Lawn care

Green Gardening Tips for Earth Day 2010

Earth Day is a good time to rethink lawn and garden practices and find ways to make sure your landscape is as green as it looks.

It would seem that green and gardening go together naturally, but that isn’t always the case. Most lawns are kept green and weed free with synthetic fertilizers and toxic herbicides, bags of grass clippings and garden waste head for the landfill and over-watering is all too common.

Do you have a sustainable landscape that uses natural resources wisely? Do you use practices to eliminate soil and water pollution? Are you working to reduce waste?

Earth Day is the ideal time to take a close look at all our gardening practices to make sure each one is promoting the long-term well being of the environment.

For several years, I’ve been trying to follow the lead of the landscape industry and working toward “zero-waste gardening” in my own backyard.

Organic lawn care and weeds

I was surprised to learn there isn’t a universally-agreed upon definition of organic lawn care.

green-lawn-blogOne of the classes I took during CSU’s Short Course day in July was “Organic Lawn Care: Is it Sustainable?” taught by Tony Koski, the extension turf specialist. I’ve taken Tony’s classes in the past and he always presents good information and in an interesting way, too.

His workshop focused on the current research for testing organic fertilizers and pest management products for managing organic lawns.  My biggest take away from the session is that if you grow an organic lawn, you should expect weeds.

This made me feel pretty good about my lawn, because the weeds have taken over the backyard.

Tony explained the reasons for weed problems in an organic lawn include poor cultural practices, improper species or cultivar selection and planting poor quality seed or sod.

The bottom line is that weeds grow because the turf isn’t strong enough to compete with weeds.

Xeriscape tip–reduce irrigated turf areas

It’s hard work to tear up the turf, but the payoff is less lawn to water, feed, weed and mow.

reduce-turf-blogThe dry winter, combined with last year’s hot summer, left the turf in the backyard looking shabby. And not in a shabby-chic way, either.

So in early spring, I decided that instead of replanting the grass, I’d take some of it up and replace it with shrubs, rock and mulch. Limiting irrigated turf areas is one of the seven Xeriscape principles.

Yesterday, after several long weekends of digging, shoveling, wheelbarrowing and replanting, I finally finished my mini-landscaping project.

I dug up the turf that caused the most problems–it was in an area that was difficult to water and to mow. There still would be enough lawn without this area for the dog to enjoy and to have a spot of green just off the patio.

My Garden is a Happy Home for Squirrels

A litter of four squirrels has found a happy home in my garden.

squirrel-kids-blogOne day John and I looked out the office window and saw a little squirrel head poking out of the opening of the wooden squirrel nesting box at the corner of the garden. Then another head poked through. And another. And then one more.

The squirrel box was one of the last projects my father-in-law made for me and he would be delighted to know that it’s made such a hospitable home for these four juvenile squirrels.

It’s so much fun to see them chase through the garden in the morning, jumping from the picket fence to the arbor and then playing hide-and-seek. We watch them from inside our house as they take turns at the squirrel feeder chomping furiously at sunflower seeds or hanging upside down at the “squirrel-proof” bird feeder. I love to watch them take long drinks at the birdbath.

Push Mowers make mowing Reel Fun

My lawn mower is quiet, easy to push and doesn’t pollute the air.

reel-mower-blogMore than 50 million Americans start their gasoline-powered lawn mowers each week to neatly clip their lawns. But they’re also polluting the air in the process.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says small lawn mower engines are big polluters. Most people don’t associate air pollution with mowing the lawn, yet emissions from lawn mowers, and other outdoor power equipment, are a significant source of pollution.

“Today’s small engines emit high levels of carbon monoxide, a colorless, odorless, poisonous gas. They also emit pollutants that contribute to the formation of ozone.”

Last year we parked our gas guzzler and bought a mower that uses alternative sources of energy for mowing, like walking and pushing.

The push reel mower we selected is made by Sunlawn and I love it. It’s quiet, easy to push, does a nice job of cutting and is so safe the dog can be on the lawn while I’m mowing. Plus there’s no running to the gas station to fill the gas can.

Gardeners can Help Military Families for $1

The green industry invites gardeners to donate to a  special program to help our military families.

buck-it-up-for-military-families-blogA simple click of your mouse and a $1 donation will go a long way to help expand the GreenCare for Troops program sponsored by Project EverGreen and the Turf & Ornamental Communicators Association (TOCA).

GreenCare for Troops is a national program that provides free lawn and landscape care for military families where the major breadwinner of the family is serving overseas. More than 7,300 families and 2,000 volunteers are involved in the three-year program.

The “Buck It Up” program invites gardeners across the country to donate $1 online until May 16, Armed Forces Day. In addition to expanding GreenCare for Troops, the money will be used for scholarships to college students of military families.

Project EverGreen is a national nonprofit organization that works to preserve and enhance green space in our communities.

Gardeners Flock to Free Mulch Day 2009

It’s not spring until the free mulch giveaway sponsored by Denver Recycles and Denver Parks and Recreation.

mulch-day-2009-blog1Following an annual spring tradition, we woke up early, grabbed coffee and headed out the door for the TreeCycle Mulch Giveaway. We arrived 40 minutes before opening and took our places as the 10th and 11th in line. It seems every Denver resident has discovered the benefits of mulch—especially when it’s free.

Christmas trees are chopped, crushed and turned into mulch between January and May by Denver Recycles, a program of Denver Public Works and Solid Waste Management, and Denver Parks and Recreation. In addition to the huge piles of mulch, A1 Organics sells dark rich compost at the south side of the lot.

In 2001, when we first started taking advantage of the free mulch and low-cost compost, it wasn’t nearly as popular. We’d get to the giveaway around 8:00, pull right in and load up our cars, first with bags of compost and then with bags of mulch.

Three Watering Days is Plenty in Denver

green-lawn-blogLawns in Denver do just fine with three days of watering each week.

Homeowners in Denver learned today that rules for watering will be extended to Oct. 1 instead of ending on August 31. And that’s just fine with me.

My small peanut-shaped front lawn requires less water because of its size, but also because I’m a bit lazy when it comes to dragging the hose around the yard. Denver Water’s rules of limiting watering to three days a week also don’t bother me and I never water between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. anyway.

But that’s not the case in my Green Valley Ranch neighborhood. I have one neighbor who breaks nearly every watering rule all summer long. First, he waters every day–whether the lawn needs it or not. This means he sets his irrigation system once in the spring and then turns it off in the fall instead of adjusting it to meet watering rules or weather conditions.

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