Garden Tips: Shade, Go Green, Report Cards

Tip #8: Plant shade trees for natural A/C

Shade trees planted on the south and west sides of a house reduce cooling bills — up to 25% — and lower net carbon emissions. So include shade trees in your landscaping plan.

Choose shade trees according to their size at maturity, which could be 20 years away. Dense deciduous trees — maples, poplars, cottonwoods–are good selections because their leaves cool your house in summer, and their bare branches let light in during winter. Plant them close enough to shade your house, but not so close that they will overwhelm the space.

If you want a faster growing shade tree, about 2 feet per year, select a northern red oak, Freeman maple, or tulip tree.

Tip #9: Power down your lawn mower

The Environmental Protection Agency says gas-powered lawn mowers contribute as much as 5% of the nation’s air pollution. Switching to new generation electric and push-reel mowers—which are lighter, quieter, and kinder to your lawn than power mowers—reduces emissions and cuts fuel consumption.

To mow three-quarters of an acre of grass with a power mower requires 1 gallon of gas. As gas prices head to $4 per gallon, you could save $100 a year by switching to a muscle-powered or electric machine. An electric or good push-reel mower costs $150 to $250, so it will quickly pay for itself.

Create a serene Landscape

Create a serene Landscape

Tip #10: Grade your landscaping

Once a year, walk your property, cast a hard eye on your garden beds and ask, “Is that plant doing its job? Is it growing into its space, or wandering wherever it likes? Are leaves healthy or spotted with mold and pests? Are these greens improving curb appeal or just making my house look overrun?”

If a plant or shrub isn’t working out, it’s compost. If shrubs are growing too close to your foundation–1 foot away is good–transplant or prune them.

Make sure trees are growing no closer to your house than the width of their mature canopies. Otherwise roots can burrow into foundations, and overhanging branches can trap moisture against the roof or siding, leading to rot and insect damage.

Check your flowering plants and shrubs to see if they are indeed flowering. Too few or dull blossoms should rally after a dose of fertilizer or layer of compost. An inexpensive alterative to commercial fertilizers is manure tea. Fill the foot of old pantyhose with a clump of cow or horse dung, tie the hose to the watering can handle, and let the manure steep in water. You can get weeks of nutrition from a little bit of dung.

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