Keeping a lawn green and beautiful, while also protecting the environment, can seem like an impossible task at times. Gas-powered mowers and aerators, and toxic insecticides and fertilizers, all do serious damage to the environment. But by using a few green alternatives to your everyday gardening tools and chemicals, you'll not only make your yard beautiful, you'll make it eco-friendly, too.
INSECTICIDES / FERTILIZERS
Problem: The chemicals in these products will not only pollute the air, they will likely sink into wells or underground water storage and contaminate the water with toxins, and possibly even carcinogens.
Solution: One great solution is corn gluten meal. Corn gluten meal is an organic substance found in many kinds of animal feed. It is also a pre-emergent herbicide that works by inhibiting the sprouting of new seeds. Because of this, it's a bad idea to use this product if you're planning on seeding wildflowers or other plants in the near future. The upside to this product is that while it prevents weeds, it also acts as a fertilizer for grass and is easy to spread with a seed spreader. You can find corn gluten meal at most garden care centers.
For weeds that have already sprouted, make a solution of lemon juice and vinegar. The solution will kill plants it comes into contact with. It will also temporarily change the pH of the soil for 48 hours, so make sure you remember where you've used it. (See more information on Green Pesticides.)
Problem: The major problem with mowing is that it burns a lot of gas. Running a mower for one hour emits the same pollution as driving the average car 100 miles.
Solution: A push reel mower is a great alternative to a gas mower. The reel mowers sold today aren't as difficult to push as they were in your grandfather's day. They can also mow a lawn quickly and perfectly, without the noisy roar of a gas mower. Reel mowers also make cleaner cuts than most gas mowers, so your grass looks good while you feel good about your effect on the environment. And just think of the money you will save never having to buy gas for your mower!
Problem: Aerating is necessary because it loosens up the soil. Because of the amount of traffic on a standard lawn, the soil slowly compacts and inhibits the growth of grass and plants. But much like a mower, aerating machines can burn a lot of gas.
Solution: Unfortunately, you can't completely avoid aerating your yard. You can aerate the lawn in a greener way whenever possible, however. Aerating sandals (shoes with long spikes on the soles) are effective to an extent, but they aren't recommended for large or deep lawn aeration. So as great as aerating sandals are, they probably won't keep you from using a gas-powered aerator at least some of the time.
What are they?
Grass alternatives are seed mixes native to the area you live in. They look good in your yard instead of grass and because they are native plants, they become self-sustaining after a few years of care. That's right; no mowing, no aerating, and no watering, ever. Some examples of seed mixes are grass and wildflower mix, Dichondra grass, Kikuyugrass, or Lovegrass.
Pros: Once fully grown, these alternatives don't require nearly as much watering or maintenance. These lawns can also be much more colorful than plain grass could ever hope to be. Some of these grasses, such as Dichondra, will grow in areas that more traditional types cannot. They are also very easy to spread. Look online to find where these seeds may be purchased.
Cons: The grasses or flowers are longer than standard grass. This can cause your lawn to look untamed. And it will never have that perfectly flat and even look that a standard lawn has. It is also necessary to alert the city and your neighbors of your intentions, as some cities have a height limit on grass, but if they know what you are doing they may make an exception.