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Saving money and the environment using sustainable landscaping

By: Eric Sparks / Published: Apr 28,  2016

With springtime here, it’s time for most people to get back in their annual lawn maintenance routine. In this blog, I’m going to discuss some lawn maintenance practices that can save money and help the environment.

Native Plants

I don’t know about all of you, but yardwork isn’t on the top of my list for weekend fun. A good way to decrease the amount of time you need to tend your yard is to use native plants. There are tremendous environmental and financial benefits associated with using native plants in your landscaping.

Since these plants are already adapted to live in your environment, they require less water, help support the local ecology, attract wildlife, and require little to no fertilizer or pesticides. Some great examples of and resources for native plant landscaping can be found at the Crosby Arboretum.

Nutrients (fertilizer)

Typically nutrients are thought of as a good thing, but, as with anything, excess can cause problems. It is very common for landowners to over fertilize their yard and essentially waste money on product that isn’t used by their yard plants.

Often soils and plants only need a fraction of the fertilizer that is applied. A good investment is a low-cost soil test. This test will let you know exactly how much amending your soil needs. Contact your local extension office to get details on the soil test for each state.

The excess fertilizer is eventually transported downstream, where it causes problems. A consequence of overfertilization is what the scientific community often calls “eutrophication,” which is essentially excess nutrient loading that can be attributed to human sources. Once in coastal waters, these excess nutrients can lead to loss of coastal plants, such as wetlands and seagrasses, through overgrazing, shading and poor water quality.

Along the same lines, algae can quickly take up nutrient rich water and cause “blooms.” These blooms are sometimes species that cause human health issues, such as red tide, and can often contribute to fish kills. Once this algae dies, the oxygen consuming process of respiration begins, and lowers the oxygen concentration in the water to levels too low to sustain the life of many finfish and shellfish. This process is a major contributor to the large “dead zone” we have in the Gulf of Mexico.

With only a few considerations, you can help our environment and your pocketbook this spring.

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