Putting the Green back in your home’s green-space
So many of Nova Scotia’s yards either fall victim to ruthless weeds or remain bare after the harsh winter. But no more, says Carson Arthur, host of HGTV’s Green Force, Global’s Room to Grow and Canada’s voice for environmentally friendly landscape design.
“It’s time to reconsider our expectations of what a garden or yard should be,” says Arthur. “We often think flowerbeds down three sides and a big manicured lawn. But that image is now unrealistic for our lifestyles and environment.”
Whether living in the suburbs or in the city, caring for your outdoor space should be easy and enjoyable – not a chore. Arthur explains that proper planning, easy-to-use tools and choosing the right plants can bring the joy of gardening back to life.
Companies like Black & Decker are also changing the way people see gardening. Black & Decker’s new line of cordless power tools with Lithium Ion Battery technology means tools are lighter, stay charged longer and don’t release any harmful fumes into the atmosphere.
“The emissions from old gas-powered yard tools are comparable to the emissions of a car,” says Arthur. “With Lithium Iontechnology, we can do our part for the environment and make gardening a hobby, not a lifetime commitment.”
Arthur believes that gardening is about making our environment healthier and more enjoyable to live in. And using dated tools counteracts the purpose of having or maintaining an outdoor space.
Depending on your municipality, recycling centers are set up around Nova Scotia to accept old gas-powered yard tools to later be recycled into new material for more energy efficient and environmentally friendly tools like the latest from Black & Decker.
Doing your part for the environment and still having the freedom to move around the yard with lightweight tools and not worry about fuel spills makes garden work not feel like work at all.
Using the right tools makes for convenient upkeep, but convenience must also be factored into the initial design of the outdoor space. Even with a tight budget, Arthur recommends meeting with a landscape designer to plan a space conducive to your needs, gardening abilities, environment and allotted space.
The Internet offers endless resources when it comes to finding and researching a landscape designer in your area, but as a landscape designer himself, Arthur stresses the importance of reviewing portfolios rather than starting from scratch.
“You are basically purchasing a blueprint for your backyard, and you need to find a designer who’s past work inspires you and has relevant examples of spaces similar in size and style,” says Arthur.
Although some landscape designers may radiate artistic ability, making sure the design is suited to your needs, wants and caretaking abilities is key to creating a lasting and useful space.
Working with plants native to your area is another way to reduce maintenance and increase the survival rate during changing seasons. Although Canadian winters prevent us from lounging in the yard year-round, having a diverse and well-landscaped yard that is enjoyable from a window is a plus.
“Plants were designed by Mother Nature to withstand the elements thrown at them in their specific ecosystem,” says Arthur. “Especially in Nova Scotia where weather patterns are constantly changing, imported plants may create a desired look but will need more care and must be replanted more often.”
With a home in Toronto, a cottage up north and a traveling job, Arthur knew that maintenance needed to be minimal, but the effect outstanding. He incorporated his environmentally friendly theory of using only native plants and avoided using any grass.
“Lawns are a bad use of our resources and one of the least ecologically friendly things to have in our backyards,” explains Arthur. “They require more water, attention and tools – whether they be gas-powered or battery-operated.”
Homeowners often opt for lawns because they want an area for their children to play or to let their dogs roam, but many cut their lawns too short and weaken the blade’s resistance to insects and the elements. If having a lawn is a must, then keeping grass between 2½ to 3½ inches long will help store energy in the root system and build resistance.
Arthur is all about working with nature, not against it.
As we move away from chemicals, pesticides and gas-powered yard tools, we reinvent the way we garden.
“We begin to see insects as a natural and essential part of a healthy garden and we learn that plants from our own backyards know how to thrive best off rain water and are more efficient in removing CO2 from the atmosphere,” says Arthur. “Solomon’s Seal and ferns were seen as inferior plants, but once their natural potential in Nova Scotian climate was revealed, they have become an integral part of any garden or outdoor space.”
The notion of the perfect garden complete with tropical flora and pest-free ecosystem is quickly fading, and the idea of a modern family yard is moving away from the suburban sprawl of grass and flowerbeds and focusing more on making use of all areas of the yard. Incorporating a deck, garden, pond system, vegetable garden or seating area can create usable space and truly change the way families live.
Whether designing a suburban space and starting from a blank canvas, or transforming a city balcony into a lush oasis, make it a space you will use and enjoy spending time in.
Making the effort to transform your space – no matter how small – can add value to your property, enhance your overall lifestyle and even prove to be fruitful if adding a vegetable or herb garden.
Gardening is no longer just mowing the grass and pulling weeds. It’s taking nature and making it work with our needs and wants.
“We often have a long list of uses and expectations of what we want our outdoor space to look like and provide for us,” says Arthur. “But it’s time to step back; consider our climate, our environment and our lifestyles. We need spaces that leave us happy.”