The Green Lifestyle: Eco-Friendly Techniques for a Healthy Lawn

November 5, 2007

Organic lawn care is one way to take your property green. But there are a number of moves you can make to make things even more earth-friendly as a responsible gardener and grass manager.

— Pay attention to equipment: Lawn mowers, leaf blowers and weed-trimmers are good labor-saving devices but produce smoke and noise as byproducts. Consider going electric rather than burning fossil fuel. Or use push power, in the case of the old reel mowers. The manual mowers are especially useful on small patches of lawn.

The automobile industry isn’t the only manufacturing category embracing alternative fuels. The Toro Co. of Bloomington, Minn., recently announced it was introducing biodiesel-powered mowers after four years of testing everything from soybean oil to French-fry grease.

The new diesel-to-biodiesel conversion kits for Toro’s many turf-maintenance machines run from $30 to $500 in price, the company said.

— Adopt smart watering habits: Add mulch and compost to your soils to hold water and reduce evaporation. Choose low water-use plants or grasses that can thrive on rainfall alone once they’re established. Soaker hoses or drip irrigation can save 50 percent over sprinkler use. Do your watering early in the day to avoid evaporation and winds.

— Don’t be overly generous with fertilizers: Even organic, composted animal wastes are often high in phosphorus. As runoff, this can lead to algae blooms and degrade water quality in nearby lakes and streams.

— Adopt the federal Environmental Protection Agency’s “4 R’s” GreenScapes program: Recycle, reuse, reduce and rethink. In the latter case, buy products that have a better environmental profile than those you may be using — solar landscape lighting, for instance.

Or make composts from yard and kitchen scraps, a practice that also fits under recycling. Compost or “gardener’s gold” can be used for many purposes from potting plants to boosting soil nutrients in natural lawns. It saves money over the commercial product, too.