Friday, June 12, 2009

5 Simple Ways to Live Greener - Eco-Landscaping ideas and tips!

5 Simple Ways to Make your Outdoor area Greener!

I was reading an article on Green Driveways/ Green Patios. There were a lot of suggestions and that led me to looking at more articles. More articles and more suggestions. I've put together some basic suggestions... simple, inexpensive and yet - greener! I figure most people are intimidated by the Big Projects. They would love a green roof but are worried about their existing structure. They don't want to rebuild a roof. Too much money! They probably have done some of the basics: They garden. They compost. They've planted a tree. All great things.

So what's the next step? One of the tough things to do is to come up with simple ways to make your outdoor space a greener place. So here's a few suggestions. I'm looking at simple, green solutions, that won't cost a regular homeowner to have budgetary fits.

Water is a valuable resource that can easily be overlooked by most of us. Turn on the tap and it flows out. But when you've got mud or erosion problems then you can look at water as your enemy. My top, easy water conservation tip? Use a Rain barrel. Prevent stormwater runoff from your property - catch the rain from your roof and use it when you need it. There are mosquito-proofed rain barrels available. Check out River Sides for some fantastic suggestions! A 1-inch level of rainfall on 1,000 square feet of roof with eaves and a downspout produces 600 gallons of water. You can also choose to filter that water that falls on your driveway and all the little non-permeable surfaces. Which of leads to tip #2...


Get rid of the cement! Cement and asphalt are non-permeable surfaces. When it rains the water runs off to the sides or down straight into the drains. All the pollutants from your car don't get a chance to be filtered naturally by the soil. Typical pollutants from cars are things like: motor oil, copper, and zinc. (study by Univ. of Washington, Center for Water and Watershed Studies Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering on permeable surfaces).

By installing a permeable system like ecogrid you can quickly and easily fix up a parking area that has been a mess. You can then decide to use grass or gravel. Gravel (which won't compact because of the grid) is a great enviromental choice. Ecogris is also perfect to stablize your lawn, allow you to park your car - or have an extra space for guests to park. Now, instead of looking at an ugly slab of concrete you can replace it with a low maintence grass. It is like a regular lawn - so you quickly have some great options. Its a great way to green up the area, provide overflow parking and give you the chance to make a huge difference in a quick and easy fashion.

A "living driveway" is a beautiful thing.


Check out your local Craigslist and search for "gravel" or "soil" - there are always listings in the summer and spring for people who are getting rid of smaller quantities of materials. You can get river rocks, gravel and topsoil at a fraction of the cost. Sometimes its leftover from a project or someone else's reno's. Check out your local FREECYCLE too.

If you are using a "new" material - find out what is the recycled content. Is there an option you can use? Can whatever materials then be recycled?

Here's a shocker...


Patios in general are a lot less maintence and often a lot less cost - then a deck. Decks - which are often wood - take a lot of upkeep. The wood is often pressure treated, and chemically treated to resist bugs. You can spend the money you would have spent on a deck project with landscaping. You can put down a green patio! Use something lightweight and lower costs for your patio like the el30 EcoGrid - which is perfect for landscaping but will not hold water like a slab of concrete would. You can get creative with the ecogrid design - planting mosses, seedums and grass as well as mixing it with gravel too. The area doesn't restrict you to using just grass. I've seen some lovely work done with river stones as well. If you are going to build a deck do think about using eco-friendly sealants.


There are lots of winged friends around - birds, bats and bees - that are all part of our eco-system, and all are suffering to a degree whenever we take away part of their homes. If you plant a Living Driveway - you are already helping out.

But there's a few simple things:

- A winter bird bath! Birds are often desperate in the winter for water. For about $40 you can get specially designed heaters to keep the water from freezing. Its amazing to see how many birds will come to drink and bathe in the "dead" of winter.

- A Bat House - a great simple way to control insects! Forget the zapping noise. Let these shy little creatures find a space to thrive. Bats consume huge quantities of night-flying insects (like mosquitoes). Male bats love smaller bat houses, so you don't have to invest in a huge Bat House. A nice selection is here.

- Befriend a Bee - Build a Bee Home - I got a bit startled a few years ago when I'd first planted my deck garden. It was spring and there were large, mostly-black, agressive bees around! I thought at first of ridding myself of them - RAaaaaaaaaaaid! But decided to find out what kind of bees they were. Turns out these were carpenter bees - which are all buzz and little-to-no bite. Most of the agressive ones are males - who actually don't have stingers.

Why not think about creating a home for carpenter bees. They love wood (which is often the #1 reason they get killed off) - but dislike painted wood. So paint up the wood you want to protect and then in nice shady spots - give them a home. Everyone knows that Honeybees are worth protecting - but so are carpenter bees. Simply paint/protect the areas where you might have problems with Carpenter bees, and in that shady spot - nail up a piece of untreated wood.

Another type of bee - the Solitary Bee - can also use a home. Find out more about them here, and consider your winged friends.

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