A Healthy Backyard

In the early 20th century, lawns became a central part of the Canadian landscape. The White House without its lawn, for instance, would be unthinkable. Today, home lawns throughout the nation comprise millions of hectares and acres. Back yards and front yards are undeniably part of the human landscape and along with trees, shrubs and other plants, provide important lessons in photosynthesis, water filtration, carbon storing and more.

Parents and children can ensure their home landscape not only provides a healthy place to play and relax, but also does its part in creating oxygen, capturing carbon and keeping the home cooler during hot summer months. Additionally, by following some simple steps that the whole family can enjoy together, the back and front yard can work for the larger environment, too.

Below are tips to help kids get outside and understand the importance of the everyday green spaces all around us.

1. Fertilize naturally
Lawns take up the largest amount of carbon when they recycle nitrogen contained in grass clippings. So, take off that mulcher bag and leave clippings on the ground while mowing to break down and feed your grass naturally. And, how about applying some compost to your lawn in the spring or fall with your seed spreader?

2. Plant the right plant
It’s important to choose grass or plants that are right for the climate in which you live. Then, plants will need less water and fertilization to survive. Go to your local nursery or online to find your climate zone and discover what plants are native and will grow well in your area. For instance, if you live in a drought-prone area, select plants and grass that withstand heat and need less water.

3. Prune regularly
A single grass plant can have 483 kilometres (300 miles) of roots. Roots grow strong with appropriate watering and proper pruning.

Mowing your lawn regularly, similar to pruning perennial plants and flower gardens, keeps grass healthier, thicker and in a “growing state,” ensuring carbon is captured and oxygen is emitted at their highest levels.

4. Water early
Watering in the early morning before the sun is intense helps reduce the water lost from evaporation. Installing rain gutters and collecting water from downspouts also helps reduce water use. Trickle irrigation, drip irrigation or smart controller systems help reduce water use and meet the needs of plants. Or, when drought conditions exist, let the grass go dormant.

5. Create more green space
Lawns and other green spaces lessen the “heat island” effect, especially in urban areas, keeping surrounding areas cooler. Is there an area in your neighbourhood that could benefit from some green space? If so, plant a garden for tasty veggies or a lawn area for play and relaxation. Try one or more of these tips to keep your backyard healthy and “green” in a responsible way.

Compiled by R. Legault with files from The Educational Research Foundation.

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