Go Green! Easy Tips for a Sustainable and Lush Backyard

Green thumbs will tell you that gardening is one of the most rewarding hobbies or occupations in the world. To see pretty flowers in bloom with busy bees going about their business or to lie lazily on a soft leafy lawn are the reasons why many gardeners are opting for a more eco-friendly approach to looking after their gardens.  More people are cottoning onto the principle that a flourishing garden need not be at the expense of our health or the health of our pets.  Using toxic pesticides and herbicides tend to upset the natural order of things.  Destabilising the intricate but delicate balance of nature can drive away the many creatures which call the outdoors home and help to keep pests at bay.

Solar Power

Apollo, Ra, Surya are some of the many names of Sun Gods worshipped by ancient civilizations.  They understood the fundamental connection between the sun and life on earth.  Today, technological advancements allow us to harness this power as a clean energy source to use in and around our homes.  There are many great garden accessories available with in-built solar panels to beautify our outdoor living space. They are cordless, will never require batteries and can be placed anywhere you like around your backyard.  A display of soft glowing lights creates a relaxing ambience and is an attractive way to decorate your garden. Place them along a footpath or near a step for better visibility.  Solar powered accessories are widely available, come in a range of shapes and sizes, are inexpensive and better yet, will not add to your electricity bill.

Cooking outdoors

The alluring smell of a barbecue often has hungry neighbours salivating and peeking over the fence.  Cooking outdoors tends to draw people together and is a great way to relax after a long day or week.  Firing up the grill or barbeque is a healthy way of preparing food and a good way to cook for many at a time.  Give your stove and oven a break as often as you can and save on energy by preparing lunch or dinner outside in the fresh air.

Choosing natural materials for your outdoor space

If you are considering building or renovating an outdoor area, there are some important things to consider. For good looks, strength and durability, you simply cannot go past hardwoods and bamboo.  Bamboo is an extremely tough material which will not rot, does not require coats of paint or varnish, and will last you decades.  It is harder than hardwood and is ideal for fences, flooring and outdoor furniture.  Bamboo is an environmentally sustainable product, comes in short/long lengths and is very affordable.  It is available in a variety of attractive natural colours and grains and is proving a winner in the eco-friendly resource market.  Cedar/Red Cedar is also a fantastic natural product ideal for beams, decks and patios.  It is a sustainable hardwood but will require a coat of oil every few years to rejuvenate the wood grain and colour, if heavily exposed to sun and rain.

The right products = less maintenance and more relaxation time

Turning your backyard into your private sanctuary is easy – here are some handy hints:

  • Water-saving plants such as succulents or local evergreen plants will be well-suited to your climate and require very little of your time.
  • Choosing a soft but robust lawn such as Buffalo grass is pleasing to the eye and will keep mowing to a minimum
  • Pick shrubs/fruit trees which attract bees, birds and butterflies.  They help to pollinate your flowers and keep insects such as spiders under control.
  • Planting edible plants and herbs such as Thyme or Rosemary is an ideal way to perfume your garden. Save money and harvest your own organic produce as you need it.

Keeping your lawn lush and green

The greenest lawn is not always the healthiest lawn.  As with other plants, grass can be affected by heat and excessive rain.  A resilient lawn starts from the bottom up – with fertile soil. Organic fertilisers come in pellet form or in a liquid concentrate which is diluted and sprayed onto the lawn. They contain essential trace elements and nutrients to nourish the soil and encourage strong growth.  Long gone are the days of liberally spraying a cloud of toxic pesticides and herbicides to maintain our gardens.  Those practices are not recommended as they pose serious health risks to ourselves, young children, pets and often destroy the ‘good’ bugs in your garden’s eco-system.

Relax with the soothing sounds of water

Close your eyes and imagine the trickling sounds a gentle flowing stream.  Your mind is transported somewhere else, perhaps in a cool rainforest or a Japanese garden in bloom in Tokyo, but you are right there in your comfy chair, in your own special corner of the world – your backyard.  Let all the stresses of life roll off your shoulders and just be still. Installing a water-tank allows you the freedom to do so much more than just washing your car.  Water your plants at will or install a water-feature for a calming atmosphere.  A water tank is a smart investment for a greener future and will add value to your home.

Other ideas to consider for an enjoyable backyard

Selecting the right pieces of furniture or garden décor can make an immense difference to how you relate to your outdoor space.  Create an area which you personally feel comfortable in and is pleasant for your family and friends to spend time in.  Consider the size of the space and choose furniture which will easily fit within it.  Invest in furniture made of durable and sustainable materials as they will last for a long time.  Products made from recycled materials which would otherwise end up in land-fill are another great green option.  Put in a porch swing under your pergola just for fun or introduce interesting garden ornaments such as a birdbath or statues.  Bring your garden to life and make it a place you feel happy to live in.

Remember the two ‘R”s

If you want ‘rest and relaxation’ in your backyard, then it is important to choose items which you can ‘repair and re-decorate’.  Natural wooden materials can be sanded down and oiled for a fresher look as opposed to plastic materials which need to be thrown away, as they weaken and crack when exposed to UV.  Aluminium furniture can be durable but is prone to dents, scratches and because it is a light material, chairs and tables often get blown around on windy days. Wood has a beautiful, enduring quality which will never go out of style.  Purchasing sustainable, eco-friendly products are the only smart choice for a greener planet.

About the author

Jay Chua is the founder of www.porchswingsets.com. Based in Vancouver, Jay and his lovely wife Deisy are keen gardeners and fervent advocates of living greenly.  Their philosophy is echoed in everything they do and they both enjoy relaxing in their backyard from the cosy comfort of their porch swing whilst looking out to their many wonderful organic fruit trees