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Southeast Gardening: Eco-Friendly Garden Solutions

Brought to you by Lowe's Creative Ideas

Try a couple of tricks to make your Southeastern garden more earth-friendly and low-maintenance.

purple muhly grass

By Glenn DiNella

There are so many things we can do to be better stewards of the earth. Here are a couple of ideas. They might not save the world, but consider doing these in your own yard, just to help Mother Nature—and make it easier on yourself.

stone edging

Runoff from precipitation is a serious environmental issue. We collect rainwater from hard surfaces, such as our roofs, patios, and driveways, and even soft surfaces, such as lawns, and channel them into pipes or paved gutters. This might solve your drainage issues, but it only creates a problem for your neighbor downstream.

Water builds up volume and gains speed as it travels downhill. Now your downstream neighbor either develops an erosion problem, or he channels the runoff into pipes, paved gutters, and culverts and passes down the problem to his neighbor. This often leads to erosion and flooding when these rushing volumes of water finally reach our creeks and rivers.

mondo grass between stones

One simple solution is to create a dry creek bed. Simply arrange flat stones or pavers, like a loose jigsaw puzzle, along the water’s path in your yard. If your creek bed gets a lot of water during storms, you might need to fill between the flat stones with round “river rock” or “egg rock.” Select stones large enough so they won’t get washed away.

You can also place larger decorative rocks or boulders, and interplant the gaps and edges with tough plants that can handle soaked soils but also endure dry spells between rains.

potted plants by stones

Good plants for this task include monkey grass (Liriope muscari), dwarf mondo grass (Ophiopogon japonicus ‘Nanus’), corkscrew rush (Juncus effusus ‘Spiralis’), cattails, purple muhly grass (Muhlenbergia spp.), top photo, and miscanthus, pictured.

front bed

Now let’s talk about labor-saving mulch. I recently learned a little trick from a master gardener. While I typically spend time during the winter months covering up fall leaves in my beds with a layer of fresh pine straw, it never occurred to me I could hide major pruning debris as well. After drastically pruning back some oversize Indian hawthorns, I simply let the clippings lay where they fell.

adding pine straw to front bed

Then I covered them with fresh pine straw. This saves the trouble of raking, stooping, and collecting the debris. It adds organic matter to the bed, as materials break down over time. And it prevents the debris from ending up in our overstuffed landfills. It’s a win-win-win solution.

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