Eco-Friendly Landscaping: Where To Start

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Do you know you can conserve energy and natural resources in your yard? You can build or remodel your energy efficient home according to the site’s topography, trees and sun, and disturb as little ground as possible. You can take that kind of care with your landscaping, too.

Landscaping season is just around the corner. This is the time of year to plan your garden. Seed and nursery catalogs are coming in the mail, and gardening articles are all over the web. Think about and plan now for easy, organized planting and maintenance all season. Think ecology and nature when you design your yard. This should have been taken into consideration as the house was designed, but more often than not, it isn’t. Usually the yards are trashed by heavy equipment, instead of being gingerly tread upon, or left alone.

If your particular landscaping project is after-the-fact when it comes to construction, and you need to hire a landscape architect or landscaper, make sure they understand natural principles, ecology and permaculture. Design with the local vegetation, topography, and awareness of water, drainage, and wildlife in mind.

Here’s four areas to concentrate on how you can have an environmentally conscious landscape. And, always, please garden organically!

Water Use

• Catch rainwater from the roof for irrigation. A water catchment system can be as simple as 5-gallon buckets under your overhang, or an elaborate system of gutters, a cistern and a pump for watering food.
• Use gray water from the house for watering trees and shrubs. Water from sinks and shower can be easily rerouted to the outdoors.
• Use drip irrigation. This is a simple system of tubing laid about 6” underground. Separate tubes go to the base of each plant to supply water to each plant’s roots and not all the surrounding soil.
• Plant only native and adaptable plants and grasses. They are used to your environment and need little watering, maintenance and pest control on your part. Join your state and local native plant society to learn about what is appropriate for your particular area.
• Mulch your flower and vegetable beds and around your trees to maintain moisture, eliminating the need for supplemental watering. Install your drip irrigation first, then cover the beds in compost, then top with mulch.
• Turn compost deeply into your soil to add nutrients and water-holding capabilities.
• Reduce your lawn area as much as possible. Grass is notoriously thirsty. Plant native grasses instead, replace your lawn with native flowers and shrubs, plant an edible garden, or, if you must have a lawn, lace it with interesting pathways to reduce the grass area.

Drainage

• Building and gardening with the topography of your land leaves the natural drainage in place. Don’t try to change the direction of water flow. Water is stronger than your intentions, and you will fail.
• Make a drainage swale part of your landscape design by lining it with local rocks and creating a pathway. You can also plant thirsty native plants along the swale to utilize the run-off.
• Do not build or plant in the path of water!

Parking, Driveways & Patios (Hardscaping)

• Hardscaping should be permeable so storm water can seep back into the ground instead of running off. When rain runs off a concrete patio or asphalt driveway, it takes soil with it and creates a flood down the road or at the neighbor’s house. Crusher fines, gravel and permeable pavers are preferable to concrete or asphalt to keep water where it should be – in the ground.
• Plant shade trees to keep your hardscaping from absorbing and radiating summer heat. Shade will keep your outdoor living and parking areas more comfortable day and night.

Wildlife Habitat

• Plant for the animals as well as for yourself. They need food, water, shelter and a place to nest. Native plants will attract wildlife by providing food and shelter.
• Make a brush pile for critters to live in. Every time you trim your trees or need to dispose of your Christmas tree, use your brush pile. Don’t take those things to the landfill!
• A small water feature can attract birds, butterflies, dragonflies and amphibians.

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Work with your environment instead of against it, and you will truly be ‘living with the planet’.

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Nan Fischer

Nan Fischer has been living and building green for over 35 years. Nan’s emphasis on the BuildDirect blog is about how to make your dollar stretch further, while also moving toward a more sustainable lifestyle, as well as upcoming and existing technology to help us live in an ecologically-friendly way. Nan also authors posts on the website of her seed business, sweetly seeds.