun. For example, consider planting a wildflower meadow or use native perennials to provide color and ground cover near trees, patios and fences. Consider allowing part of your lawn to revert to woods (occasional management to control invasive exotic plants might be necessary until the woodland matures).
  • Choose plants that are native to your region of the country. Your local nursery or County Agricultural Extension office can help you identify plants that will flourish in your area. Native plants require far less fertilization and are more resistant to insects, reducing the need for pesticides.

If you’d like more information on healthy yards or Greenscaping, visit our Web site at http://www.epa.gov/reg3esd1/garden/index.htm.

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