If you’re growing plants, you’re already on your way to helping the planet be a greener place. Here's how to make an even greater impact.
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Native plants in garden
Credit: Teresa Woodard

With a few extra steps, you can further green up your gardening game. Check out these Earth-friendly gardening tips to save water, reduce plastics, minimize your footprint and make your backyards healthier.

Gaillardia aristata 'Arizona Apricot' 0000 high res
Credit: Courtesy of Walters Gardens

1. Choose Water-Wise Plants

When shopping for new plants, look for tough ones that will stand up to summer's driest and hottest conditions. You'll spend less time dragging out garden hoses plus save on your water bill. A few water-wise favorites include gaillardia (left), portilaca, lantana, sedums and succulents.

Related:25 Easy-Care Plants for Midwest Gardens

mccullough family playing with airplane in landscaped yard
Credit: Gabriela Herman

2. Plant a Tree

Trees help cool our homes, purify the air, support wildlife and minimize runoff, and spring is an ideal time to plant them. If you've never planted a tree or simply need a refresher on the process, check out this helpful tutorial by the Arbor Day Foundation. It's easier than you might think and so satisfying. 

Related:20 Tough Trees for Midwest Yards

Spring garden flower bulbs
Credit: Peter Krumhardt

3. Mix in Native Plants

Besides beauty, native plants offer food and shelter for birds, bees and butterflies. This spring, shop at native plant sales hosted regionally by arboretums and botanic gardens, native plant societies and conservation groups. Learn more at Wild Ones, Lady Bird Wildflower Center and Xerces Society.

15040 WATER TIMER new with hose
Credit: Courtesy of Dramm

4. Use a Water Timer

Fasten one of these smart devices to your outdoor faucet or garden hose to turn off water automatically—and save time and money. Wisconsin-based Dramm makes them in six rainbow colors ($14.99 each). They are battery-free and work like an egg timer. 

Related:14 Ways to Save Water in Your Garden

Belgard turfstone paver
Credit: Courtesy of Belgard

5. Minimize Runoff

Gardeners are often guilty of overwatering and in turn sending excess water and fertilizers into our waterways. To minimize runoff, take care to adjust sprinklers and hoses from spraying water on driveways and sidewalks. Rain gardens can also help absorb excess water, especially in low spots. Permeable pavers (like Belgard Turfstone) and crushed gravel are other water-smart options for patios and walkways.

50-Gallon Rainwater Urn with purple flowers
Credit: Courtesy of Gardener's Supply Company

6. Add a Rain Barrel

By connecting a rain barrel to a downspout, you gain free water from your roof top to water your plants. Unlike tap water, rainwater contains no chlorine or softener salts. It also has nitrates to help plants grow lush, leafy foliage.

Rain barrels come in many styles to complement your home's exterior (like this 50-Gallon Rainwater Urn, $199 at Gardeners Supply Company). Some communities even offer free rain barrels or rebate incentives since they help reduce runoff.

Black compost bin from Gardener's Supply Company
Credit: Courtesy of Gardener's Supply Company

Compost Garden Waste

Convert garden clippings, fall leaves and even kitchen scraps into nutrient-rich food for your soil with a compost bin ($100, Gardener's Supply Company). Your efforts mean less trash for the landfill and happier plants. Here's how to start composting.

Round CowPot on wooden garden pallet
Credit: Courtesy of CowPot

8. Reduce and Reuse Plastic Pots

The green industry is working on solutions to address the environmental challenges of plastic pots. Do your part by reusing plastic pots or delivering them to recycling centers when they're no longer usable. Also, when growing your own seedlings, swap out plastic pots for CowPots ($15 for 20 on Amazon) coir pots or other eco-friendly alternatives.

Man holding Stihl battery-powered leaf blower in front of house
Credit: Courtesy of Stihl

9. Consider Power Tool Alternatives

It's easy to love the convenience and efficiency afforded by gas-powered tools, but their high carbon emissions are challenging many to rethink their use and opt for battery-powered versions instead. When shopping, look for a brand that fits your needs and uses batteries that are interchangeable among different tools.

Another idea? Go old-school. Pull out the rakes, hand shears, reel mowers or brooms. They help build muscle, save ear drums and appease neighbors.

Just a patch of prairie plants can support a menagerie of pollinators, like this painted lady butterfly.
Credit: Benjamin Vogt

10. Lighten Up on Pest Control

Try to find a balance in protecting your lawn and landscape while also protecting the insects and all the environmental services they offer. Two greener options include switching to natural sprays and learning to tolerate a few leaf holes. Learn more at The Healthy Yard Project.