8 Tips for a 'Green' Garden | Midwest Living

8 Tips for a 'Green' Garden

Adopting earth-friendly gardening habits is easier than you may think. And--bonus!--the ideas on these slides save you time and money, too.

#2: Plant natives

Species naturally suited to our region require less water and maintenance and no pesticides. Good native plants for most Midwest gardens include goldenrod, little bluestem, Russian sage, zebra grass, butterfly weed, switchgrass, columbine, coneflowers and dwarf fountain grass. Check with your local garden center for more. Pictured at left: coneflowers and Russian sage.

#2: Plant natives

Species naturally suited to our region require less water and maintenance and no pesticides. Good native plants for most Midwest gardens include goldenrod, little bluestem, Russian sage, zebra grass, butterfly weed, switchgrass, columbine, coneflowers and dwarf fountain grass. Check with your local garden center for more. Pictured at left: coneflowers and Russian sage.

#3: Water deeply

One penetrating, weekly soaking (1 to 1 1/2 hours) encourages plant roots to grow down in search of water. Frequent, brief waterings leave water on the surface, encouraging shallow roots that make plants much less drought-tolerant.

#4: Try drip watering

Drip irrigation (left)--slowly applying water directly to plants' root zone--doesn't waste a drop through evaporation and prevents molds that can develop with droplets on plant leaves.

#5: Mow electric or reel

Replace your gas mower (which produces as many pollutants in an hour as a new car driven 340 miles) with an electric or an old-fashioned reel mower (left). When you do mow, set the blade high (at least 2 inches) and leave the nutrient-rich clippings.

#6: Lose your leaf blower

These are some of the dirtiest devices around, spewing as much hydrocarbon pollution in 30 minutes as a 1995 car does in a 100-mile trip. Use a rake if you feel compelled to gather up leaves, and compost or mulch your yard leftovers.

#7: Tolerate weeds

"There is nothing worse than having lawn-care companies spray chemicals five times a year to rid the yard of every dandelion," says Jeff Gillman, associate professor of horticulture science at the University of Minnesota.

Learn to live with a nemesis: clover (left). "Once upon a time, clover was encouraged to grow in lawns because when it was cut, it would supply nitrogen to the grass," Gillman says. Pet lovers might even consider it as an option to grass; clover is impervious to dog urine.

#8: Let grass go dormant

If you can ignore the peer pressure on your block, let cool-season lawns like bluegrass (left) and fescue go dormant in summer; they'll green up again in September.

(A version of this story appeared in Midwest Living® March/April 2009.)

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