May 15th, 2009
Summer is just around the corner, and this is the time of year when we really ramp up our lawn activities– watering, fertilizing, mowing, etc. And all of these can have major negative environmental consequences. Did you know that over 50 million Americans mow their lawns each weekend, and that mowing contributes as much as 5% of the country’s air pollution? And it’s staggering to realize that the average American grassy lawn can use over 20,000 gallons of water each summer! So, a major part of any green home strategy should be to embrace eco-friendly lawn and garden care.
Here are 12 ways you can make sure you have an eco-friendly lawn this summer
1. Collect rain water and use it for your plants. Getting a rain barrel or two for your yard is a simple way to collect and reuse Mother Nature’s water. Just put it under your gutter’s down spout and you’ll be amazed how fast it fills up. Click here for rain barrels.
2. Make sure you’re not over-watering. Most of us over-water our lawns. Do you have moss growing on your driveway or sidewalk or in your garden? That’s a sign you’re watering too much. Do you have pools of standing water anywhere? Another sign. You can buy a very inexpensive lawn moisture meter that will tell you if you’re over-watering. You might also consider getting an intelligent irrigation control system that attunes your watering to the weather and your lawn’s needs.
3. Don’t hose down your sidewalks and driveway. That water is a valuable resource and the water you send into the gutter is carrying oil and a host of chemicals out as run-off that go on to pollute our rivers, lakes and oceans.
4. Get a push mower for your lawn. Traditional gas mowers are horrible for our air quality and contribute to global warming. They are major environmental offenders. A good-ole push mower is the eco-friendly solution. (Or if you can’t go all the way to push style, get a plug-in electric model– better than gas.) Find mowers here.
5. Say no to leaf-blowers! The gas-powered leaf blowers some people use are major carbon emissions culprits. Say yes to a broom! Your waist-line will thank you too.
6. And when you’re done mowing, leave your clippings on your yard. Those grass clippings make great mulch and will help you save water as well.
7. Be sure to compost your other yard waste. If your city doesn’t collect green waste for composting, please get a composter and do it yourself. It’s super easy and the composter will turn your waste into great mulch for use throughout your yard and garden. Find composters here.
8. Embrace native plants. Plants, flowers and grasses that are native to your region are the most atuned to soil, climate and water particularities. They are great water savers and will thrive with less care than tropical and other imported varieties. And they are gorgeous! Learn more about native landscaping here with our book collection. Or contact a green professional landscape designer or maintainance provider from our green services directory. We have eco-minded landscaping experts listed across the United States.
9. Are you addicted to the look of grass but live in a high-drought area? You may want to consider synthetic grass. It uses no water, lasts over ten years, and looks & feels surprisingly real. Learn more about synthetic grass here.
10. Why not start your own organic food garden? Nothing could be better for the planet or your health. Learn how to get started with organic gardening here.
11. Use non-toxic fertilizers and pest-control agents for your garden and lawn. Not only are these better for your plants (particularly any food you might eat), they reduce the amount of toxins that run-off into our waterways. Find safe alternatives here.
12. Use solar or LED lighting in your lawn. Solar lighting is obviously an energy-saver. If you don’t find solar lights bright enough, check out LED lights—they are very bright and use very little power. They will last 5-10 times as long as standard outdoor lights. Find energy-efficient lighting options here.
Popularity: 5% [?]
May 1st, 2009
In many parts of the country, we’re going to be in for a dry, dry summer this year. Huge swaths of the country are already in drought territory, and for many areas summertime doesn’t offer much hope for change.
Increasing demands on scarce water resources will almost certainly lead to lower caps on water usage (and even rationing in some areas) and/or higher water rates to stimulate conservation efforts. Many Californians are already facing the prospect of higher water rates this year - Los Angeles just announced a 15% reduction in the amount of water that a family can use before triggering higher “second tier” water rates, AND a major increase of those second tier rates as compared to last year.
Over-watering of lawns and gardens is usually one of the greatest sources of water waste. There are many reasons why: some people apply too much water, water at the wrong times thereby increasing evaporation, or don’t adjust their sprinklers and end up watering the street / driveway instead.
One of the best ways to control irrigation water use is to use “smart” irrigation controllers. They not only save you money, but they’ll save an incredible amount of hassle by taking the guesswork out of setting your irrigation schedule correctly. In many water-starved parts of the country your local water agency might offer rebates on these systems, sometimes nearly paying for the entire controller!
Smart controllers come in a couple of flavors: controllers that monitor the conditions in your yard (soil moisture, etc) and set irrigation accordingly, and controllers that base your irrigation schedule on weather data received from satellite, radio or internet feeds. Here’s a run-down on some of the best options available right now.
Weather-Based Irrigation Controllers
Cyber-Rain XCI. The Cyber-Rain XCI system hooks up to your computer and downloads weather reports from the Internet. If it’s an especially hot/sunny day, irrigation times will be increased. Cool and cloudy? Times are reduced. And if rain’s in the forecast, the XCI will stop irrigation for 24 hours. The XCI also does other cool stuff like calculating before/after savings and enabling you to develop simple zone descriptions that anyone can understand - and all via wireless connection direct to your computer. It’s a bit on the pricey side at $399, but if you have a big yard with lots of zones it’s well worth it.
Irritrol SmartDial Controllers. Irritrol SmartDial controllers adjust your irrigation based on weather conditions and evapotranspiration data from the day before, so your plants are truly getting only what they need. The data for these controllers is downloaded daily from a satellite, and you’ll probably have to spring for a data subscription (usually less than $100 / year). The cost of the entry-level six-zone controller will be around $225.
Sensor-Based Irrigation Controllers
Hunter Pro-C With Solar Sync. Hunter’s Solar Sync system nearly does it all - it measures rainfall, temperature and solar radiation, and then adjusts your irrigation schedule accordingly. It even delays your irrigation program if it detects there’s a freezing risk. The system requires three parts: The Solar Sync outdoor sensor and calculation module (purchased as a unit), and a Hunter irrigation controller such as the Pro-C. If you are starting from scratch, the entire unit should cost around $250 ($125 each for Solar Sync and Pro-C controller).
Weathermatic Smartline. The Weathermatic Smartline system along with the optional SLW On-Site Weather Station monitors temperature and rainfall and, coupled with an internal database of solar radiation in your area, will adjust your irrigation levels accordingly. The controller will set you back about $120, and the weather station another $150 or so.
All of these models have been tested under a third-party testing program of the Irrigation Association called the Smart Water Application Technologies protocal, or SWAT. You can review the individual testing reports for each of these (and more) models here.
Popularity: 3% [?]
February 5th, 2009
Spring gardening season is not that far off! (Seriously East Coasters, hang on!) Today we are joined by Christy Wilhelmi, who is the driving force behind Gardenerd.com. Christy is an expert organic gardener and she often shares her green insights with us here at Low Impact Living. Today she has some great ideas for how to get your kids jazzed about gardening this spring. What better way to teach them environmental stewardship and have some fun in the process!?
Encourage kids to do something with their thumbs this spring besides playing Game Boy. Give them the chance to become a green thumb. Spring is a time of renewal and rebirth for people as well as plants. What better way to renew your relationship with nature and your children than to plant a food garden. For those who aren’t already growing some of their own food, you can use your children as an excuse to start now. Show them the way, or learn how to garden together. Here are a few quick veggies that provide nearly instant gratification and are kid-friendly crops to plant:
Radishes – the ultimate instant-gratification vegetable. They sprout in days and can be harvested in a very short time. Perfect for impatient little ones!
Lettuces – not only will you see sprouts emerge quickly (10 days or so) but you’ll be able to harvest the outside leaves in a little over a month from the time they sprout. You’ll have salads through spring and into summer.
Beets – okay , kids might not like beets, but they are really easy to grow, have virtually no pests or diseases, and bring a lot of color to the garden. Their red-veined leaves and stems might actually convince kids that beets are tasty, too.
Arugula – this green is a little more sophisticated in flavor, but much like radishes, it sprouts in days. Your kids may not like it but you will, so tell them that kids can grow grown-up vegetables to share.
Peas – nature’s snack food rarely makes it in from the garden. Peas take longer to germinate, but given a place to climb, they will thrive. Kids will enjoy watching peas reach for the sky, flower and form little tiny pea pods. Practice patience by waiting for the peas to plump up and then pick and eat them right in the garden. These are the things memories are made of!
For a list of other spring vegetables that can be planted soon, visit Christy’s previous post on spring garden planting Low Impact Living.com. And visit www.Gardenerd.com for more tips and tidbits about organic gardening.
Popularity: 3% [?]