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Consumer Reports: Reimagine the landscape of your lawn

Thursday, April 18, 2013 - 12:29 pm

America’s love for lawns is alive and well, but more of us are letting other features into the yard. In a nationally representative Consumer Reports survey, almost a third of homeowners who made changes to their lawn in the last year reduced its size in some way – for example, replacing grass with patio space, ground cover, flower beds or even artificial turf.

Consumer Reports spoke with lawn and garden pros from around the country, plus major retailers and manufacturers, to learn exactly how residential landscapes are being reimagined.

*Cut the size of your lawn. Grass needs a lot of water and fertilizer to stay thick and verdant. Plus there’s all that mowing. So reducing your lawn’s size saves work, time and money.

*Bring in native plants. Plants that are used to the local climate and soil conditions can survive without lots of water and fertilizer. Contact your local cooperative extension service (Contact the Purdue University Cooperative Extension Service Allen County office, 4001 Crescent Ave., at 481-6826 or allences@purdue.edu.) to get ideas about climate-appropriate species. Or go to the Environmental Protection Agency’s WaterSense website (epa.gov/watersense) for a state-by-state plant selector.

*Plant an edible garden. Growing your own vegetables is cost-effective . Home centers now carry large assortments of packaged seeds and starter plants of herbs and vegetables.

It’s a good idea to have your soil tested before cultivating vegetables at home, especially if you live in an urban area where lead may be a concern. Container gardening, in pots or raised planters, allows you to control the soil if testing turns up a problem.

*Follow sustainable practices. About half of the homeowners in Consumer Reports’ survey mulched when mowing, depositing clippings on the lawn instead of bagging them. That deposits nutrients back into the soil, reducing fertilizing needs by as much as 30 percent. When buying fertilizer, almost 40 percent considered the environmental friendliness of the ingredients, though ease of application and price were more important to most.