It’s good to be high and dry in the Beehive State. As a mountain state, Utah is the second driest in the country. The highest point is Kings Peak at 13,528 feet above sea level. The community of Park City isn’t quite as high at only 7,000 feet above sea level, but it still manages to capture enough snowfall to make it one of the premier ski capitals of the world.
However, the elevation and lack of water throughout the summer and fall can present some challenges for homeowners. But these seven eco-friendly landscape tips can help leave you with a lush and thriving yard.
1. Chose native plants
If it grows here naturally, it’s going to be easy to maintain in your yard. For example, the indigo bush puts out gorgeous purple flowers and attracts butterflies and bees. The Wasatch penstemon is a showy plant that will add a pop of blue to your yard. And the globemallow, with its red blossoms, blooms all summer and is very hardy.
Not only are these native plants low-maintenance, but they also provide food and cover for native wildlife and insects. You’re doing your landscaping and the environment a favor by planting these.
2. Pick the right grass for your lawn
Utah gets just 21 inches of rain every year. Compare that to the U.S. average of 38 inches, and you can immediately see the challenges you face cultivating a lush green lawn.
If you choose your grass carefully and care for it right, you can have that emerald-colored lawn and be eco-friendly too. The key here is to select a drought-resistant grass like tall fescue or buffalo grass.
3. Add some hardy, native trees
A row of blue spruce trees, douglas firs, or any other native trees will make your home more eco-friendly by providing a windbreak and shade. Trees also can make your house cheaper to heat in the winter by protecting your home from the howling wind. They can also make your home easier to cool in the summer, by shading the structure, giving your AC less work to do.
Also, if you buy a home in Park City that has sheltering trees, you can protect your property from being snowed in, as the tree line can help keep the snow from piling up around your home. While you may want to ski-in and ski-out, having a snow-encased vacation home may not be what you were looking for!
4. Consider xeriscaping
Speaking of the dry climate, Utah is among a handful of Western states where xeriscaping is encouraged to help the environment.
Xeriscaping doesn’t mean getting rid of the lawn, but rather having less of it. You can also surround your native plants with rocks and gravel or organic mulch. Not only is it good for Utah’s environment, but your bank account will thank you when the water bill arrives.
5. Eliminate invasive species
You can give Utah’s environment a boost by getting rid of any invasive species that may have taken root in your yard. This includes the Russian olive tree, a twisty tree with silvery-green oblong leaves and small fruit, and the saltcedar.
Both of these species displace native trees that are important to Utah’s sensitive ecology. It may seem harmless to leave them there, but birds eat the fruit and can deposit the seeds miles away in their droppings. Removing them will help you create space for other landscaping ideas in your yard. Be aware, saltcedar trees have deep root systems, so you may need to call in a professional to remove them.
6. No pesticides
Instead of using dangerous chemicals to rid your lawn of grubs or other pests, let Mother Nature do it for you.
Plant borage and marigolds to discourage tomato hornworms. Basil, rosemary, and citronella will repel mosquitoes. The smell of lavender really bugs mice, moths, and parasitic nematodes which are microscopic organisms that will feed on the grubs that destroy the roots of your grass.
7. Try adding hardscaping features
“Hardscaping” is a trendy word for adding hard items to your landscape, such as putting in a patio or stone walkway. Whether you put in a wooden deck or a custom-made swing and slide set for the kids, this is probably the most expensive option.
But it’s also an attractive option, especially for a part of your yard that otherwise won’t get used. There are lots of options to choose from such as a stone path to your front door, a pebbled terrace, to a wooden deck. Even redesigning your driveway or adding on to it is considered hardscaping, and it can lower your yard maintenance, conserves water, and potentially add to the property value.
There’s no limit to what you can design in your yard while giving the environment a hand. Whether you’re a fan of the traditional green lawn, or ready to rip it all out in favor of a rock garden, you may just be saving some money while saving the planet.
Henry Walsh is a gardening writer and eco-conscious living advocate. He recently began his homesteading journey after many years of incorporating the principles into his urban lifestyle.