When it comes to environmental health, yards and gardens are generally talked about negatively. With invasive species accounting partially for the decline in 42% of US endangered species, it makes sense. Invasive plants, like water hyacinths and cordgrasses, often spread from gardens, and there are other environmental concerns as well. For one, most yards use non-native grasses which not only choke out local plant life but also contribute to erosion and water waste. There are, however, ways to landscape and garden that are much more eco-friendly.

Start Thinking in Environmental Terms
Gardening with the environment in mind can get you thinking about eco-friendly living more generally. For instance, you might start growing food in your garden which is a great way to eat more sustainably. After all, it takes far less energy to go out to a plot in your yard than to have your tomatoes trucked in. Good starter vegetables include peppers, tomatoes, and beans. As you move towards sustainable food production, you'll find that this and other eco-friendly practices such as composting all work together to reduce waste and keep your garden healthy and beautiful. Once you start thinking sustainably you'll be surprised at how many opportunities for greener living your garden has to offer.

Combat Erosion With Deep Root Plants
With the right planning, your yard and garden can support the local environment. In particular, you want to find plants that are native to Northern California, and think about how your landscaping will affect water retention and water flow. Water is one of the most valuable environmental resources and better water retention starts with home gardens. Adding plants and trees with deep root systems, such as the California wild lilac, is one way to promote water retention. You can also think about using a greywater system for gardening — reusing wastewater from sinks, bathtubs, and the like to keep your garden watered.

Garden to Boost Biodiversity
Gardens can also be a boon to important pollinators like bees and other at-risk species. Planting in clumps to make it easier for pollinators to reach more flowers, focusing on bee-friendly flower species like western redbuds and California poppies, and making sure water is available nearby are all good ways to make your garden a bee haven. Other important insect life will find shelter in a well-kept garden too, providing food for animals higher up the food chain and supporting local biodiversity.

If you're a project-oriented thinker, you might focus on turning your garden into a wildlife habitat. Starting with re-planting native species, you can follow a few simple rules to make your yard into a safer space for local animal populations. As you go, you'll learn more about the animals that come to live there, and it can be a great teaching experience for kids too, as they'll get to see animal lifecycles and how different species interact together.

A beautiful garden isn't a lost cause, environmentally speaking. Instead, you should view gardens as an opportunity to help the environment and practice sustainable thinking. Gardens can teach us a lot about the lives of plants and animals, as well as how plants work together in a healthy ecosystem. From food production to water retention to teaching opportunities, a garden is a great asset in the fight for environmental health.