Best Practices for Sustainable Landscaping In Colorado
You finally pulled the trigger and decided that Beautiful Colorado is going to be your forever home. It’s the perfect house. You have a perfect front porch, a decent sized backyard, your dream master bedroom, and you just implemented the exact aesthetic kitchen design you’ve always wanted.
But now you need to focus on your outdoor space. Your neighbors have perfectly polished biodiverse yards, trimmed lawns, and the best holiday decor as the leaves start to change. You want to feel like you can blend in with the neighborhood right away.
But as an environmentally-conscious person, how can you be sure you’re using the most sustainable practices in developing your Colorado landscape design? You love where you live, and want to protect the land you just bought as well and as sustainably as you possibly can.
According to a 2022 study conducted by The Hill, Colorado is one of only 11 states with moderate, severe, extreme, and exceptional drought conditions in the United States, along with Oklahoma, Texas, Kansas, Montana, California, Utah, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, and Oregon.
If you didn’t know, the concept of the “Great American Lawn” is catastrophic to the water shortage in the American West. Starting this past June, residents and businesses in surrounding counties of Los Angeles were told to limit their outdoor water usage to one day per week, the first and most strict restriction of its kind. Keeping a lawn well hydrated can take up to 75 percent of a household’s water usage.
So how do you do your part in conservation, and go above and beyond in making sure your home is a beacon of sustainability in an extremely dry state? Below are some tips to make your house more environmentally friendly.
Decide what kind of yard you want to have. The most sustainable yards are using less water, minimize their fertilizer use, and are left to their own devices compared to hyper-polished, neatly-trimmed lawns.
Understand what plants are thriving in your yard versus plants that are struggling or will require more time and attention. If it’s a struggle to grow a certain plant in your yard, don’t force it.
Don’t try and fix everything all at once. Look for problem areas in your yard and do small adjustments to improve their condition. Short-term goals can be:
- Plant a Tree or Shrubs: Trees create mini ecosystems, and add more moisture in the air, eat up carbon dioxide, and provide a healthy environment for plants and animals to thrive. Trees can provide shade that will help with a sun-scorched yard. Make sure to choose strong, sustainable soil options to cultivate a healthy living environment for your plants.
- Build a Rain Garden: A garden of native shrubs, perennials, and flowers in a small depression or slope, a rain garden can help you collect water and limit waste from runoff. Your plants will thank you. Compared to a conventional lawn, rain gardens allow for 30 percent more water to soak into the ground. It can also limit pollutants that are carried off or spread by rain runoff. The more plants you have that can hold water, the healthier your yard will be.
- Consider A Compost Bin: Composed of organic matter like old fruits and vegetables, wood chippings, or coffee grounds, a compost bin allows you to save food waste and give it back to your yard. This will fertilize and improve the quality of the soil in your yard, add more nutrients to it, and improve its moisture-carrying capacity.
No matter how much you like palm trees, they won’t survive very well in Colorado and will require energy and moisture that would be better suited for native plants to the state. Native plants perform best in the region they’re meant to reside in and therefore require little work or maintenance.
Native plants are safe havens and hosts for butterflies, bumblebees, and other insects and animals that require them to thrive and contribute to the local ecosystem. Diversify your local native plants to optimize their effects on your yard and its pursuit of healthiness.
Additionally, avoid invasive plant species that are notorious for harming the Colorado environment, such as the cypress spurge, dalmatian toadflax, dame’s rocket, or the meadow knapweed. If you already have these in your yard, they may be pretty, but replacing them with native species will have drastic benefits on your yard’s health.
There are many tips for making your grass-cutting cycle more sustainable.
- Use a mulching lawnmower: This type of mower helps to return grass clippings back to the lawn so the soil can regain its nutrients. Also, bagging up your grass clippings is an unnecessary and tedious chore you can now avoid doing.
- Cut grass no less than 2.5-to-3 inches: This can protect the roots of your grass blades and help to reduce pests or invasive crabgrass or other weeds in your yard.
- Cut the grass when dry: Not only is this an easier process, it can avoid large, wet clumps of grass that can smother your yard and interrupt its normal growing cycle.
- Only water once a week: The drought may leave you wanting to water your dry yard, but watering once a week is the best practice for cutting down on water waste and expensive water bills. Try harvesting rainwater or implementing a rain garden to naturally gather water for your lawn. When it rains, skip watering.
- Avoid pesticides and harmful chemicals: Use only natural and organic methods of keeping pests away from your lawn.
Sure, this process can be more physically demanding and take longer than using a regular motorized lawn mower, but using a reel mower can cut down emissions and pollution in your neighborhood.
This way you’re only burning calories instead of harmful fossil fuels like gasoline and oil. Spinning blades in a reel mower can help cut the grass in a healthier way, as motorized mowers tend to tear or rip out grass stems or roots.
There’s nothing wrong with wanting to have a beautiful lawn, but there is a right way to make it happen. Don’t waste water or overwater your lawn. Try using compost methods to add more nutrients to your soil. Try using a rain garden to make the most use of rainwater and eliminate pollution. Eliminate invasive plant species and go completely native.
Teach your family the best practices for maintaining a healthy and environmentally friendly yard. The worst thing you can do is waste water. Be kind to your dry state and set a positive example for your neighbors by moving towards a more sustainable landscaping strategy.
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