When it comes to being energy efficient, homeowners evaluate their houses and indoor habits, but the checklist often stops there. It’s certainly commendable to review appliance efficiency, the effectiveness of insulation and recycling strategies, but why stop there? Your property lines extend beyond the walls of your home, and the approach you take toward landscaping and gardening can also have a big impact on your ability to be efficient about the use of energy.
Take the time in the spring to properly prepare your garden and lawn and you will reap the benefits all summer. Just think, weeding and fertilizing now will mean more time for a cold drink and a good book in the hammock.
Now that your garden and yard are prepped and ready for the remainder of spring and summer, let’s go over some tips for creating an energy efficient garden.
No matter whether your home is designed to be energy efficient or not, you can create an outdoor landscape that will affect its energy efficiency. The proper use of trees, shrubs, groundcover, and vines can help insulate against heat loss during cold weather and provide cooling shade during the warmer times of the year. Not only is such landscaping practical; it’s also aesthetically pleasing.
As you create a landscaping plan, the first step is to identify the climate zone for your area. Different plants are suited to the various zones, and you don’t want to waste time with those that won’t flourish. Why plant an oak tree when the climate cries out for a birch tree? The federal government has an excellent site here that showcases climate zones and plant hardiness.
Trees should be your first consideration. Well-placed trees can reduce the air-conditioning bill for a previously unshaded house by 15 to 50 per cent and may cut heating bills by up to 30 per cent. In addition, the air temperature difference under a shade tree compared to a nearby asphalt driveway can be 25 degrees.
As long as they’ll thrive in your climate zone, both deciduous and evergreen trees have roles to play in assisting with your home’s energy efficiency. In winter, trees provide an effective windbreak, protecting your home from the cold north and northwest winds by slowing and dispersing them. Evergreens densely planted in rows make the best windbreaks and should be sited to the north of your home, as well as the east and west. The density of the windbreak is more important than its height.
In warmer weather, deciduous trees are the key to cooling your home. Their profusion of leaves and spreading branches cast welcome shade on the sides and roof of a house. If they are planted on the southern side of the house, they can keep up to 90 percent of the summer sun away. In the winter, they lose their leaves, so more of the warming sun can reach the house.
In addition, be sure to shade your air-conditioner and your windows with trees, vines or awnings. Shading the compressor can increase the unit’s efficiency by 10 percent, while the heat coming through windows affects indoor temperatures more strongly than that entering through insulated walls. Shade can make a big difference.
It may take time for the trees that you’ve planted on your property to grow to maturity and shade the house properly. Don’t despair; there are other options that can have an impact in the interim.
Climbing vines that grow up trellises help shade window and walls, as do pergolas and arbours. Permanent structures and perennial vines work best in warm climates where the work they do to block the sun isn’t a problem in winter. Annual vines and moveable trellises are more practical in cooler climates where they can be taken down and stored during the colder months.
You can provide good cover and food at the same time by using vines that produce edible products, such as scarlet runner beans or winter squashes. If you live in a wet, humid area, be sure to locate the trellises at least one-third metre from the house to allow air to circulate properly and keep the soil and walls dry.
A green lawn and a colourful garden may be your pride and joy during the temperate months, but don’t overuse valuable water to keep them looking sprightly. Surround your plants and trees with a layer of mulch that can trap water and prevent it from evaporating. Water lawns and plants during the coolest times of day so the bulk of the water doesn’t evaporate in the sunshine.
You can also collect water with a rain barrel to reuse in the garden. You’ll benefit the environment and reduce your water bill at the same time.
Cutting back on the use of pesticides is also beneficial to the environment. Consider using natural methods instead. Introducing ladybugs to your garden will reduce the aphid population, since the ladies snack on them. Certain plants act as natural pesticides; marigolds, for example, repel beetles.
Spring is the time when we can really get back to the earth. It’s fun to plant some flowers and get your hands dirty whether you have a garden, a flower bed, or some pots on your deck or balcony. If you’re a relatively new gardener, you may need a bit of help getting started. Here are some tips for selecting and planting your bedding plants:
Prepare for your spring garden clean-up by having the right tools on hand. These include garden gloves, a shovel, a trowel, an aerator, lawn mower, compost, and mulch. If you don’t own an aerator, ask a neighbor or rent one from a home and garden center.
This is also a good time to check that your lawn mower is in good working order, and the blades are sharp before the first mow. Cutting a lawn with dull blades may tear grass plants, creating an environment for turf disease.
Take the time to clean up debris, leaves, sticks, and trash from your lawn, flower beds, pots, containers and planter boxes. Compost those leaves that were used to protect flower beds and remove burlap covers from plants that needed extra winter protection. Be sure to lay out the burlap to dry before storing it away for next year.
Spring is a great time to prune trees and shrubs that are not spring blooming. It is much easier to get to the branches when they are not full of foliage.
Make repairs to planter boxes that have warped wood. Discard those broken pots that didn’t survive the winter elements. Fix borders and retaining walls to give yourself a firm foundation.
Now you can sit back and enjoy the results of all your hard work! And as a full-fledged gardener, you might want to check with your home insurance agent to make sure you have coverage for:
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