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Local guides to green and healthy landscaping

Marc Lefkowitz  |  08/18/16 @ 1:00pm  |  Posted in Home landscaping

We all want a yard that's healthy for our families, wildlife, and the larger environment.

<br />The McGuan residence in Shaker Heights has been nicely landscaped with rain gardens. Images: Austin McGuan.<br /><br />

Your yard can do wonders for your home's curb appeal while providing spaces for play and a sanctuary for people, birds, and butterflies.

If you’re interested in how to landscape your yard for environmental benefit, pick up a copy of The Doan Brook Watershed Partnership’s “A guide to sustainable habitats in Northeast Ohio.” The free, 47-page booklet introduces concepts on Green Yards and Healthy Homes, such as:

  • How to direct stormwater into a rain garden.
  • Treat pests with non-toxic methods, and
  • Build in ways that lower resource use.

“Yards are at the forefront of local environmental stewardship,” it states. “Because residential land use is the most dominant in urban communities, we have the power to create a healthy landscape.”

Specifically, the guide gives landscaping tips on:

  • The use of ground covers to improve soil and cut back on mowing.
  • The planting of flowers, such as lobelia (cardinal flower), to attract birds and pollinators.
  • How and why to abstain from pesticides use.

Also, a list of native trees and sketches of native shade and a sun/pollinator gardens make it a nice resource.

The Healthy Home section covers how to build with nature. From choosing non-toxic materials to lowering impact by design, it is possible to build in ways that respect and “work with” nature.

Here are a few more resources to improve the ecological performance of your landscape:

Use it or lose it: Rain gardens are designed to capture and filter storm water runoff from impervious surfaces around a home, such as rooftops and driveways. The Cuyahoga County Soil and Water Conservation District is a resource. The non-profit organization provided technical assistance on 30 rain garden installs, and has a handy DIY rain garden guide.

Bonus: Installing a rain barrel and/or a rain garden will earn property owners a creditthat reduces (the stormwater fee) on their sewer bill.

A good soak: Permeable surfaces absorb rain where it falls, prevent erosion, and keep pollution out of waterways. They can also lower ambient temperatures while greening your property. Bioswales, gravel and stone paths, permeable pavers and, of course, more green space and trees add long term value and curb appeal. See this Ohio Environmental Protection Agency guide to low-impact development.

The Cleveland Museum of Natural History Division of Natural Areas promotes sustainable land use. “Landscaping with native plants in the Cleveland region” helps select plants for your property while avoiding invasive, non-native species and boosting ecological diversity.

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