Local lifestyle columnists

Reap savings from your yard and garden

By From page C4 | January 19, 2014

We all like saving money. But did you know strategically selected and planted trees and plants in your yard can put money in your pockets? And even better yet, all the tools you need to help you save are available for free.

Energy savings

Knowing the best location to plant a tree on your property can save you money year after year. In real estate there’s that saying about the importance of “location, location, location.” The same is true with your trees. A well-placed tree can lower your energy bill by providing shade over your home during the summer, reducing the amount of heat it absorbs, thereby keeping it cooler. It can also help block the wind, decreasing drafts in your home.

But do you know the best location to plant a tree on your property and which of the trees you like is the best for these purposes? Do you know the annual financial and other benefits you receive from each of the trees  planted in your yard? If not, i-Tree Design, a free software program from the United States Forest Service, can provide you with this information. i-Tree Design will calculate your home energy savings based upon where a tree or trees will be, or are planted on your property and the type of tree planted.

i-Tree Design, part of a suite of applications designed to provide analysis and benefits of urban forests, is free and easy to use. You simply enter your address and the program brings up a satellite image of the property. You click and drag a planting icon onto the image to where you have, or intend to plant a tree, select the type of tree from a drop down menu, and input the tree’s condition and trunk size. The program will respond with the estimated monetary value and benefits of the tree planted or to be planted.

For example, the mulberry tree in my front yard annually provides $26.74 of benefits, saves 27.36 kilowatts of electricity, reduces 125 pounds of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and intercepts 775.58 gallons of storm water. The software provides details on all of the specific benefits of the tree. You can access i-Tree Design at www.itreetools.org.

Grocery savings

You don’t need to have a vegetable garden to save on your grocery bill if you opt for edible landscaping. Edible landscaping is the use of food-producing trees, bushes and plants in your home landscape. Whether you’re simply replacing a dead tree or bush, or putting in a complete new yard, you can choose to plant a fruit or nut tree, or a berry bush instead of simply an ornamental. Just think of the money you could save from drinking fresh-squeezed orange juice from your own tree. You can even start small by planting a row of colorful pepper varieties in your flower bed, or planting asparagus where you would normally plant your annual flowers. Or if you like landscaping with planters, consider filling a planter with a variety of commonly used herb and spice plants.

Planting a year round vegetable garden can easily save you over a hundred dollars.

If you don’t have the space, planting just a single tomato plant in a planter can save you some money. Or planting lettuce in a planter makes a decorative and edible display.

Information on growing edible plants and trees can be found on the web at http://ucanr.edu/sites/gardenweb/.

Entertainment savings

If you have children, a lawn can provide hours of recreation, eliminating the need to frequently pay for outside entertainment. For their education and physical activity, consider teaching them how to garden. Set aside a small area or planter for your children to grow flowers and vegetables. A poll conducted earlier this year by the British Nutrition Foundation found a shocking percentage of secondary students think tomatoes grow underground and that cheese is made from plants. Teaching your kids gardening teaches them where their food comes from. Your local public library has books on gardening for children.

Paying attention to your yard and garden will pay off. Plus landscaped homes generally have a higher value than non-landscaped homes. So reap the benefits of your yard.

Kathy Low is a Master Gardener with the University of California Cooperative Extension office in Fairfield. If you have gardening questions, call the Master Gardeners office at 784-1322.

Kathy Low


Discussion | 1 comment

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  • Rich GiddensJanuary 19, 2014 - 8:35 am

    Great article but your average Californian is not interested in anything aesthetic or redeeming. Their idea of gardening is to dry up the lawn and shrubs and stake a vicious pitbul to the dead tree trunk in the front yard. The only thing they want to grow is marijuana.

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