Sustainable Gardening

Manage your lawn, garden and landscape in a way that will help conserve and protect our natural resources.

Pesticide use

Pesticides are toxic, after all they are meant to kill! Rather than jumping right to the chemical solution, consider applying an integratedPesticide warning sign on a park lawn. pest management (IPM) technique the next time you see a bug or spots on leaves. First, know your plants. Have you selected the right plants for your climate and landscape? What potential pest problems do they have? How can those problems be avoided? Second, know your pests. How do you identify them? What are their life cycles? Third, know your options. Are there cultural or mechanical means that can be used? What about natural enemies (the good bugs)? What is the most effective treatment and when is the best time to apply it? Finding the answers to these questions can help reduce the use of pesticides and make you yard safer for your family and wildlife. Try starting your search with the University of Minnesota’s IPM of Midwest Landscapes.

Fertilizer use

Using more fertilizer than your plants need can have a negative affect on water quality, so be sure to follow the fertilize fairly guidelines on the Lawn Care page. In addition, consider other ways to soilnaturally fertilize your garden, such as adding compost. Compost is not only rich in nutrients, but also in microscopic life, including bacteria, protozoans, and fungi. Soils rich in these microorganisms are considered healthy and can support healthy plants. Microorganisms help plants take up nutrients and water out of the soil, reducing the need to fertilize and water as often. The good microorganisms can also help plants fend off the bad ones that cause disease. Most lawns or gardens that have been chemically treated have “dead” soils as these harsh chemicals kill most soil life. Stopping the use of chemicals and adding compost can bring a soil back to life over time and result in a healthy soil that supports healthy plants.

Water Conservation

Water is a precious resource, even in a state that is surrounded by fresh water! When using irrigation in your landscape, water smart. Water conservation really starts with selecting the right plants for our climate and your particular site conditions (soil moisture, sunlight exposure, etc.). Fordrip-irrigation-300 example, don’t plant water loving species if you know your soil tends to be dry. For gardens and landscape beds, consider using drip irrigation or soaker hoses. This will encourage deep watering, which plants prefer, and avoid wetting leaves and creating suitable conditions for certain leaf fungi or other problems. In landscape beds, consider using mulch to help reduce evaporation and increase soil moisture retention. Another way to conserve fresh water is to capture and reuse rain water with a rain barrel.

Lawn Reduction

lawn_altLawns are an important part of the American dream and have their place in suburban landscapes. But how much lawn do you really need? Consider reducing the size of your lawn by adding flower beds, shrubs or alternative ground covers. Reducing the amount of lawn reduces the need for fertilizing, watering and mowing and may increase the aesthetic appeal of your property and provide a little space for wildlife (birds and butterflies).

Non-native Invasive vs. Native Plants

First, a vocabulary lesson:

  • Native plant – one that existed in an area prior to human settlement
  • Non-native plant – one that was introduced or caused to be introduced through human action to an area where it did not previously exist, sometimes also called “exotic”
  • Invasive plant – one that invades an area and out competes other species, which can lead to environmental, economic or ecological harm. Invasive plants can be native or non-native, but the ones that cause the most harm tend to be non-native.

Be aware of the non-native invasive species that are present in your area. If you see them, you should take action to properly remove and dispose of them. To ensure success and prevent the plants from spreading further, it is important that you understand the proper control methods. For more information on identification and control, visit these websites:

Michigan DNR – Invasive Species

Michigan Natural Features Inventory

Michigan Invasive Plant Council

General Sustainable Gardening Resources

National Wildlife Federation

Missouri Botanical Gardens