The green American lawn, with its well-groomed, square patch of grass, can come at an environmental price. Because a lawn that is nothing but grass (all clipped to a uniform length) is a rather unnatural thing, achieving it often means the use of gas-powered machines, pesticides, and weed killers. You can achieve a beautiful lawn, however, without damaging the environment. Here are some tips for caring for your lawn in an eco-friendly way.

1. Use a rain barrel. These handy containers are not hard to hook up – just attach one to your downspout – and you will have gallons of free rainwater to maintain your lawn. A rain barrel will fill up astonishingly fast.

2. Invest in a reel mower. Gasoline-powered lawn mowers are not only noisy; they pollute and, of course, they use fossil fuel. Reel mowers are powered by human muscle, so you’ll get a good workout and a nice lawn. Your neighbors will appreciate the quiet, too. When you do mow, keep the grass clippings on the lawn. They act as a mulch, reducing the need for water.

3. Do more things manually. Americans are trying to get in shape by joining health clubs, but you can work off a lot of calories by raking, sweeping, and clipping by hand. And you will use much less fossil fuel and electricity that way.

4. Think beyond grass. If you have to make a lot of artificial adjustments to grow grass, maybe grass isn’t the right lawn plant for you. Clover, moss, and other interesting plants – particularly native plants – make excellent and beautiful lawn cover. If you plant the right herbage for your area, it will be much easier to maintain, too. Investing in native plants is one way to cut down on invasive species that can dominate and destroy local ecosystems.

5. Consider planting a garden, especially an informal, “English” garden that is meant to look a bit unkempt. You could also be even more eco-friendly and plant a vegetable garden where your lawn used to be.

6. Re-think the weed. Do you battle dandelions, ground ivy, clover, plantain, or other plants considered “weeds”? Take a moment and research some of these tenacious plants and you will probably be impressed with their usefulness.

Plantain, for example, makes a superior treatment for insect bites; dandelions have edible, nutritious greens and beautiful, fragrant flowers that can be used to make wine. Dandelion roots can even be roasted, ground, and drunk like coffee. Once you learn some of the uses for these plants, you may find yourself treasuring them rather than trying to eradicate them!

7. Use natural pesticides and herbicides if you feel the need to eradicate pests or certain weeds. These are generally available even in mainstream garden centers, or you can make your own.

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