Green Landscaping

Garden pond with a small waterfall surrounded by plants

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Think about the millions of tons of waste materials that are hauled away, buried or burned each day from landscaping and groundskeeping operations. This includes trees, shrubs, brush, lumber, asphalt and concrete, just to name a few.

Also, consider the millions of gallons of water, pesticides, fertilizers and fuels used to keep gardens, yards and landscapes healthy, lush and green. The costs of these materials — both economic and environmental — can easily be reduced or eliminated with updated landscaping methods.

Incorporate some of the following green landscaping elements into your daily gardening routine and do your part for the planet. (Text: EPA)

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Reduce waste

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  • Select low-maintenance or slow-growing plants, grasses or flowers, such as coneflowers. (pictured)
  • Reduce or eliminate plastic silt fencing and substitute with blankets, berms and filtersocks made of compost for erosion control.
  • Switch from pressure-treated wood to plastic lumber for decks, benches and signs.
  • When replacing an existing hardscape or structure, deconstruct, reuse and recycle all possible materials, including metal, wood, shingles, concrete and pavement.
  • Minimize turf grass and paved areas — keep as much natural area as possible.
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Reduce water

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  • Conserve water through xeriscaping. Minimize the need for water by limiting grass cover.
  • Incorporate compost into the soil to help improve water absorption and retention.
  • Place mulch over a plant's root zone to reduce moisture evaporation and conserve water.
  • Install drip irrigation systems, or install composting toilets in remote locations to reduce water and servicing requirements.
  • Clean equipment with compressed air whenever possible. Collect and compost grass clippings and debris insted of washing them away with a hose.
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Reduce fertilizers, pesticides

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  • Use compost as a soil amendment to help reduce the need for chemical fertilizers or pesticides.
  • Incorporate native plants in your landscape. They generally require less fertilizers and pesticides.
  • Set mower blades higher to fight weeds and diseases without pesticides.
  • Grasscycle: Leave grass clippings in place when mowing — don't bag them.
  • Use mulch around trees and in flowering beds as weed prevention.
  • If you can't return excess product, contact your local solid waste agency and your state pesticide disposal program to determine if a waste or pesticide program, now commonly called "Clean Sweep," is available. These efforts typically focus on agricultural pesticides, but may also include other pesticides used by homeowners.
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Recycle waste

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  • Chip wood waste and tree clippings into mulch to use for landscaping.
  • Donate healthy plants to local nonprofit organizations when reconfiguring or removing trees and shrubs from your landscape.
  • Reuse soils within the work site. Create mounds or berms to serve as windbreaks or to add visual interest.
  • Recycle bedding trays and plant containers from annuals and other greenery.
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Recycle water

Photo: By Karin Jaehne/Shutterstock

Use collected rainwater, reclaimed water or gray water for irrigation and equipment washdowns.

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Buy green

Photo: By ezhenaphoto/Shutterstock
  • Buy locally produced goods — such as plants from farmers markets — whenever possible to reduce transportation emissions and costs.
  • Select plastic lumber made from recycled bottles and bags for benches and other outdoor structures.
  • Incorporate rubberized asphalt (made from recycled tires) for walking, running, bike or cart paths.
  • Purchase patio blocks and lawn edging containing recovered plastic or postconsumer rubber.
  • Use recycled glass for golf course bunker sand, beach sand, or filter media.
  • Buy hoses, tubing and trickle irrigation systems made from recovered plastic and old tires.
  • Purchase and incorporate plants that require minimal or no supplemental watering.
  • Purchase biodiesel and biobased1 lubricants for your equipment.
  • Purchase organic, biobased or slow-release fertilizers, and use biopesticides instead of conventional pesticides.