Earth Day turns 50 years old: Three backyard ideas to support your planet

These simple ideas can help you contribute to a better place for us all

Lindsey Peterson
April 22, 2020 - 2:47 pm
Earth Day

(Getty Images / Kardd)


Today is Earth Day.  Earth Day is an annual event celebrated around the world on April 22 to demonstrate support for environmental protection. First celebrated in 1970, it now includes events coordinated globally by the Earth Day Network in more than 193 countries.

With so many of us staying home, and helping to protect against the spread of coronavirus, many Earth Day celebrations are not happening in 2020.  But, we have just a couple of simple things you can do in your own backyard in order to support our committment to our environment, and keep our one Earth beautiful for future generations.

RELATED: Coronavirus Lessons Apply to Muted Earth Day Celebrations.

Compost Bin

Start Composting
Take a minute to go through your trash.  Among all the plastic (that's another issue), you'll find mostly food scraps.  Instead of tossing it all out to be buried in a landfill, you can use it to beautify your flower and vegetable gardens with compost.  

Composting is much easier than you think it is.  It doesn't "smell".  It doesn't take up much space.  And what you end up with is gold for growing things.  You'll have moist, nutrient-rich soil to spread in your garden beds every year.

What you see in the photo above is a simple box, approximately 3x3.  There are a lot of different options for storing and breaking down your compost, but that is what we use. 

To compost, you layer food scraps and organic material with brown material such as dry leaves.  We save a couple of bags of leaves each fall to use throughout the year, for example.  No, you shouldn't put meat, bones or fat products in there (it will draw animals and won't break down as fast).  Otherwise, any veggies, fruits and egg shells can be dumped in there.  So can old flowers, dry grass or weeds.  

You simply create layers.  Put in a layer of leaves.  Cover that with the organic material.  Repeat.  Every so often, make sure it gets moistened with a light spray from the hose, and you can add some dirt to it to speed the process.  You can get in there with a shovel to rotate it, which will make it break down faster too.  Air helps move things along.  Or just leave it and let nature take it's course.  As long as you keep it covered with leaves and brown material (you can also use dryer lint, torn up paper/cardboard, hair, nail clippings, etc.) you'll never smell it.  In fact, once it starts to break down, it just smells like rich earth that is perfect for your garden.

Rain Barrel

Buy a Rain Barrel 
So easy.  You put this under a gutter spout (just cut it off at the correct height) and start collecting all that glorious rainwater.  Attach a hose to the spout, and use that to water your garden and lawn.  

Water costs money. Save some of that by collecting it off your roof.  Plus, it's better for your flowers than tap water anyway.

Bees, bath, water

Create a Bee-Friendly Space
Bees are necessary.

Native bees pollinate native plants like cherries, blueberries, and cranberries, and were here long before European honeybees were brought to the country by settlers (honeybees are not native to North America).  Bees of all sorts pollinate approximately 75 percent of the fruits, nuts and vegetables grown in the United States.  In other words, one out of every four bites of food people take is courtesy of bee pollination according to the USGS.  

Yes, we need bees.  And unfortunately, many of us have yards that are not friendly to our pollinators.  We spray chemicals and pesticides on our lawns that are dangerous to pollinators.  

You can easily create a bee-friendly space by being careful about what chemicals you're using and planting flowers with pollen and nectar. Also, you can use a bird bath in your garden to create a space for bees.  They do drink water.  Putting a small pile of rocks in there allows for a spot bees can get a little drink and be better pollinators.  You should be excited to see a bunch of bumblebees flocking around your raspberry bushes.  

The co-host of WCCO's Smart Gardens and U of M Extension Educator Julie Weisenhorn also shares some tips on how to adjust your fall cleanup routine to help pollinators through the fall and winter.  

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