The term “sustainable gardening” may sound daunting at first, but it really boils down to a simple concept: enhancing your space while choosing methods that cause little harm to it. Concern for our environment and the desire to protect and preserve our world for future generations has prompted us to learn, explore, and implement sustainable practices in many aspects of our lifestyles, and landscaping should be no different. There are many ways to bring a bit more “green” to your yard, and we’ve got five easy tips to help get you started!
Composting creates nutrient-rich soil with re-purposed organic material, meaning you’ll be improving the size and quantity of your produce, promoting bigger flower blooms, and cutting down on the amount of garbage being sent to the landfill. To get started:
- Begin with a closed bin about 3′ in size in your yard (you may want to put up a chicken wire fence around it, as well).
- Compost yard waste, such as leaves and grass clippings, and most kitchen waste (even egg shells, coffee grounds/filters, newspapers, tea bags, toothpicks, and hair!)
- Avoid composting dairy products, animal products (including bones and fat) and pet waste. These can attract unwanted animals and create unpleasant odors.
- Equally balance “green waste” (like fruits and vegetables) with “brown waste” (dried lawn clippings, leaves, newspapers). Your compost shouldn’t be sopping wet (and smelly) or very dry; aim to maintain a moist, soil-like texture.
- Turn with a shovel every week or two.
- When compost resembles soil, it can be sprinkled and worked in to your gardens!
We compost here at Vande Hey’s, too! Our compost is made from locally-obtained yard materials such as leaves, grass clippings, and garden waste. Once on our site, the materials are left to break down naturally, usually over 24 to 36 months. The material is turned as often as possible to aid in decomposition and to ensure as much material is broken down as can be. When the yard waste materials are sufficiently broken down, we bring in a shredder to mix in sand and pine fines to firm-up the compost and keep it from becoming overly saturated. Our final blend is about 10% sand, 10% pine fines, and 80% broken-down organic yard waste materials. This blend gives the soil an ability to retain moisture as well asensures adequate drainage. This compost can be purchased at our retail center, as well!
INCORPORATING NATIVE PLANTS
Native plants refer to those that grow naturally in an area, and they hold a vital role in supporting regional wildlife and habitats. Native plants are generally low-maintenance, as they’ve evolved to the area’s climate, soil, moisture, and pest resilience. Because of this adaptation, they generally require much less water and minimize flooding. They also play an important role in supporting your local wildlife! Many native plants provide seeds and nuts for local animals or nectar for pollinators like bees, birds, and butterflies. Try incorporating a few of these favorite native plants in your yard:
- Columbine: With pretty, vibrant red flowers, this plant is a hummingbird favorite
- Bee Balm: This plant blooms in various shades of purple, supports a variety of birds and insects, and is a great plant for beginners
- Aster: An attractive late summer/fall bloom, these plants also support pollinators and are flexible to soil types
- Wild Geranium: These plants have delicate purple flowers, are flexible to soil and light levels, and pollinator-friendly
- Butterfly Weed: With bright orange flowers, these plants are excellent for monarch butterflies
We all know that freshly mulched beds are an attractive, effective boost to your home’s curb appeal. But did you know it plays a big role in supporting a sustainable yard? Mulch serves many different purposes, from holding moisture in the soil and maintaining a consistent ground temperature to giving plants a higher survival rate and adding visual interest to your landscape. Because bark mulch is a natural material, it will decompose, leaving behind a nutrient-rich compost that aids in plant growth. Click here to check out our variety of available mulches!
Whether it’s fall colors or beautiful spring blooms, trees bring beauty and value to your yard in numerous ways… and they’re a key component in sustainability! Here are a few reasons why:
- Combating Climate Change– Absorbing carbon dioxide, storing the carbon, and releasing oxygen back into the air, trees do some heavy lifting when it comes to helping out mother nature!
- Cleaning the Air- Reducing the greenhouse effect and filtering toxins, trees absorb many pollutants and help keep our air clean.
- Keeping Things Cool- Trees literally keep things cool by offering shade and releasing water vapor into the air through their leaves, cooling temperatures from 2 to 9 degrees. Trees, especially those on the west side of your home, can also help save on your summer cooling costs by providing shade during the hottest part of the day.
- Preventing Erosion- Trees extensive root systems can help hold soil in place and slow runoff.
- Supporting Wildlife- Trees provide protection and homes for birds, bees, squirrels and a variety of other species.
Rain barrels are a simple addition to your home that can really benefit sustainability, as well as your wallet! You can reduce your water bill during the summer months by saving hundreds of gallons of water for garden care, watering flowers, and washing cars. Its also beneficial for plant and soil health: rain water has more oxygen and less salt, chlorine and flouride in it.
Setting up a rain barrel is an easy task! First, make sure you select a spot that’s easily accessible (close to your plants, garden, or patio) and a level surface. Also, you’ll need to make sure its located by one of your home’s downspouts. If you prefer to use a rain barrel with a spigot (rather than just scooping the water out), you’ll probably want to raise it up (cement blocks work great) to make it easier to fill watering cans. Use a flexible downspout to connect the top of your downspout to the rain barrel. You’ll also want to consider adding an overflow hose leading away from the barrel so that any overflow doesn’t empty out right next to your foundation. Finally, you may want to add a screen over the top to keep bugs or other critters out.
As you design your yard, garden, or even seasonal container plantings, keeping sustainable practices in mind is an impactful benefit to our environment. At Vande Hey Company, we are excited to expand, educate and share our knowledge with you! Stop in to discuss native gardening, tree options, or any other sustainable practices with our team – we’re happy to help!