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Sustainable Landscaping

Watch a clip about lawn care tips and check out other clips on DEC's YouTube Channel.

How homeowners and businesses design the landscape on their property, including plant choices, can result in significant positive benefits on the environment, our water supply and public health.

Go Native

Native plants are adapted to the local climate and soil conditions where they naturally occur. These important plant species provide nectar, pollen, and seeds that serve as food for native butterflies, insects, birds and other animals. Unlike natives, common horticultural plants do not fit the bill. These adaptation bring us several gardening advantages.

  • Wildlife Viewing
    Native plants, birds, butterflies, beneficial insects, and interesting critters are "made for each other." Research shows that native wildlife prefers native plants.

  • Save Water
    Once established, many native plants need minimal irrigation beyond normal rainfall.

  • Low Maintenance
    Low maintenance landscaping methods are a natural fit with native plants that are already adapted to the local environment. Look forward to using less water, little to no fertilizer, little to no pesticides, less pruning, and less of your time.

  • Pesticide Freedom
    Native plants have developed their own defenses against many pests and diseases. Since most pesticides kill indiscriminately, beneficial insects become secondary targets in the fight against pests. Reducing or eliminating pesticide use lets natural pest control take over and keeps garden toxins out of our creeks and watersheds.

  • Support Local Ecology
    As development replaces natural habitats, planting gardens, parks, and roadsides with New York natives can provide a "bridge" to nearby remaining wildlands.

Try native plants. The Native Plants for Gardening and Landscaping Fact Sheet (PDF, 2 MB) provides examples of native trees, shrubs, vines, grasses, and flowers that work well in home gardens and landscaping. Additional information about gardening with native plants can be found at bookstores, online and at your local library.

Grow More, Mow Less

You can help pollinators, save money, and have clearer air by reducing the area of your property that you mow. If you have the space, consider letting an area of your lawn grow long. You'd be surprised what a little meadow can do for wildlife, especially fireflies.

  • Cleaner Air
    Did you know that running a gas-powered mower for an hour emits the same amount of pollution as a 20-mile car trip? The average gas-powered push mower produces 14.76 pounds of air pollution in an hour. That's enough polluting gas to surround you in a big bubble. Electric mowers are much cleaner.

  • Support Pollinators
    Taller grasses and lawn substitutes with less mowing disturbances provide cover and nesting sites for some pollinators.

  • Support Fire Flies
    Although you might not see them, fireflies spend the day resting among the blades of grass. The more you mow, the less inviting your lawn is for fireflies.

  • Save Time and Money
    Reducing your area that you mow will save you both time and money.

Go Chemical Free

Historically, organic lawn care has been practiced for much longer than chemical lawn care and it can easily be implemented on any lawn. Safe and effective alternatives exist for most chemical pesticides and fertilizers. There is no need to expose our families, communities and local wildlife to chemicals that are known or potential hazards. Switching to a chemical free yard has many advantages.

  • Healthier Grass and Plants
    Chemical fertilizers and lawn treatments interfere with natural photosynthesis by coating grass and plants with chemicals that are difficult to absorb. Organic lawn care treatments promote deep root systems, natural photosynthesis, and longer grass growth.

  • Cleaner Water
    Fertilizers and pesticides run off or leaches away, ending up in ground or surface water, including wells. Affecting drinking water supplies and animal habitats.

  • Safer for Humans and Pets
    Exposure to pesticides can cause a range of neurological health hazards such as loss of memory, loss of coordination, slowed responses to stimuli, impaired visual ability, altered mood and uncontrollable general behavior and slowed motor skills in adults and children.

  • Healthier Soils
    Healthy soils contain millions of microbial that needed for healthy plants. Fungicides and pesticides kill off the microbial reducing the soils vitality.

Tips and Resources for a Chemical Free Yard

Whether you maintain your yard yourself, use a landscaping and lawn care service, or are in the landscape and lawn care business, the links below will help you choose products and practices that are effective alternatives to toxic chemicals.

For Homeowners and Residents:

For Lawn Care and Landscape Professionals:

More about Sustainable Landscaping:

  • Green Yard and Garden Tips - Tips on how to have a beautiful lawn and garden without using synthetic pesticides, fertilizers or herbicides.
  • Green Lawns and Gardens Resources - Links to additional information from other state government and non-profit sites on non-toxic lawn and landscape care.