Kick the Habit: A Dirty Dozen of Common Gardening Bad Habits You Need to Kick

From the EGT’s Sustainable Landscaping Series, “The Ecological Benefits of the Not So Perfect Yard”

The Ewing Green Team advocates for using more sustainable methods of landscape care to create what we call “The Not So Perfect Yard.” That may sound somewhat messy, and you wonder if also perhaps irritating to the neighbors. It might suggest an untended look consisting of tall weeds and overgrown lawns, as well as unsightly piles of yard waste. NOT SO. That is not the “Not So Perfect Yard” for which we advocate. However, it is also not the large, open, treeless expanses of lawn and imported, exotic plants that are prevalent across the country.

A “Not So Perfect Yard ” has its own unique beauty that comes from planting native plants and incorporating features that imbue each yard with a sense of place suited to its specific site and region of the country.  It also attracts some of the native local fauna which have otherwise been displaced. Supply food and habitat for the insects at the bottom of the food web and you can enjoy birds and other wildlife returning to your own yard.

Your Not So Perfect Yard will offer much needed benefits to the local environment: helping you decrease your carbon footprint, save energy and money, reduce waste and labor, promote biodiversity, all while beautifying your landscape and affording you a much closer interaction with nature. And you can achieve these benefits by kicking the habit: dropping some of these common gardening habits that we have come to learn are not our best choices.  These include poor tree care, improper autumn cleanup and leaf management, the great American lawn, practices detrimental to soil health, and more.  Look for detailed overviews of these common gardening mistakes in the coming posts.

First Common Gardening Bad Habit

Poor Tree Care

Trees are one of the greatest gifts that we can give to future generations. Our native trees are the most valuable of keystone species for our native wildlife. They cool the earth, provide shade, absorb thousands of gallons of storm water and CO2, and beautify, and add value to the landscape. Unfortunately, improper tree care is rampant in our neighborhoods, e.g., mulch volcanoes, improper staking, tree topping and other poor pruning decisions, and not planting beneath the tree to the drip line…

KICK THE HABIT Plant a tree and learn to care for it properly. Forgo the mulch volcano and mulch carefully out to the drip line, not piling it up around the trunk. Use leaf litter for natural mulch, one that decomposes over time and builds the soil. Plant in layers under your tree from the understory tree layer, to shrubs, herbaceous perennials and finally, ground covers.  This “green mulch” of living plants mimics the way trees live in nature. Hire tree PROFESSIONALS, certified arborists, to prune your tree properly. 

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