March 20 saw this year’s first equinox and the start of spring.
Spring is a season of rejuvenation. As the cold days of winter drift away, spring blooms begin to sprout and grass regains its lush green look.
Green is certainly a color that’s synonymous with spring. Gardening enthusiasts can find a way to make spring even more green by embracing several eco-friendly gardening practices as they bring their lawns and gardens back to life in the months to come.
• Create a compost pile. Composting is an eco-friendly way to enrich lawns and gardens. Composting helps to conserve water because compost promotes moisture retention in soil, reducing homeowners’ need to water their lawns and gardens while also helping them to save money on their water bills. Composting also helps homeowners avoid the need to use potentially harmful chemical fertilizers because compost is a natural, slow-release fertilizer. In addition, according to Canada’s Green Action Centre, compostable materials make up 40 percent of residential waste. So, composting can dramatically reduce the amount of waste homeowners ultimately send to landfills.
“Take all the leaves that fall in your backyard along with all of your vegetable scraps and animal proteins, then put them in about a 3-foot hole,“ said Richard Green, owner of The Green Landscape Nursery. “Combine that with a good mulch and this organic fertilizer will keep your plants fed and won’t burn them like some chemical fertilizers might.”
• Only grow plants that you know you can grow. Some plants might not take well to the specific water and soil conditions of your local area. According to Green, Santa Clarita specifically has very alkaline soil and very salty, mineral-heavy water that is difficult for larger plants and vegetables to survive in. Many new gardeners may become discouraged when seeds do not sprout as fast as they would like, but it is important to give them time to grow.
“Keep in mind they’re tiny little plants fighting to go through inches of thick soil, so it’s a hard fight that is going to take some time,” Green said. “Novice gardeners might be better off getting starter plants rather than seeds because those plants already have a leg to stand on and can survive better in harsher conditions than seeds.”
• Be mindful of sun intensity. While plants do need a lot of sunlight to survive, too much can be harmful. Green recommends keeping delicate plants and vegetables away from walls where the reflected harsh sunlight might be too strong and kill them.
• Replace gas-powered mowers with reel lawn mowers. Reel mowers may seem like relics from simpler times, but today’s reel mowers, while just as eco-friendly as their predecessors, are unlike those of yesteryear. According to the Planet Natural Research Center, an online resource for organic gardeners, gas-powered engines emit more than 10 times the hydrocarbons per amount of gas burned than auto engines. But reel mowers are fuel-free and less expensive than gas-powered mowers. Planet Natural also notes that reel mowers snip grass like scissors, leaving finer trimmings that can serve as nourishing, weed-deterring mulch for yards.
• Water at the right times of day. Homeowners who water their lawns and gardens at the right time of day can help the planet and reduce their energy bills. As spring gradually gives way to summer, temperatures typically rise. Watering during the coolest times of the day means less water will be lost to evaporation, ensuring water-needy soil will get all it needs to help lawns and gardens thrive. Early-morning watering before the sun reaches its midday peak and/or evening watering as the sun is setting are typically great times to water lawns and gardens, rather than when temperatures are at their hottest.
“Make sure that younger plants get a lot of water so that they can survive and don’t get fried by the sun, but also make sure that you don’t drown the plants because they need to breathe, too,” Green said. “Then keep watering plants during the cool parts of the day. It might also help to dig a well or troughs to control the flow of water as well as planting on the downward side of a slope if you live on a hill.”
• Use a rain barrel. Southern California is famous for its sunny days and, more often than not, Californians are fighting against drought conditions. However, if this year’s wet weather conditions persist, a rain barrel might be something to consider investing in. Rain barrels provide another great way to conserve water while tending to lawns and gardens. Rain barrels collect and store rainwater from roofs and downspouts, keeping water from washing into sewage systems, where it can’t be put to good use. Water collected in rain barrels can be used in various ways. Many homeowners can use water from rain barrels to water their lawns, gardens and houseplants, saving money on their water bills along the way.
Spring gardening season provides a great opportunity for lawn and garden enthusiasts to embrace a variety of eco-friendly practices that can save them money and protect the planet.