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How to Green Up Your Landscaping

Green Fertilizer and Pesticides
This monster pesticide sprayer is pretty much the opposite of green landscaping.
This monster pesticide sprayer is pretty much the opposite of green landscaping.
Stockbyte/­Getty Images

­In most green circles, fertilizer and pesticides are bad words. The enemies here are the chemical varieties you heap on your lawn and plant beds. Fertilizer and pesticides can also be natural and organic -- that's the direction you want to go if you're greening your landscape.

Most trees and shrubs get all the nutrients they need from the soil. If you've been a good green landscaper and used mulch and compost, then you've got a great natural fertilizer already worked into your soil. Annual plants, vegetable and herb gardens and sometimes lawns need some additional nutrients you can only get from fertilizer. When it comes time to go fertilizer shopping, look for organic varieties -- it will say so on the label. Another thing to look for is slow release fertilizers. Quick release fertilizers don't penetrate deeply and often only feed the tops of the plant's root system. Slow-release fertilizer gets down deep, feeding your lawn or plants slowly and evenly. This also helps reduce runoff into your storm drain.

It's best to fertilize before a heavy rain to help conserve water. Before you add any fertilizer, pick up a soil test kit from your local home and garden center. This will tell you the levels of nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium and lime you have and how much you need. If you've worked in compost and mulch you may not need to add anything at all.

Pests can ruin any landscape. But not all pests are bad. In fact, only about 5 to 15 percent of the insects in your yard are harmful [source: EPA]. Many insects you'd kill with harmful chemical pesticides will actually help do away with the harmful pests. To green up your landscape and rid your lawn of harmful pests, start with healthy soil -- once again, compost and mulch. Choosing pest-resistant plants is another great way to start. You can find this information out by visiting a garden store in your region. Mix up the kinds of plants you have. This way, if a pest attacks a particular variety, you have other plants to continue thriving.

You should also be prepared to accept some amount of damage. No lawn and garden can be pest-free, so allow a little time to pass before you buy up an armful of chemical pesticides. Many times, nature will take its course, and the good bugs will take care of the bad bugs for you. If you notice that the same variety of plant has the same problems year after year, replace it with a heartier and more pest-resistant kind. If all else fails and your natural treatments aren't working, use your pesticides responsibly. Try organic kinds, and if they don't work and you need a chemical pesticide, only treat the area that needs it and use it sparingly. Excess pesticide washes away into your storm drain and eventually into the lakes and rivers of your region.