We need to tuck our lawns in for their long winter’s nap so that they will wake up lush and healthy in the spring. While we are doing that, we can also do right by our planet by employing eco-friendly methods and products. The following tips ensure that our lawns bounce back with the least possible damage to the environment.
Clear Up the Lawn
Rake up the leaves and add them to your compost pile. If left on the grass, they prevent sunlight from reaching the grass and allow patches of mold to settle in. The dead leaves also adversely affect water quality. The phosphorus and nitrogen run off, feed algae that kill fish and contaminate our water.
For the same reasons, it’s not okay to let leaves go down storm drains. Those nutrients go right to the nearest body of water. You might as well dump a chemical fertilizer directly into the river.
Dethatch and Aerate
Thatch is that layer of shoots, stems, and roots on the surface of the soil. It prevents the grass roots from getting the water and nutrients they need for the winter. You may be able to rake the thatch up with a garden rake. If it’s especially thick, use a thatch rake or a vertical mower. The good part of thatch is it makes for more material for your compost pile.
Aerate a lawn that had too much traffic in the summer, is now compacted and, like the thatch, is creating a barrier between nutrients and grass roots. Punch plugs of soil from your lawn with a tined garden rake or a rented self-powered aerator.
Dig up invasive weeds completely, or else they will sprout again in the spring. Don’t add them to the compost pile like they are or they will grow and spread. You first have to “cook” them to death, or practice hot composting. Seal them in a black plastic bag and put the bag in a sunny spot off by itself. In a couple of months, you will see that the weeds are mere vestiges of their former selves, and you can toss them into your compost pile.
Note: Most chemical herbicides are toxic to animals and the environment in general.
This tip is region-specific. If you live in a warm region, overseed with cool-season grassseed, such as Kentucky bluegrass or perennial ryegrass. As the warm-season grass types go dormant, the cool-season grasses will keep your lawn green throughout the winter. In the cooler regions, overseeding prevents weeds from attacking. Thin lawns are open invitations to invaders such as crabgrass and dandelions.
Tend to Your Compost
Material composted over the summer should be ready. Use that “black gold” that is brimming with nutrients to amend deficient soils or improve the fertility of your lawn. The compost gives your lawn a jump-start for the springtime.
For new compost, add a layer of straw or leaves. It needs to be alive and active even in winter, and the additional layer keeps up the internal temperature. Do not put any diseased or insect-infected plants into your compost pile, or else you’ll be returning the diseases and pests to the soil in the spring. Destroy the plants instead.
Autumn provides ample brown material for composting, and turning food scraps into fertilizer gives you everything you need to get a jump start on soil enrichment before the frost sets in. Whether you are already skilled at composting and want to make the most of the nutrients you save or are just starting out, the results can make a major difference in the health of your lawn or garden. Fall and winter composting ensures that your garden is ready to shine the next year, and it makes it simple to recycle and reuse organic material in an eco-friendly manner.
Preparing the Soil
If you already have a home composter setup or an outdoors composting bin, remember to keep the balance of green and brown materials — from the kitchen and the yard respectively — at about an even 50/50 blend. There are a few ways to speed up the composting process, from shredding and heating the materials to agitating regularly, but all fertilizer creation takes time, and it’s best to get an early start in the fall for plenty of prep time.
As the compost matures, try using a garden tiller to aerate the soil and work the material into the ground. Adding nutrients during the fall months can promote faster and healthier growth in spring, but preparation should end before the first snows fall. Adding more nutrients during the cold winter months can actually promote mold and undesirable decomposition of roots or bulbs, making it a better idea to save compost for later use when the ground starts freezing.
Planting in autumn is only natural, as it is harvest season when the fruits drop and wildflowers spread seeds abundantly. Once your soil is ready, begin planting the seeds for next year’s blossoming flowers. Annuals and perennials both benefit from early planting before the ground hardens. The natural hardening and packing of the soil during the winter months provides added protection against scavenging animals and freezing winds.
Protect the Ground
It’s entirely likely that you’ll end up with far more brown matter during the fall season than your kitchen scraps, grasses and other green materials can match. Avoid adding too much brown material to your compost mix, and instead use these nature-made tools to keep the ground safe and ward off unwanted mold or mildew that can crop up when the ground freezes and materials break down on the frozen surface.
Protect the ground in your planting beds as well as lawn areas with layers of mulched brown materials. Pine needles and similar yard waste provides ample protection against both frost and mildew throughout the winter months as the needles and bark do not break down easily.
Winter and fall don’t necessarily mean an end to your efforts composting at home. The materials produced naturally during this time can help ensure the ground has all the nutrients and protection it needs to weather the snowy seasons and spring back when the warm weather returns. Taking the time to get the right mix of materials and focusing on composting early and protecting the ground as the seasons change can make a real difference the next year.
Advancements in technology have the potential to do great good and great harm to our environment. The toxic lake of tech waste in Batou, Mongolia, is testament to the damage that modern technology can do to the environment. The man-made pool of toxic sludge is a result of the tech industry, which relies heavily upon rare earth elements to create everything from magnets to smartphone screens.
On the other hand, advances in technology have allowed renewable energy industries to thrive and gain traction in many countries across the world. About 2.5 million Americans work in renewable energy, which benefits from technology coming out of the tech sector.
Is Clean Energy Truly Clean?
It would be quite difficult to do a proper analysis of the actual environmental costs of the industry and innovation that actually goes into producing the components for renewable power. The production of materials and technology required for a renewable energy operation could potentially be executed in extremely environmentally unfriendly ways — which defeats the purpose.
Clean energy is a noble goal, and despite the political climate it remains competitive in the U.S. There are a lot of reasons to hope for a future in which the majority of energy is clean, but without clean methods of production we might just be spinning our wheels.
We need to start thinking about sustainability in the design process. The engineers who create advancements in renewable power need to start considering the impact not just of the result of their ideas, but of the systems that create them. From the production of basic materials, to transport, to the machines required for assembly, we need to change the entire supply chain that creates clean technology.
From legal careers that focus on green issues, to corporate social responsibility positions that give people the opportunity to change the way an entire company thinks about the business they do, there are opportunities emerging for individuals to create real change. For people concerned about environmental issues, it’s rare to have the opportunity to do so much good. The work can be so daunting that we don’t know where to begin.
Solar power, wind power, and electric cars are high-end products and the result of long, complex production chains. Until we change the way those chains work, the footprint of clean technology may continue to have an unpleasant dark side. The bottom-up change is absolutely achievable.
Taking an epic, all-day trip into the great outdoors is one of the best things you can do—when you have the time and energy. All too often, though, busy schedules mean that micro-adventures requiring little to no preparation are more realistic.
And with manageable excursions around every corner, Chattanooga makes it easy to get your outdoor fix in small doses. Here are a few of our favorite effortless ways to get outside in Chattanooga—no maps or gear required.
1. Signal Point
Tucked into the cliffside in Signal Mountain’s historic district, Signal Point is the perfect destination for nature lovers and history buffs alike. From the parking lot, it’s only about a hundred yards down a gradual staircase to the first overlook, a spot was used by the Union to send communication signals during the Civil War. From here, you’ll have a clear view of the Tennessee River as it cuts through the steep gorge. Raccoon Mountain is also visible to the west.
2. Riverwalk Cycling
Chattanooga’s Riverwalk is impressive both for its length and its scenery. The wide, paved path spans from St. Elmo to the Chickamauga Dam, passing directly through downtown along the way. The Riverwalk is almost entirely flat, making it manageable for all skill levels and ages, and it offers amenities such as restrooms, playgrounds, and picnic tables. A popular access point to the riverfront path is from the Bluff View Art District in the heart of downtown. Don’t have a bike? Pick one up at one of over 30 bikeshare docking stations and pedal to your heart’s content.
3. Reflection Riding Nature Center and Arboretum
Take a trip to this hidden gem for a relaxing day in a beautiful natural area. Located at the foot of Lookout Mountain, Reflection Riding offers 14 miles of hiking trails, a 3-mile scenic drive, calm water, wildlife, and much more. With more than 300 acres of beautiful meadows and forests—plus a native animal exhibit and vibrant gardens—Reflection Riding is a lovely place for people of all ages to spend a day outside.
4. Walnut Street Bridge and Coolidge Park
Connecting the trendy NorthShore neighborhood to the lively downtown area, the Walnut Street Bridge is one of Chattanooga’s signature attractions. The blue-trussed bridge was constructed in 1890 and was once the longest pedestrian bridge in the world. Though it no longer holds that title, the beautiful bridge remains a favorite place for both locals and visitors to enjoy walking, running, and biking. Coolidge Park, located just below the Walnut Street Bridge on NorthShore, is a great spot to relax and cool off on the Tennessee riverfront after your stroll.
5. Outdoor Bars and Restaurants
For breakfast, lunch, dinner, or anything in between, Chattanooga restaurants are teeming with fantastic outdoor seating areas. For coffee, pastries, and café fare, visit the European-style cobblestone patio at Rembrandt’s Coffee House in the art district. At lunchtime, grab a seat outside of 1885 Grill for southern coastal cuisine and premium people-watching experience in the St. Elmo neighborhood. In the evening, have beers, burgers, and fried pickles on the rooftop deck of the Pickle Barrel, which overlooks the busy downtown Market Street. Or, for a slightly swankier outing, stop in at Beast and Barrel for cocktails on the back porch, which looks out over Coolidge Park.
6. Chattanooga Ducks
For a one-of-a-kind tour of the Scenic City, take a spin on the Chattanooga Ducks. The Ducks are amphibious military vehicles that offer a two-for-one tour of downtown and the Tennessee River. After an informative ride around some of the city’s main attractions, the Ducks coast right into the river for a trip around MacLellan Island and a unique view of the Tennessee Aquarium, the Hunter Museum, and the riverfront parks.
7. Sunset Rock
Another of Chattanooga’s most well-loved natural features, Sunset Rock is an easy-to-get-to panoramic overlook on Lookout Mountain. The parking lot is tiny, but if you manage to get a spot, it’s only a few steps to catch a gorgeous glimpse of Lookout Valley from Sunset Rock, which was also a key site during the Civil War. While it’s arguably the best place to watch a sunset in Chattanooga, this overlook is worth a visit any time of day.
8. Chattanooga Market
Every Sunday from May to November, vendors and artisans from around the region set up shop at the open air First Tennessee Pavilion for the Chattanooga Market. You’ll find gourmet cheese, local produce, craft beer, unique art, fresh popcorn, and much more among the market’s many aisles. Each week, there are an array of food trucks and local musicians, so you can easily make a day of your trip to the Chattanooga Market.
9. SUP on the Tennessee River
If you’ve always wanted to try stand-up paddleboarding, there’s no better place than Chattanooga. With the Tennessee River flowing right through downtown, getting on the river couldn’t be easier. And because of this easy access, there are several places around town to rent gear and get instruction. Rock/Creek Rentals and Outpost on the Riverwalk offers a variety of SUPs and kayaks, and their knowledgeable staff will make sure you’re comfortable and confident before getting on the water. Similarly, L2 Outside on NorthShore offers SUP rentals and weekly guided paddles on the Tennessee River.
10. Montague Park
This little-known park on Chattanooga’s Southside is part green space and part outdoor art museum. As the largest sculpture park in the Southeast, Sculpture Fields is home to more than 35 pieces of gigantic outdoor art from sculptors around the world. With walking paths and acres of grass, Montague Park plays host to festivals, yoga classes, school field trips, and much more. It’s perfect for a picnic or a casual stroll among the sculptures.
11. North Chick Blue Hole
One of Chattanooga’s favorite swimming holes, the North Chick Blue Hole is an easy walk from the parking area near Soddy-Daisy. Large boulders in the creek act as natural dams to create several deep plunge pools, perfect for cooling off on a hot day. Though the area is heavily trafficked, especially in the summer, its location in the valley between Mowbray and Signal Mountains makes the North Chick Blue Hole feel like an oasis.
12. Southside Coffee Shop Crawl
Enjoying a cup of coffee at one of Chattanooga’s many cafés is always great, but enjoying it on the porch of one of the Southside’s quaint coffee shops is even better. Take a little tour of the coffee scene and experience the variety of relaxing patios at each one. Treat yourself to locally roasted coffee and fresh-baked bread on the stony patio at Niedlovs, sandwiches and a view of the bustling Chattanooga Choo Choo at the Frothy Monkey, and biscuits and house-roasted coffee at Mean Mug.
Written by Madison Eubanks for RootsRated Media in partnership with Chattanooga CVB.