How to naturalize your yard

    Improve your yard’s ecology while saving money with these tips from the Watershed Coalition of the Lehigh Valley.

    For a healthy lawn, try these techniques:

    *Mow high.

    Mowing your grass at 3 to 4 inches in height reduces mowing frequency, thus saving fuel. High mowing also discourages weeds because higher grass shades out weeds.

    *Leave the clippings.

    Instead of paying for fertilizers, leave the clippings and mow over fallen leaves. It’s the most efficient way to return nutrients and organic matter to the soil. Eliminating the use of chemical fertilizers will yield healthier soil and grass.

    *Stop using pesticides.

    Pesticides kill off beneficial insects and microorganisms that improve the soil. Encouraging beneficial insects with native landscaping will help keep pest populations in check.

    *Plant trees.

    Trees provide many vital ecological services – filter pollutants from water, provide oxygen, remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, provide habitat – but they can also help your bank account.

    By planting trees on your property, you can increase your property value and save on heating and cooling bills.

    Trees can act as windbreaks to reduce heating bills by 10-20%, conversely, in the summer months, they can provide shade to help cool your house.

    *Create a compost pile.

    According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the average person generates 1.35 pounds of food waste per day.

    In the U.S., this amounts to 12.5% of the total material entering landfills. Diverting food scraps from your garbage will not only prolong the life of landfills, but when mixed with leaves or grass clippings, will create a valuable resource.

    Compost enriches the soil by adding nutrients and organic matter.

    *Start a backyard vegetable garden.

    Backyard vegetable and fruit gardens provide your family with fresher, cheaper, and more nutritious produce.

    Growing your own food also cuts down on carbon dioxide emissions and fuel consumption created by the length of transit (7 to 10 days) from the farm to the grocery store.

    Garden expert Rosalind Creasy calculated that a 10 foot by 10 foot area will yield over $700 in produce!

    Lastly, growing, harvesting and eating your own food can be very rewarding!

    *Plant natives.

    Native plants are plants that existed in the region prior to European settlement. When selecting flowers, trees, grasses and shrubs for your landscaping, opt for native species to provide a food source for our native birds, insects and other wildlife.

    One term used for lawns and non-native plants is a “green desert,” because although they appear vibrant, they offer no habitat value.

    One way to address these issues is to reduce the area around your home that you currently devote to lawn, encouraging a more natural landscaping approach with native meadow grasses, trees, and shrubs.

    *Remove invasive plants from your yard.

    Invasive plants are exotic species that were either intentionally or inadvertently introduced from other continents.

    An invasive exotic plant spreads aggressively into other areas and environments.

    In the process, they damage natural areas, altering ecosystem processes and displacing desirable native plant species. Removing invasive plants from your yard and replacing them with native plants will be a big help to the region’s wildlife.

    *Retain and filter water on your property.

    This will help protect local streams and rivers using rain barrels and rain gardens. Rain barrels sit beneath downspouts to collect water from a roof during each rain; water can be saved and used to water plants in your yard and garden during dry spells.

    Rain barrels helps save groundwater resources, utilize higher quality water for plants, and decrease water bills.

    Rain gardens are an attractive solution to retaining and filtering water. They are landscaped depressions planted with native wildflowers, specifically designed to collect and soak up water from downspouts.

    When it rains, water fills up the garden and slowly infiltrates into the soil. This helps protect our local waterways by filtering pollutants and recharging the groundwater supply.

    For more information on naturalizing your yard, visit