Your garden may look green, but it can harm the environment. This summer, minimize the negative impact of your well-loved plot on the world outside your backyard:
Reap what you mow. Using a gas-powered lawn mower for an hour can produce nearly the same amount of pollution as driving a car 100 miles. Battery-powered motors aren't better: Manufacturing the batteries causes significant lead emissions. When you cut grass, get a workout with a manual mower, and leave the clippings—free fertilizer!—on the lawn.
Get the dirt on your soil. Phosphates and nitrates found in fertilizer contaminate waterways and kill fish. Have your soil tested to see what nutrients it needs, and then look for labels listing "natural organic" and "slow release" ingredients. To avoid runoff, never apply fertilizer before heavy rains or to frozen ground.
Stop bugging out. Pesticides are contaminants; they hurt animals and reduce biodiversity, and they are linked to birth defects and cancer. Keep your garden healthy without pesticides, through compost and mulch use and frequent mowing. Ask your plant store about choosing pest-resistant varieties. And remember: Bugs are good for your plants. Only 5 to 15 percent are actually pests.
Don't go with the flow. Up to 75 percent of household water use during growing season is outdoors, and runoff carrying pesticides and other toxins pollutes lakes, rivers, and oceans. Perennials need less water than annuals, and older trees and shrubs need even less. Water in the early morning to avoid evaporation during the day and mold growth at night, and use a soaker hose or drip irrigation system.