April 22, 2020 is the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day. And what better to way to celebrate our planet and practicing social distancing by spending time in your Los Gatos, Mountain View or Willow Glen garden?
With drought always a concern for California, ensuring our landscaping is environmentally friendly is one way we can contribute to shrinking our carbon footprint. Eco-friendly landscaping, also called sustainable or green landscaping, entails creating and maintaining land with the goal of being kind to the environment and saving as much energy as possible. Below are some tips on designing or updating your home’s landscaping to make it beautiful and sustainable.
Understand Your Area
Even within Silicon Valley, there exists a wide variety of microclimates. Understanding your weather and land will help you design an outdoor space that makes the most of the pros and cons. The amount of sun exposure, wind, slope of the land and other factors influence the types of plants that will flourish, erosion factors and how much or little water will be required to maintain your garden. Sunset Magazine is helpful in defining gardening zones in the Bay Area.
Choose Native and Drought-Tolerant Plants
Choose trees and shrubbery that is indigenous to the area in which you live. Not only are they more likely to thrive, native species tend to have built-in resistance to pests and as such, require less use of pesticides, a product that is definitely not eco-friendly. Xeriscaping, or the use of drought-tolerant plants, became landscaping lingo back in the early 1980s, and is another way to reduce your water usage. The surge in succulents stems from xeriscaping as does the uptick is grasses such as purple fountain grass, blue oat grass and Mexican feather grass. Placing plants with similar water requirements together is another way to practice xeriscaping.
Place trees in locations that will provide shade during the heat of summer while also allowing sunlight to filter into your home during winter months. Low shrubs around the perimeter of your home can also provide additional insulation.
Synthetic lawns may sound anti-environmental but they offer a number of long-term benefits. It is low to no maintenance, requires no water, fertilizer, herbicide or pesticide. Since it won’t need mowing, there won’t be any toxic fumes or use of electricity from gas or electric mowers. Today’s artificial grass looks so realistic and won’t suffer from prolonged use by children or pets. Local water districts or other government agencies may also offer a rebate program to help offset the cost.
Reduce Your Lawn
If you just can’t give up your natural lawn, consider replacing a section of it to lessen its size and water usage. Create a patio, deck, meandering pathway, or expand your flower beds farther into the lawn area and fill t hem with vibrant, low-maintenance ground covers or edging plants.
Install Automatic Irrigation
All plants need water so completely eliminating irrigation is not realistic. Automatic sprinklers and drip systems are much more efficient and can be easily managed via a smart phone app, allowing you to easily adjust the time and amount of water your plants receive. Drip irrigation is ideal for garden beds, targeting a slow, steady amount of water at the roots. Sprinklers work well for lawns, helping them stay lush and green. The best time to water is in the very early morning. This allows the water to penetrate the ground rather than evaporate. If you have the space, install rain barrels and use this water for potted plants.
Go Mad with Mulch
A thick layer of mulch holds moisture in the soil rather than allowing it to evaporate. It also deters weeds, which means less pulling and also less use of herbicides. Organic mulch boosts plant health by providing nourishment and enhancing the viability of the soil.
Go Au Natural
Avoid chemically-based fertilizers and herbicides. Pull weeds that may pop up rather than attacking them with artificial treatments. Pests? Try a mixture of dish soap and water and use a spray bottle to apply. Slugs will be deterred by crushed eggshells. Save used coffee grounds and even give composting a try. Food scraps, leaves, weeds, used paper towels and newsprint can turn into super-soil that your plants will literally eat up!
Being in the outdoors is a wonderful way to unwind and escape in nature. We hope you enjoy your backyard this spring and that, in honor of Earth Day and our precious planet, you will consider getting creative with some of these eco-friendly landscaping tips.