How to Reduce Noise Pollution in Your Yard

green landscape solutions for noiseAs suburban sprawl continues and traffic demands increase everywhere, more homeowners are faced with an annoying byproduct: noise.

But there are numerous ways to fight noise. We'll start with your yard. Several "green" solutions exist that, when combined, can reduce the perception of noise.

Here are some things you can do.
Sound moves in waves, so think of them as ocean waves crashing against your home. And like water, sound will take the easiest path. So your first objective is to physically block as much as possible. The most obvious way is a tall, tightly-made fence with few gaps. Regulations set by your city or homeowners association will determine how tall you can make it or if it can enclose your property.

Fencing, however, is just one tool. Others are plants and land berms.

First, the foundation: land berms. A berm is a wall or mound of dirt that changes the contour of your yard. One "green" use of berms is to slow water runoff and reduce water pollution. From a noise reduction perspective, a berm functions as a natural contour to physically block noise and provide a firm foundation for a fence.

For example, if your homeowners association only allows fences 5 feet tall, you could place your regulation-size fence on top of your berm. This would raise your fence and block more noise. (But check to see if you could do this in your area.)

Berms are built by moving existing soil in your yard, or by bringing in additional topsoil. Here's the formula for how many cubic yards of soil you'll need. You also can build your own berm with compost, by piling yard and home waste (leaves, grass clippings, cardboard, shredded paper) and other biodegradable material -- not meats or fats -- and covering it with a thick layer of mulch.

This construction method will take considerably more time to create, based on the size required. Your berm also might settle over time as the compost decomposes. But the advantage to the build-your-own process is the reduced cost and the fact that it will enhance overall soil fertility. Either way, the berm will still block noise.

Next, plant both sides of the berm and fence.

Ideally, select a range of plants that will fill in densely and require minimal care. Landscape with a mix of heights -- but similar water and sun requirements -- for best results. A mixture of evergreen plants such as arborvitaes, spruces, pines, and hollies will offer a year-round barrier.

Trees can help muffle noise, too. First, trees will visually block the source of the noise. Psychologically, this is half the battle.

Rustling leaves also provide white noise to mask other sounds. Consider planting trees with edible fruits (apples, peaches, etc.) or nuts (chestnuts, hazelnuts) as an additional benefit to enjoy. Or plant flowering trees helpful to wildlife, available at The Arbor Day Foundation. Poplar trees are indeed "popular" due to their fast growth, but will die in about 20 years.

Fountains and other man-made water features create white noise, too.

Another approach to noise reduction is to button up your house as much as possible. Start with the windows for best noise-reducing results.

A combination of indoor and outdoor measures will significantly reduce the amount of noise you experience.
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