Having a large and expansive lawn of well-manicured grass and ornamental hedges has been seen as a symbol of wealth and prosperity for centuries. With the growing concern over pesticides, and the return to eating organic and local, many people are beginning to rethink their utilization of these open areas.
Lawns and lawn maintenance are not only labor intensive, but are sources of pollution and waste. Lawnmowers spew more carbon monoxide into the air, gallon for gallon, than the average car or truck, while the chemicals used to kill weeds and insects find their way into waterways, contaminating water and killing wildlife. The lawns themselves contribute nothing to local wildlife or ecology.
More and more people are opting to transform their green spaces into lush gardens of native grasses, flowers and shrubs, small orchards, vegetable gardens or any combination thereof. Many seek to incorporate natural pest-fighting plants so that instead of poisoning the environment, they're contributing to the local ecology in a positive way. Of course, you can still leave areas for families to get outside and play, gather and enjoy the beautiful gardens around them.
Plant foliage native to your area to create a natural appearance. Plants may include trees, shrubs, berry bushes and herbs to use in your kitchen. Consult with local experts, like those at your local nursery, for a list plants that grow well in your area. They'll also have invaluable information regarding everything from what plants you can grow together (also known as companion planting) and how to create and arrange your new plants. Remember that for the first two to three years, you'll have to water your new spaces and make sure that invasive plants don't get a foothold and crowd out or kill these newly established plants and shrubs. Don't know what's native to your area? Check PlantNative to find out.
Another convenient option to replanting your yard is container gardening. Container gardening is growing in popularity as more and more people realize that growing their own food is not only a great way to save money and eat healthy, but also an earth-friendly practice. If you're living in an urban setting where you can't till up a nice big garden for yourself, don't despair. You can grow a wonderful supply of fresh fruits and vegetables for yourself all you need is sunlight and a few supplies!
The main limiting factor in growing fruiting plants is sunlight, so make sure that your plants will receive six to eight hours of bright sun each day. If you don't have south-facing windows or a sunny corner, you can supplement with a plant light. If you're starting from seed, purchase a seeding tray and keep the soil wet and warm until seeds germinate, then water regularly. To stimulate root growth, allow the soil to dry out some between watering, as this will encourage the roots to grow in search of water, but not to the extent that the plant begins to wilt for lack of water.
Transplant your seedlings into more size-appropriate containers once they are strong and healthy. Do a bit of research so that you know how much space each plant will need — greens such as lettuce, chard, spinach, and kale won't need as deep a pot as a tomato or pepper plant will. Feed your plants with organic fertilizer designed for your specific type of plants. Vegetable plants often need different nutrients as they grow than flowering, non-fruit-producing plants need. Consult a gardening center or book for tips on plant care so that you'll know all the tricks, such as pinching off suckers to increase fruit size.
If you have an outside space like a patio, deck, or balcony, the same applies to you. Start your plants as seedlings indoors, then transition them into pots outdoors once it is safe. You may need to harden your plants up by putting them out for a few hours and then bringing them back in for a day or two. Some plants can overwinter, but many need to be planted after the last danger of freezing or frost. Once your plants are successfully planted outdoors, make sure they're watered regularly.
If you're not ready to give up your lawn, and have no outdoor space, consider the possibility of a window garden. Most window gardens are used to add a bit of greenery or seasonal color to a room. One of the most popular spots, and one that gets the most attention, is the window over the kitchen sink. Most of us only have a window sill, but more and more people are opting to replace that plain flat window with a garden window. These windows look like a smaller version of the old bay or bow windows used in the front of the home.
Even if you have a regular window with no sill, you can hang shelves at different heights across the window to maximize space. Everything from pansies to herbs along with the ever popular vines can be grouped together to create a pleasant green space and add a sense of freshness to your meals!