The Yard Zone

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By Dan Maginn
The space outside your walls should be as thoughtfully considered as the space within. Aside from contributing to pleasant, functioning outdoor space, well-placed landscaping can protect your house from solar gain in the summer while letting it inside during the winter.

Perform a yard audit.
Talk to a landscape architect who is versed in your region’s native species.1

Install SmartPlants.
After you give turf grass and any other resource-sucking plants the boot,2 plant low-maintenance perennials. Consider a purposeful schmear of Arboreal Shading Devices, Sylvanic Carbon Vacuums, and Solar-Powered Humanoid Food-Generation Stations.3

Your nifty new native yardscape will require far less watering than whatever was there before. Continue the love by reducing your impact on your community’s storm sewer system: Plant a rain garden and collect rain in a barrel.

Get dirty.
Maintain your existing dirt by mulching, and create new dirt by composting your kitchen and yard waste.

Get lit.
Install a motion-control sensor or timer on your exterior lights—–or use a solar-powered light.

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  1. Beware the tendency to play Weekend Warrior on this: If you’re serious about reducing your impact on the environment, you’ve got to get it right.
  2. Remember: Every time you run the mower, it’s like leaving grungy carbon footprints all over your nice Prius. Eliminate as much turf grass as possible, and take care of what’s left with an old-school manual mower. Whip that thing around the yard and drink a cold eco-Schlitz when you’re done.
  3. You know—–trees, shrubs, vegetables. And maybe some nice purple coneflowers, too.