Your Guide to Eco-Friendly Lawn Care

Your Guide to Eco-Friendly Lawn Care

Here’s how the environmentally-minded keep their lawns trim and lush—while sparing the Earth at the same time!

This is the time of year when you look outside at your dry husk of a lawn and think, “I should really do something about that.” But before you go running out to set up a sprinkler system the size of Niagara Falls, you should really consider your lawn’s eco footprint. Thirsty lawns suck down somewhere between 30 to 60 percent of the world’s urban freshwater, amounting to hundreds of thousands of gallons a day.

Even unwatered lawns take their toll. Lawn mowers, trimmers, and other outdoor equipment dump out a staggering 242 million tons of pollutants each year, amounting to about 4 percent of the world’s annual CO2 emissions. And enterprising homeowners who manage their own lawn care wind up spilling about 17 million gallons of gasoline a year, which is about 6 million more gallons than spilled by Exxon Valdez.

As if that’s not enough shake your environmental heart to the core, lawns also damage natural ecosystems, as well. Synthetic pesticides and fertilizers used in the backyard wind up in streams and waterways as runoff. The nitrogen in such pollution in turn causes algae to proliferate, choking rivers and streams and creating so-called “dead zones,” places so clogged with excess oxygen from decaying algae, no marine life can survive there. There are now 405 identified dead zones on the planet—a huge increase from the 49 recorded zones in the 1960s.

In short, conventional lawn care is pretty bad for the Earth. However, here at Modernize, we know that having a well-kept lawn isn’t just a matter of keeping with the status quo, it’s the rule of the land. Homeowners associations and neighbors aren’t exactly thrilled about the prospect of an a maintenance-free yard—but luckily for you, there are ways to keep your next-door neighbors happy without pouring chemicals into your lawn or pumping a bunch of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Here’s how the environmentally-minded keep their lawns trim and lush—while sparing the Earth at the same time.


Plan Your Lawn to Be Waterwise
Nothing makes you more aware of our world’s water footprint than a dry summer. While you may not like the idea of a shriveled up, crunchy lawn, there are certainly ways to get around it and reduce your home’s water consumption. One idea is to simply shrink your turf area: install a patio or beds planted with native grasses and flowers, leaving less plant space requiring intensive watering. In the areas where you do have grass, make sure it’s the right kind for your lawn: warm-season grasses like Bermuda, St. Augustine and Zoysia are far less thirsty than their cool-season counterparts and more tolerant of hot, dry weather as well.


Get Your Sprinkler System in Check
Your average sprinkler head puts out one to six gallons of water per minute, so it adds up fast, especially if you’re watering too frequently or at the wrong time. Experts indicate that most lawns don’t need daily watering; about three days a week is typically fine. Always water in the morning or evening, rather than the middle of the day—that way, your water won’t evaporate before it can soak into the ground. And lastly, you may want to think about switching to an automated sprinkler system as well. These devices sync with local weather forecasts and adjust your watering schedule on the fly when there’s rain, keeping your irrigation as efficient as possible.


Mow the Energy-Efficient Way
For most of us, lawn mowing is that dreaded household chore that gets put off until the last minute. Well, good news! The longer you wait, the better off your lawn will be. Grass that’s buzzed to its roots is vulnerable to pests and drought, so it needs more frequent watering and babying to survive. Leave those grass blades long and lush and your lawn will be better off for it. And when you do mow, don’t bother raking up the clippings afterward. The cut grass feeds nitrogen right back into the soil, which means less chance of fertilizer runoff. Finally, laziness is working in your favor for once!

Elect for Electric
If you’re not fond of the gas-guzzlers, you do have other mower options. Energy-efficient mowers have come a long way from the antique push mowers of the past: you now have your option of dozens of different corded and battery-powered cordless electric mowers as well. Electric mowers work best for small, flat turf areas—and beyond reducing your lawn’s carbon footprint, they also save you money on gas, oil changes, and tune-ups. Mower batteries can handle about a third of an acre without a recharge, so if you have a larger lawn, look for a model that lets you switch out the battery with a backup so you don’t have to wait on the charger all day.

Listen to Your Weeds
A strong, robust lawn is the most energy-efficient one around, since it will naturally require less fertilizer, pesticides, and irrigation. Soil composition plays a big part in turf health, so it’s worth having your topsoil tested in order to get an idea of what may be lacking. Many local university cooperative extensions will do this for free; usually it’s a matter of completing a form and sending in a soil sample. The results will tell you the level of extractable nutrients in your yard, like phosphorous, potassium, and calcium, as well as listing the nitrogen levels and testing for potentially harmful substances, such as soluble salts and lead. But a simpler way to get a readout is to listen to what the weeds are trying to tell you. For instance, dandelions often pop up when soil acidity levels are too high, and plantains when the area has poor drainage or where there is clay soil. Learn what weeds are trying to tell you and you’ll become a turf whisperer.

Fertilize the Organic Way
To root out problems with runoff for good, you’ll need to make the switch from synthetic fertilizers to 100% organic compost. Topdressing with compost comes with a number of benefits: it helps the soil retain water and adds organic matter to your topsoil, replenishing its supply of beneficial micro-organisms. To spread all that nutrient-dense goodness to your lawn, drop shovelfuls of organic compost in small piles, eventually raking them out until they cover the entire turf area to about a quarter of an inch. As a bonus, you can even use your own kitchen scraps to make homemade compost. Not too shabby for some old coffee grinds and eggshells!

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How to Build a Cheap Shed for Your Backyard

How to Build a Cheap Shed for Your Backyard

By following these five tips, you can kick the clutter and keep your wallet fat.

Is your garage overflowing with gear and gadgets? Whether your clutter is for business or pleasure, a backyard shed is the perfect storage solution.

But, extra space comes with a price tag. Prefab sheds can put you back thousands of dollars, and a bad DIY can cost you your weekends and your pride.

What if you could build a quality shed without breaking the bank? By following these five tips, you can kick the clutter and keep your wallet fat.

#1 Cut the Frill = Cut the Costs

The average custom-made shed costs anywhere from $2,109 to $3,545 depending on the materials you use and whether you do it yourself or call in a local pro.

So, how can you keep your shed budget under a grand? Cut out all the frills. Sheds become expensive when homeowners choose costly features, like

  • Electricity
  • Shelves and built-in storage
  • Decorative trim
  • Loft
  • Ramp
  • Workbench
  • Large square footage

Skilled laborers, like electricians and carpenters, can charge up to $100/hour to add these custom features, not including the cost of added material.

Cheap sheds are basic sheds—four walls, a roof, and a foundation. Consider which features you need and which you can live without.

#2 Choose Cost-Effective Materials

You want your materials to be sturdy yet practical. Luckily, sheds can be built with a variety of materials, which we ranked from most to least expensive.

Expensive: Vinyl

Vinyl is a favorite among homeowners due to its strength and durability. Vinyl sheds are known to resist rot, harsh weather, insects, and dents.

It’s a great, maintenance-free option – especially for homeowners that live in areas that experience heavy snowfall and bad storms.

Of course, that durability comes at a price. At the cheapest, vinyl will run around $800 in material cost, and up to $5,000 at its most expensive.

 Can be Costly: Wood

Wood is beautiful and popular and very customizable. But, it can also be expensive. A lot of labor and resources are put into making those beautiful wood slabs, driving up the cost.

Expect to spend anywhere from $600 to $3,000 on materials for a wood shed.

Cheapest: Metal

Metal is a cost-cutting favorite – it is low maintenance, resists rot, insects, and decay, and can last upwards of 25 years. Depending on the size of your shed, metal material can cost as little as $300.

Your metal shed won’t be as resistant to heavy snow and high wind, but it’s the ultimate budget saver in a temperate climate.

#3 Shop Around

You know what they say about one man’s trash being another man’s treasure? There’s always someone out there with too much of something who wants to reclaim their space. Which means you can snag up materials for ultra-cheap – sometimes even free!

Lumber mills are overflowing with waste. Politely ask the yard manager if they have any scrap wood you can take off their hands.

Or, search online. A quick search for free or discount lumber revealed dozens of results for wood people wanted to get rid of.

Of course, this means you have to drive (sometimes long distances) and deal with strangers. But, with some courtesy and research, you might be able to snag all or most of the materials for your shed at an ultra-cheap price!

#4 Rent Power Tools Instead of Buying Them

Unless you are a professional handyman, you probably don’t have a huge supply of power tools in your garage.

Contractors estimate you’ll need the following tools to build a shed, though you may need others depending on your materials and construction plans:

  • Safety glasses / hearing protection
  • Hammer
  • Power drill (Cordless) & drill bits
  • Tape measure
  • Nail gun
  • Circular saw
  • Speed square
  • Stepladder
  • Sawhorses

While building a shed is a fun excuse to go tool shopping, it doesn’t make sense to drop a huge amount of dough for a tool you’ll only use twice a year. Buying all these tools could costs hundreds or even thousands of dollars. Not to mention, finding a place to store rarely used tools may be why you’re building a shed in the first place.

Thankfully, many local hardware stores allow you to rent tools for a fraction of the cost.

Of course, if you hire a contractor, they’ll already have all the tools, so you save costs.

#5 Check Permits to Avoid Hidden Costs

Check local building codes before building a shed in your backyard. Even though you’re building on your property, the city can fine you or force you to dismantle your shed if you don’t have the right permit.

Make sure you do your research to avoid unexpected fines and the cost of having to rebuild an improperly placed shed.

#6 When in Doubt, Go With a Pro

DIY projects often seem like the most cost-effective practice. But, consider the cost of materials, the amount of time you’ll have to commit, and your skill level.

Some parts of your project may be out of your skill range and require hiring a carpenter, contractor, or electrician.

Better to hire a professional than spend money and time fixing mistakes and making repairs.

Whether you want to relax by the pool or you have a list of DIY projects, an organized space makes it easier to take full advantage of your summer.

Ready, set, build.

Chelsea McGrath is an Editor at HomeAdvisor with a love for all things home, health, sports and nature.

References:

http://www.homeadvisor.com/task.Shed-Barn-or-Playhouse-Build.40347.html?4329=7048&4330=6112&4331=4873&502713=10002&step=location&sar=true

http://www.homeadvisor.com/cost/additions-and-remodels/build-a-barn-shed-or-playhouse/?st=&sc=1.768097

http://www.toolcrib.com/blog/2008/10/lumber-salvage-the-top-10-sources-for-cheap-free-and-recycled-wood

http://www.cheapsheds.com/metal-sheds/

http://www.lifetime.com/customerservice/tipsandsolutionsdetail/194/which-shed-material-is-best-for-you

https://www.familyhandyman.com/sheds/how-to-build-a-cheap-storage-shed/view-all