Free “smart yard” program helps the environment and your wallet

Hoping for cleaner land and water, Tennessee Smart Yards is free online training, plus an in-person event this weekend.
Published: Sep. 14, 2023 at 9:53 AM EDT|Updated: Sep. 14, 2023 at 10:01 AM EDT
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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - Many of us work hard to make our lawn or garden look its best, but is yours “smart”?

The Tennessee Smart Yards program offers free online videos, lessons, and goals to make the land and water healthier starting with your yard.

There is a free event at the UT Gardens on Saturday, September 16th, from 9 AM to Noon, organized by some master gardeners, including Mohana Yethiraj. But, Mohana says she was excited to help with this event because you don’t have to be a master to have a “smart yard”.

She said, “It was a really cool program because it wasn’t very prescriptive. You didn’t have to do this, that, and the other.”

Through an online guide and informational videos, you can conveniently see what changes you can make, such as putting in native plants. “Just small incremental steps that make a huge difference,” Mohana pointed out.

This is a statewide effort, with Andrea Ludwig working as a Tennessee Smart Yards Program coordinator. She’s also an associate professor at UT, but now she wants to help you learn. She said, “A smart yard is one that’s in natural balance with the surrounding environment to work for both people and our ecosystem.”

Yard is more of a title because Andrea points out that parts of the program apply to someone with an apartment balcony, to a small yard, or multiple acres. “Everything from right plant, right place. Knowing your landscape, learning about the soils, the microclimate, moisture condition, and planting towards that,” Andrea said.

Having a smart yard isn’t just green for environmental impacts, but it can actually benefit you financially as well.

The WVLT First Alert Weather team often hears from homeowners after big rain events, with a lot of water sitting in their yard, and Andrea said a smart yard will help you manage that. Part of the online lessons includes “installing rain barrels, building rain gardens, even just planting those soggy spaces in our yards,” explained Andrea.

One example that Mohana loved is that you can wait a little longer to mow. She said the program encourages having a lawn that is closer to 2 inches tall, which makes the root system stronger. “One, so all the water gets sucked down into your yard as it falls, and it doesn’t run off onto the street. And, the second, is your grass is actually healthier,” Mohana explained.

“There’s really a win-win here for us as private property owners and then also the environment,” is how Andrea sums up the Tennessee Smart Yards program.

Andrea would love for hundreds of new yards to be certified “smart” in Tennessee this year, and you can do it all online. CLICK HERE to start the Tennessee Smart Yards program.

The free event at UT Gardens is a fun way to learn more and possibly win some free prizes!

Saturday, September 16th 9 AM to Noon at UT Gardens.
Saturday, September 16th 9 AM to Noon at UT Gardens.(Tennessee Smart Yards)