The Portlander's Guide To A Guilt Free Garden

by Ben Bowen

Worried that you will ruin the environment while beautifying your landscape? Follow this (only semi-serious) plan for a guilt free garden:

15 Steps To A Guiltless Garden:

Modern lawn-free landscape by Ross NW Watergardens

Modern lawn-free landscape by Ross NW Watergardens

  1. Remove all lawn. Your lawn is needy. It demands water, mowing, edging, and would really appreciate some chemicals. Recycle it at McFarlane's or Wood Waste Management. If you can, remove it by hand with a pick and square shovel. If you can't, then have Yard Rents deliver a sod cutter. Carbon offsets are available from the Nature Conservancy.
  2. Replace your lawn. Consider an eco-lawn from ProTime Seed. Or go modern with a gravel garden instead. Gravel and decomposed granite can be sourced from local stone yards.
  3. Remove all invasive plants. Recycle with the lawn. Learn more about invasives here. A caprock shovel should make short work of most.
  4. Plant drought tolerant native plants. (Not all natives are drought tolerant.) Keep in mind mature sizes to avoid over planting. Recycle plastic plant pots at a local nursery or Metro. If you choose to amend use compost generated from your own food garbage.
  5. Choose some bird friendly plants. Plants with berries provide food for birds. Winter fruits, like Beautyberry and Snowberry, can be especially helpful when food is scarce.
  6. Don't forget bees. Choose some plants specifically for pollinators. Consider a bee box.
  7. Make sure you can eat some of your plants too. Use FSC certified juniper to build raised beds for your herb and vegetable garden. Share with neighbors.  
  8. Partner with Friends of Trees and get a new street tree or two. Then donate and volunteer.
  9. Remove some concrete. Replace your traditional driveway with a "ribbon" driveway or permeable pavers. Then volunteer at Depave.
  10. Finish your beds with compost, bark dust, or bark chips. All are byproducts of recycling. Chips can even be had for free. Need someone to help you spread it? My brother-in-law works at an eco-village. They hire a guy they found sleeping in a chicken coop to pull weeds and spread compost. He does this using only his hands and bare feet. I am not making this up.
  11. Disconnect your downspouts and create a rain gardenKeep water on your property and give it a place to go. Adopt a Green Street.
  12. Drip irrigation only. And you must have a "smart" timer.
  13. No lighting. I can't bring myself to recommend solar lights. So just skip it.
  14. Maintain. Without chemicals. Pull those weeds!
  15. Get certified.  As a "Backyard Habitat" or "Wildlife Landscape" or both.

Have a resource or suggestion I missed? Leave it in the comments!