Most garden lovers know that keeping a green space in your yard can be beneficial not only for your own health and happiness, but for the health of the planet. Plants of all shapes and sizes help to capture carbon via photosynthesis, boost biodiversity, and protect neighborhoods from some of the ill-effects of global warming, such as excessive rainfall and extreme heat.
But did you know that maintaining a perfectly manicured lawn isn’t always the best way to keep your backyard an eco friendly space? Chemical fertilizers, mowing machines, excessive watering, and even the lawn eco-system itself can end up dumping more carbon into the atmosphere than is eventually taken out.
Don’t despair. If having a green lawn outside your home is something you want to retain, there are numerous ways you can make the venture as eco friendly as possible. By following these tips, you can help ensure your grass captures more carbon than it contributes and that it plays a small but important part in the fight against climate change.
Some people think that, in order to have as lush and as green a lawn as possible, fertilizers are a must-buy product. Unfortunately, these chemical mixtures can frequently involve large amounts of carbon in their manufacture and transport.
What’s more, many nitrogen-based fertilizers actually contain far more nitrogen than standard lawn grass requires or is able to absorb. Excess nitrogen that can’t be effectively absorbed by your grass can end up as nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas that has even stronger heat-trapping abilities than carbon.
If you truly feel your lawn needs a nutrient boost, opt for slow-release, organic fertilizers that have been produced as locally to you as possible. Not only can these carry a lower carbon footprint in terms of their production, they can also prove less harmful to local ecosystems due to a lack of artificial additives.
It’s no secret that lawns require water to stay healthy and strong, but many people over estimate the amount of irrigation that’s actually required. A lot of grass, particularly hardy species, can remain healthy and strong with brief but regular irrigation.
Remember, although water as a product itself is not a carbon producer, the energy needed to process and transport it can be. The over watering of domestic crops can also contribute to water shortages for communities that desperately need it for sustenance and sanitation.
Try to ensure you water early in the morning or in the evening, to avoid unnecessary evaporation, and deactivate sprinkler systems if there has been rain. If using automated irrigation systems, ensure they are well maintained and set to the minimum possible schedule for the health of your lawn. Try reducing your watering levels gradually over time and see whether it does, in fact, affect the appearance of your grass. You may be surprised at how comparatively little water your lawn needs to stay healthy.
A primary part of ensuring that your lawn can remain healthy without excessive fertilization or water is choosing a species suitable for your climate and soil type. The hardier the species you choose, the more resilient it’s likely to prove in the face of dry periods or disease.
Find out what grows best in your region. Contact local lawn specialists, speak to gardening professionals, and do your research. By investing a small amount of time ensuring you get a suitable seed or patch of turf to install, you could be saving a significant amount of carbon, energy, and effort further down the line.
Similarly, for those looking to install pre-grown turf rather than growing their lawn from seed, opt for a local provider rather than having your lawn shipped half way across the country. The more miles on the road, the more carbon for our climate!
Of course, delivery trucks aren’t the only pollution producing machine involved in the maintenance of lawns across the land. Petrol mowers are still, for many, the go-to choice for mowing equipment.
Unfortunately, these gas guzzlers contribute a significant amount of carbon to our atmosphere each year, both in the fuel they burn and the fuel that’s inadvertently spilled whilst filling them up.
Electric mowers are not a carbon neutral option, since the electricity that powers them may also be produced via non-renewable means, not to mention the materials used to make the machines themselves. That being said, electric mowers almost always prove to be greener choices than their fossil fuel powered cousins.
If you want to go for the greenest option on the market, manually powered mowers are your best bet, requiring nothing more than human kinetic energy to keep the blades spinning.
Although some might see scattered grass clippings as an unsightly addition to their backyard, the nutritional benefits of this effortless and natural form of fertilization are numerous. By simply allowing grass clippings to biodegrade organically you can help feed your lawn with nitrogen, without relying on chemical products or other carbon-intensive solutions.
You can either distribute grass cuttings manually after having collected them up or, for even less effort, simply remove the bag attachment from your mower and allow the clippings to disperse naturally as you mow.
Modern automated mowers are also becoming increasingly popular, as well as increasingly affordable, for homeowners. Not only do they offer a hands-free solution to mowing the lawn, they also help naturally fertilize your grass by leaving the small clippings they cut in place. What’s more, because they tend to shave smaller amounts off your grass, but do so regularly, your lawn can remain neatly trimmed and naturally fertilized without the left-over cuttings becoming an eye sore.
Garden perfectionists can sometimes feel as if weeds and non-grass species appearing in the lawn are a sign of a poorly maintained space. Unfortunately, some of the methods used for keeping weeds and undesirable plants at bay can prove harmful for local ecosystems as well as contributing unnecessary carbon emissions to our biosphere.
Chemical herbicides, just like chemical fertilizers, can prove carbon-intensive in their production and transportation. Instead of trying to eradicate all weeds from your lawn space, try to see some species variation as an inevitable and even desirable component of a healthy, varied ecosystem.
Remember, flowering plants can help bolster biodiversity by encouraging insects and pollinators to your garden space. Learning to see them as a harmonious addition to the garden rather than a nuisance in need of eradication is an important step in helping to nurture a more climate-friendly space.
Nature rarely loves a monoculture. Whilst manicured lawns are, by definition, relatively homogenous spaces when compared to wild grass lands, it’s still possible to introduce a level of biodiversity into your garden whilst maintaining the aesthetic and space that comes with having a well tended lawn.
Low-growing, non-grass species can even help improve the resilience and appearance of your lawn during tough periods of weather. Species such as common yarrow can actually be sewn in and amongst your grass to help your lawn withstand periods of drought, maintaining a green appearance long into the summer even without irrigating.
Other plants such as creeping thyme, chamomile, and various mosses can help bolster the soft, lush texture of your lawn, proving hardier than many grass species and acting as a natural weed suppressant. They can also help boost a space’s overall photosynthetic capabilities and thus its carbon capturing potential.
Finally, if you can spare the room, consider interspersing your lawn with tree or shrub species. Many larger trees and shrubs can prove more effective at capturing carbon than grass plots, as well as offering protective shade and shelter from the wind.