The weather is rarely a mild event here in Texas. More like a wide swinging pendulum reaching extremes at either end of its journey. That said, there is no denying that the extremes are getting more and more extreme. The hot gets hotter and hotter, the cold gets colder and colder and it doesn’t seem like it’s raining – it’s flooding. Storms are just blowing, they are raging.
No matter where you live, you are undoubtedly seeing significant climate change and extreme events due to climate change.
What does this mean for gardeners and your green industry business? Mandatory adaptation. We will all need to be more earth-conscious in our gardening and business practices if we have any hope of conserving what we have now. But it’s easy to get overwhelmed and discouraged when you don’t know where to start.
Consider creating quick tips for your customers that outline specific green products and practices that are simple to understand and perform. Here are some of my top tips to get you started:
1. Start with the ground
Improving soil health and reducing erosion (soil stabilization) should be a top priority for gardeners and green industry professionals. Replenishing soil microfauna and flora by adding organic matter and promoting good aeration is a good starting point. Aerated, healthy soil can better support healthy stands of trees, shrubs and lawns to reduce erosion and mitigate water runoff (a huge source of wasted water in urban environments). Discourage bare floors in urban areas. Plant something!
Using cover crops in vegetable beds and landscaped beds is another great way to protect and support soil health. Most cover crops are very easy to grow – you just need to have the right seed at the right time – and know when to return the plants to the ground as a
Teach your customers that in order to feed your plants, you must feed the soil first.
2. Turn off the gas
I hate leaf blowers with a passion. They are horrible polluters of noise and air. As an industry insider who has directly led many maintenance activities, blowers are often a kickstand for landscaping workers looking to occupy their time. They are used too often and for too long, for tasks that should instead require a little elbow grease. Add gas mowers and weed killers, and you’ve got a recipe for unmanageable air (and noise) pollution. The owners just copy what they see us doing.
Of course, power tools have their place. But leaf blowers used in landscaped beds cause terrible damage to plants and soil. They can strongly compact the soil and expose plant roots. Use them on hard surfaces, but reduce or restrict their use in areas with soil.
While you won’t eliminate your carbon footprint by switching to electric blowers and mowers, you can significantly reduce air pollution and noise pollution. I have tested and used power and battery powered tools for years, and can say that the ones currently on the market will do the job – much quieter – for your retail customers. Green power gardening tools (and good ol ‘hand tools) are still a niche category, but one that is paramount to IGC’s target customers.
It’s not just power tools that use fossil fuels and generate emissions, so many synthetic fertilizers and pest control products are too. Work to provide fossil fuel-free alternatives to customers looking to convert to more Earth and soil friendly options.
3. Plant more trees and shrubs
Large, long-lived plants, such as trees and tall shrubs, absorb more CO2 from the atmosphere than smaller plants, such as annuals and perennials. Trees provide a host of benefits in urban environments, such as shade to mitigate urban temperatures and air conditioning use and emissions to cool your home. In addition, they provide m
Sales of tall trees and shrubs have declined for many garden centers, but if you focus on educating your customers about the benefits of urban trees and native or plants adapted to the region, you can recoup some of their interest and sales. Just like with synthetics, consider offering specific exchange suggestions for many overplanted invasive species. A “Plant this, not that” program. As customers become more familiar with native and invasive species, they will turn to you for specific choices of sustainable plants.
4. No waste
The anti-waste movement is gaining momentum. Consumers are looking for ways to dramatically reduce their use of plastic and other non-reusable containers and packaging. If you aren’t already teaching your customers about composting, now is the time to start. Recycling food and yard waste is a great way to reduce methane emissions from landfills.
The simple act of composting the same waste in your garden dramatically reduces methane emissions and you have your own nutrient-rich compost to put back into your landscape.
Composting is still a mystery to many homeowners. They need step-by-step instructions and easy-to-use compost bins (or bin-building courses) to get them to actively compost.
5. Make the most of the lawn
Americans still have a deadly hold on their lawns. However, we need to educate our customers on how to go green with their lawns to get the most out of the benefits lawns can offer. Of course, lawns absorb carbon from the atmosphere, reduce soil erosion and runoff, and cool temperatures in urban environments. These are all good reasons why a lawn is better than gravel in cityscapes. Unfortunately, it’s the way we maintain our lawns that negates these positive effects.
Let’s teach them to water properly (they all water too much), to mow high and less often, to fertilize naturally by nourishing the soil, and to choose more resistant grass species. Add some eco-friendly lawn care tools and you’ve made some progress. If you can show them how to swap the lawn for drought-tolerant ground covers or native perennials, all the better.
All of these may seem like very simple and obvious actions to those of us in the industry. But for the general public, your customers, a simple starting point can make all the difference.