Wildlife Friendly Yard & Garden Maintenance
Tools & Techniques to Preserve Tranquility & Avoid Disturbance to Wildlife
You’ve gone organic, reduced your lawn, removed invasive species and have planted your native plants. The songbirds are singing and the crickets are chirping as the summer breeze rustles through the blades of Switchgrass. That’s when you hear it - a leaf blower screaming in the distance, disturbing the peaceful afternoon. You yourself may even be at fault during your weekly maintenance regimen, in your effort to tame the small section of lawn you have left or clean your patio of tree debris. Modern yard and garden maintenance is noisy, pollutes, and is a great disturbance to backyard wildlife and humans alike. Luckily there are better ways. Many of them are tried and tested with a long history of use while others use some modern engineering to get the job done quite well.
Gasoline powered lawn mowers are noisy, emission heavy, and can be very dangerous machines. While there are self-driven models available they are still heavy, compact your soil, and can be tough on the operators back. Old-fashioned Reel Mowers are making a huge comeback with modern improvements in the gears and blade mechanisms. They are lightweight and quiet yet extremely efficient at cutting blades of grass. They are actually healthier to use for the lawn itself, as well, since they precisely cut each blade of grass neatly instead of hacking it down as with a gas mower. There are even electric models like the Electra Swardman and towable models like the Promow Hybrid3 Gang Reel Mower for those who have larger spaces of lawn that still require mowing. Little, if any, noise and no dust or fumes.
Edging any lawns and formal garden beds usually requires a string-trimmer. Another noisy machine that is a heavy polluter of our air with the added bonus of possibly losing an eye or breaking a window with a pebble. For lawns there are old-fashioned tools that would be familiar to many peoples' grandfathers - with modern updates. The Ames Dual Wheel Rotary Edger is an easy to use tool to edge lawns along hard walkways like sidewalks and patios. It provides a clean edge for both the lawn and soil without loud noises, fumes, or dust. Horizontal and Vertical Stand Up Lawn Shears are another option to refine edges around other objects like trees, fences, garden beds, ect. without risking damage to non-target plants and objects (unlike weed-wackers).
Shearing, Seasonal Perennial Cut-backs, Pruning
Typical hand tools like Bypass Pruners, Hedge Shears, and Loppers are all quiet means to effectively maintain shrubs, small trees, as well as perform seasonal cut-backs of perennial flowers and grasses. A hand saw can be very effective for trimming small to medium branches of shrubs and trees as they become established. Using hedge shears is one of the easiest ways to to perform cut-backs in the late spring, as well as the June cut-back of late season flowering perennials to prevent flopping or to stimulate a second bloom.
Leaves & Debris on Patios and Lawns
While lawn mowers and leaf blowers are now heard most of the year, it becomes even worse in Autumn as the leaves begin to fall. The use of Leaf Blowers is one of the most polluting and wildlife disturbing actions we perform in our yards, gardens, and parks. Studies have shown Songbirds struggle to set up territories and find mates as well as abandon nests because of leaf blower use. Insects like our imperiled pollinators and our caterpillars have even been shown to be thrown from their host plants where they risk being fatally injured leading to countries like Germany warning against their usage. For hardscapes like driveways, patios, and sidewalks push sweepers like the Karcher S 650 Outdoor Push Sweeper make light work of daily or weekly maintenance. Zero noise, no fumes, just quick easy clean up of your walkways. For larger debris on both walkways as well as lawns the Agri-Fab 26” Push Lawn Sweeper works well. Adjustable heights allow you to sweep various heights of lawn as well hardscapes like patios. Quickly and quietly make quick work of leaves, small twigs, and even small nuts like acorns for collection and mulching in the appropriate locations. Larger towable models are also available for those with larger spaced to be maintained.
Come late Summer and Autumn many of our native shade trees begin to drop their nuts or other types of seeds or fruit. Anything too large for the Lawn Sweeper mentioned can always be left to the animals, but sometimes they are a walking hazard or may stain patios or cause some other issue. A handy tool for cleaning up this sort of “debris” are Nut Gatherers by Garden Weasel. Multiple sizes allows for quick and quiet clean up of different size tree nuts, small fruit, or seed pods.
Various Hand Tools
Typical hand tools shouldn’t be forgotten. Grass Shears, Hori Hori Knives, Garden Sickles, ect. should all be considered for your various needs. Post-Hole Diggers for example are a favorite of mine for quickly digging holes for many landscape plugs. Having the proper tools will allow you to handle each specific need easily and without having to rely on noisy, polluting machinery that disturbs the wildlife we are trying to support by gardening with Native Plants. Don’t forget about the longtime success of the ol’ corn broom or leaf rake next time you have to perform maintenance on your property. Take a moment to enjoy the space you’ve created, and continue to work with Nature rather than against Her. Don’t forget to take a breath of fresh air, just a bit cleaner and quieter thanks to you.
Below: A Moment In Time From My Own Garden.