Reducing one’s carbon load on the environment is getting more and more attention in the news. Here are ideas that reduce carbon release and have worked for us.

  1. The first came about because I was tired! Mowing and bagging leaves in the fall and then trekking them to the compost pile took time I could use for getting dinner. I started dumping them around trees, creating a skirt that didn’t require close mowing. It built into a lovely composted area, looked attractive, and I didn’t have to lift sod or purchase mulch. Soon I mulched groups of trees and it looked even better, and the idea of landscaping to save time, energy, plus a whole lot of gas clicked as a great solution.
  2. Woodland ferns that looked so good backing up hostas started becoming too happy and popped up everywhere, destroying design and making trips in paths. A shaded lawn area that sloped too much for comfortable mowing looked like a spot for ferns. It became “fern alley,” another wider spot that was too shaded to really support grass became “fern lake.” I loved the look; it again solved a problem, reducing mowing time, gasoline and energy, yet provided an attractive view in the yard.
  3. Another area became a repository for red osier dogwood that had started emerging in the middle of flowerbeds. The deer prune it in winter. It is a great backdrop for the ferns beds and offers color, winter and summer. Again, less mowing and more time for other activities.
  4. Paths covered with pine needles or wood chips that come from chipping branches offer us a soft walking surface and create a natural element in the landscape design. Hardscape products require huge amounts of carbon input during production and in transportation plus installation expenses. Chips and needles restore soil and absorb rain instead of producing runoff.
  5. Mulching perennial beds with last year’s half-composted leaves reduces weeds and helps hold moisture and as leaves decompose further. Their nutrients filter into the soil to support the underground creatures that create humusy soil.
  6. This year I am planting Pennsylvania sedge (Carex pennsylvanica) near a pond. It is a native grass-like plant that will grow in this dry shade area (once established) of low traffic and difficult mowing. Existing flowering crabs will have pretty green skirts of these 18-inch tall plants. Sedges can serve as cover for migratory fowl; ducks also use the leaves for nest construction. Grouse may use it as a dancing ground. Each plant will spread by rhizomes from 12 to 18 inches. Less mowing, more carbon sequestration, and more opportunity to support wildlife will result.
  7. Growing dried flowers for fall and winter arrangements is easy. As much as I love fresh flowers in the house, by fall I am ready for change. Purchased flowers in winter must travel long distances, often from South America, requiring a lot of fuel for transportation. That equals a lot of carbon in the atmosphere for temporary enjoyment. Dried flowers remind me of summer and give me inexpensive artistic opportunities in the garden’s no-work season.

If we each think about ways to reduce atmospheric carbon, we can make a healthier atmosphere for our children, country and the earth. If we all pay attention and challenge ourselves to do little things, our efforts will add up. We can creatively solve problems, save money and time, and create attractive results.

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