Going Green: Spring Landscaping

Well-managed landscapes help extend the energy efficiency offered by natural gas and complement outdoor living spaces populated by natural gas appliances. Grass is 31 degrees Fahrenheit cooler than asphalt and 20 degrees cooler than bare soil, according to the National Association of Landscape Professionals (NALP). And trees shading homes can reduce attic temperatures by as much as 40 degrees.

“Spring is the perfect time to prepare lawns and landscapes for the warm-weather season ahead,” said Missy Henriksen, vice president, public affairs, NALP.

The first step is to inspect trees and shrubs for broken and damaged branches, she said. Prune dead branches, pull up old annuals and thin perennials. Be sure to check around natural gas meters and appliances to remove branches, leaves or other debris that might block vents or air intakes to ensure safety and maximize energy efficiency. Rake fallen leaves and dead foliage that can smother new plants and foster disease. Fill in and reseed bare spots in the lawn.

After an initial spring cleanup, homeowners should test their soil to determine what nutrients are needed for springtime growth, Henriksen said. Local agricultural extension offices or lawncare and landscape professionals often offer soil testing.

“In many parts of the country, spring is the ideal time to fertilize lawns, trees and shrubs, but a professional can help determine the best plan for your yard,” she said. Soil with the proper nutrients helps conserve water while laying the foundation for a lush landscape.

“Spring is the best time to start weed control efforts and ensure pre-emergent weed controls are applied,” Henriksen said. “These products create a barrier across the surface of the soil and target weeds.”

Homeowners should also add about an inch of fresh mulch to plant beds and surrounding trees to retain moisture in the soil and prepare roots for the upcoming summer heat, she said. Mulching is also a good way to tidy up a landscape after harsh winter weather.

A well-designed landscape typically saves enough energy to pay for itself in less than eight years, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. A good design can reduce water use and strategically place trees to reduce heating and cooling costs.

Deciduous trees placed near a home help shade it in the summer while allowing sunlight in to help heat a home in winter. According to the Department of Energy, six- to eight-foot deciduous trees planted near a home will begin providing shade during their first year and will begin shading the roof in five to 10 years.

Henriksen said current trends are for natural and sustainable landscapes.

“Along with a stunning appearance, sustainable landscapes benefit the environment and create drought and disease-resistant spaces that are easier to maintain,” she said. “If you’re looking for a quick and easy way to start an eco-friendly landscape, try utilizing native plants, mulching plant beds to retain moisture or creating a rain garden to reduce runoff.”

When combined with natural gas appliances such as fireplaces, fire pits, grills and lamps, sustainable plants help homeowners create a cozy, attractive and energy-efficient outdoor experience.

For more tips on creating healthy lawns and landscapes or to find a local landscape professional, visit LoveYourLandscape.org.

Going Green: Spring Landscaping Lays Groundwork for Lush Summer Lawns was written by Tonya McMurray and first appeared in the Spring/Summer 2019 issue of Natural Living magazine.

To read the entire Spring/Summer issue of Natural Living click here.