Yard and garden

LandscapingOn this page, we discuss the following issues related to your yard and garden:

Click a link in the list above to jump to that topic on this page.

Our lawns and gardens are little oases of green in the concrete jungle. Trees, shrubs, flowers and grasses provide us with more than a pretty landscape. They trap dust and debris, muffle urban noise pollution, reduce glare and act as air filters, combing pollutants from the air we breathe. But even our green spaces can be more climate-friendly. Follow these simple tips for a green space that is really green!

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Lawn mowing

In Canada, gasoline-powered lawn equipment releases about 80,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions every year!

Climate-friendly mower options. New electric models are cordless, rechargeable and do not require oil, gas, a starter rope or tune-ups. Solar models harness the sun’s energy to get the job done. Better yet, manual equipment provides light exercise while keeping your green space trimmed.

Tune it up. Not ready to trade up? Keep your gas mower running as GHG-free as possible. Clean or replace air filters and spark plugs, conduct tune-ups and adjust the carburetor regularly. Change the oil as specified by the manufacturer. Avoid overfilling!

Keep it sharp. Keep mower blades sharp and the underside of the mower clean to maximize efficiency.
Clear out clogs ahead of time. Drain the fuel tank at the end of the season to prevent contaminants in the gasoline form settling and clogging the fuel injection system. Your mower will run cleaner next spring.

Don’t scalp your lawn. Set your mower blades high. The absolute minimum height for grass is about two and a half inches. Three inches is even better! (Five to eight centimeters.) Short, scalped lawns are harder to maintain, encourage weeds and disease, and require more water.

Minimize turf areas. Do you really need a lawn the size of a soccer field? Do you really want to mow it? Try attractive, no-mow groundcovers and other creative landscaping alternatives to cut down on your grass-cutting emissions

…but maximize greenery! Lawn is preferable to concrete, brick, paving stones or asphalt. These reflect heat and contribute to the urban heat island effect. Every bit of greenery helps clean the air, sequesters carbon dioxide, and prevents soil erosion.

Grass is good for gardens. Save lawn clippings and place them between the rows of your garden as mulch. Clippings conserve moisture and provide a good organic fertilizing agent (if your lawn is free of pesticides and herbicides). They improve soil texture, too.

LawnmowerInvisible mulch for your lawn. Take the grass catcher off your mower and don’t rake up the clippings. (Try running the mower over the clippings again to chop them into smaller pieces). The clippings break down quickly and provide natural mulch for your lawn that will add nutrients and conserve soil moisture. Keeping that grass out of your garbage can save 0.1 tonne in GHG’s.

Keep your lawn off drugs! Nitrogen-based fertilizers produce nitrous oxide. Nitrous oxide is over 300 times more effective that carbon dioxide in trapping heat reflected from the Earth. The average suburban lawn is deluged with 10 times as much chemical fertilizer per acre as farmland! Skip the chemicals – stick to mulched clippings! (See above).

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Just say “NO” to pesticides. Like fertilizers, pesticides are over-used as well. They are harmful to beneficial insects, as well as birds, earthworms and other desirable garden creatures. Pesticides also pose serious health risks for children, including the increased likelihood of childhood leukemia and brain cancer. Many pesticides have the potential to disrupt human endocrine systems, leading to decreased immune function, impaired reproductive abilities, and increased susceptibility to certain cancers in adults and adolescents. Cultivate a healthy yard and pass on the pesticides.

If your lawn and garden need a boost, try organic products. They are better for our environment and your family.

Choose native plant species. Native species are adapted to thrive in our region. They require less water and maintenance than imports. Fruit and seeding-bearing plants will readily attract local wildlife, too.

Weed by hand or by water. Spend 20 minutes digging weeds early in the season and you’ll reap the rewards later in the year. No chemicals necessary (and a great activity for the kids). Can’t weed by hand? Try boiling water. This is extremely effective – it literally cooks them.

Hand-pick your garden pests. Hand-picking is an excellent way to control insects at all stages of development. If done early, you can usually eradicate the worst offenders before they start to reproduce.

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Grow a water-wise lawn. Water your lawn only when absolutely necessary – don’t spoil it into growing short roots that can’t access deeper soil moisture! Your grass should be able to survive well on your region’s rainfall. (Look for appropriate varieties at your local garden centre).

If you must water:

  • Water deeply. In a really dry spell, water 2–3 cm every five days, rather than for a short period every day.
  • Water when it is cool. Water during the coolest part of the day (before 10 AM and after sundown)
  • Water when it is calm and on non–windy days to reduce water loss from evaporation. Use automatic timers on sprinklers if you will be leaving during the watering.
  • Don’t use sprinklers that throw it all away. Use sprinklers that deliver large droplets in a flat pattern rather than those that throw the water high into the air to avoid evaporation.
  • Fix leaks. Be sure to shut off all outdoor taps tightly and inspect them regularly for leaks. Winter takes its toll on outside taps. Repair leaks promptly.
  • Collect rainwater. Collect rainwater in a barrel or other large container, and use the water for your garden or lawn. Cover the container with screen to keep mosquitoes from breeding.

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Plant trees strategically. Trees can help you save money on your energy bill and reduce GHG emissions from home heating and cooling.

  • Plant evergreens (conifers) on the north side of your home for shelter from winter winds.
  • Plant leafy (deciduous) species on the south side for cool summer shade and warm winter sunlight.

Choose native tree species. Native trees species are adapted to thrive in our region. They require less water and maintenance than imports. Fruit and seed-bearing trees will readily attract local wildlife, too.

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Your pool

Cover your heated pool. Use a thermal blanket to reduce heat loss and evaporation from your pool.

Maintain your pool efficiently. Use pump timers to regulate energy and the length of time your pool is heated. Use cost-effective solar panels to heat your pool.

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