Travel to any city and you'll likely see neat rows of houses and long, uninterrupted miles of paved road. According to the U.S. Census Bureau's data from 2010, the latest available, there were 3,573 urban areas in the U.S. and 80.7% of the population were living in them.
The Urban Sprawl
Since that Census was taken, the number of urbanized areas has undoubtedly grown. This phenomenon is called urban sprawl. It refers to the unrestricted growth of urban areas, from housing to commercial development and roads to accommodate the ever-growing population.
While urbanization presents many benefits, particularly regarding accessibility, it also has considerable negative effects. Among the downsides of urban sprawl are:
- Traffic congestion
- Increased pollution
- Higher energy use
- Higher individual carbon footprint
However, it is nature that suffers the worst from urban sprawl. To accommodate the construction of urban areas, wildlife habitats are destroyed and natural areas are destroyed.
This is why it's important for people living in urban communities to do as much as they can to help the environment. One of the easiest ways to do so is by looking after your own yard.
Creating an Ecosystem in Your Garden
Since natural habitats get destroyed for urban areas, plenty of flora and fauna species get displaced. But with proper landscaping, your yard can become its own mini ecological oasis where local wildlife can thrive along with native plant species.
Ensure your soil is healthy
A healthy ecosystem starts with the soil. It's home to countless microorganisms that are essential to healthy plant growth. This is why the first step to creating a sustainable backyard ecosystem is testing your soil.
This test will reveal information about your soil texture, including its pH levels, nutrient composition, and organic matter. These insights will help you diagnose problems you may have with growing plants, improve the nutritional balance of the soil, and apply the right kind and amount of fertilizers.
Establish a plant community from native plants
The main goal of creating a balanced ecosystem in your garden is to support local wildlife, so choosing plants native to the area is crucial.
Native plants attract greater wildlife diversity since they provide habitat and food sources. What's more, these plants will thrive better because they have had years to evolve and become suited for the exact conditions in your geographical area.
By filling your yard with native plants, you create a thriving plant community, which in turn supports local wildlife and possibly even endangered species. From butterflies and bees to frogs and other small mammals, all of these have a better chance of surviving with an abundance of native plant species.
Use your space for food production
Another effect of urbanization is the increase in people's carbon footprint. Roads becoming accessible in urban areas encourages the frequent use of private vehicles when you need to shop. This results in higher carbon emissions and a bigger carbon footprint.
These are not to mention the carbon footprint of harvesting food from another location and bringing those harvests to shops in urban areas. To combat these, you can dedicate a part of your yard to food production.
A raised bed garden does an exemplary job of helping you produce food. Not only does it make use of your available space, but it also gives you a fresh food source, eliminating the trips you have to take to buy various produce.
Encourage insect population
A majority of insects are essential to keeping a balanced ecosystem. Some insects act as pollinators while others become food sources for birds, frogs, and other small animals. As such, it's good to encourage the growth of certain insects' population in your yard.
Of course, this doesn't mean letting bad bugs like stink bugs and mosquitoes proliferate. They don't serve any purpose and will only require you to hire pest and mosquito control services. Instead, introduce beneficial bugs like ladybugs and lacewings.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, residential landscape irrigation is responsible for one-third of all residential water use. If you want to help conserve water, it's better to use natural water sources, such as rainwater even if you install a sprinkler system.
With practices like rainwater capture and redirection, not only can you reduce your water usage, you can also prevent flooding, soil erosion, and polluting other ecosystems from your lawn's runoff.
Use organic pest control
There are plenty of non-toxic solutions you can use to control the insect population in your yard.
Instead of pesticides filled with toxic chemicals that harm not just the biodiversity in your turf but also outside ecosystems, you can plant pest-repelling greenery like citronella and marigold instead. You can also use spray solutions made from non-toxic ingredients, like salt, white vinegar, and liquid soap. If this does not work consider hiring pest control professionals rather than lacing your garden with pesticides.
It doesn't take a lot to make your yard more ecologically friendly and sustainable. With our suggestions above, you can easily turn your homogenous yard into a thriving ecosystem.