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Cultivate Curb Appeal With A Sustainable Landscape

Fixing up the inside of a home and cleaning up the yard is challenging in itself. Overhauling a yard can get expensive and time consuming. But while you spruce up outdoors, look at ways you can blend resourceful designs into your home’s curb appeal.

With growing demands for green building and sustainable landscaping, more homeowners want natural luxury outside their front door—without the extra maintenance. Sustainable landscaping is practical since it integrates plants and materials, which are in balance with the local climate.

Every yard is unique. You can incorporate just a few well-placed plants to save water. Or for a really self-sustaining garden, have a lawn like a meadow with every variety of herb, flower, grass, vegetable and fruit.

With careful planning, sustainable design:

  • Adds distinctive visual beauty—from formal to informal design.
  • Is low maintenance and cost effective long term.
  • Is easy to implement.
  • Requires minimal inputs and resources—less water, fertilizer or pesticides.
  • Reduces your home’s energy consumption.
  • Is environmentally sound—reducing carbon, chemicals and toxins.

Plan with Maintenance in Mind

Walk around your property to identify areas you want to accentuate for beauty and functionality. Whether you want to add an herb garden, a work area or patio, work with the slopes and boundaries of your yard. By designing with the natural patterns in the landscape, you make the most of space and maximize drainage for growing the best plants.

If possible, work with existing pathways as part of the outline for your yard. For interest and safety, modify pathways or make new ones that follow higher grades and natural curves in the land.

Consider sun and shade patterns, wind patterns and soil conditions throughout the yard. Different plants will do better in varying conditions or microclimates within your yard.

A landscape designer or contractor can help you choose the best plants for a sustainable landscape.

Grow Beauty and Function with Sustainable Vegetation

Sustainable landscapes grow a full spectrum of plants fitted for any style—from informal cottage to formal Chinese and everything in between.

Add sturdy lushness to your yard with native plants, which adapt easily to local climates and need less water. Self-seeding grasses and plants are ideal for sustainable landscapes—simply gather seedpods to crush and spread seeds where you want them to grow. Plants will flourish naturally. To minimize water requirements, keep plants with similar needs together in the same areas.

Fruit and nut-bearing trees, herbs, vegetables and edible flowers can be combined in any aesthetic variation, while providing food for you and local wildlife.

Deciduous trees, like maple, oak and elm, give shade in summer and allow sun in winter. Planted near the house, they provide comfort, while cutting down on energy bills. Turn a section of your yard into a cool summer woodland to further reduce air conditioning bills. Trees and hedges also form windbreaks, helping to cut your home’s fuel consumption by 1/3 and more.

Vines and bamboo gardens create privacy and shade around patios.

Use Eco-friendly Materials

A sustainable landscape relies more on vegetation, than hardscape materials, for forming boundaries like walls and fences. For walkways and driveways, be resourceful by using porous materials such as mulch, gravel or crushed stone, which are abundant and allow drainage. Try to use local and salvaged materials like used bricks or concrete.

Work with Nature

Attractive landscaping of any kind grows out of functional design planning. Whether you hire a landscape expert or do-it-yourself, work with the existing natural environment to develop a sustainable yard fitted to your lifestyle. No matter what you design—from an herb and vegetable garden to a meandering walkway or a meadow-like grass to a self-seeded lawn—shape areas and borders with vegetation suited to the climate and location. By working with the land you can create a self-sustaining yard over time tailored for your lifestyle. Instead of watering and fertilizing, you can spend more time enjoying the natural beauty, which is an extension of your home.

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Design a Stroll Garden

If you have enough space, a stroll garden can be a rewarding replacement for much or all of your lawn. It will introduce secret delights and their anticipation, promote contemplation, and draw you and your visitors out among the plants.

The Physical Journey

In her motivational book The Inward Garden, landscape designer Julie Moir Messervy writes:

The single most useful image that I know for composing the elements of a landscape into a coherent and interesting whole is the journey.”

Messervy studied the art of garden design in Japan, where the stroll garden is a well-known form. Its key requirement is space—not to produce sufficient exercise, but rather to give ample stimulation for the stroller’s mind.

A stroll garden can take several forms:

  • a path to a destination, excellent for a long skinny yard
  • a loop past a series of destinations, for a wider space
  • a network of loops and branches

The Anticipation

Suspense and discovery are key moods in a stroll garden, which should not be entirely visible from any point but should hold hidden elements to be discovered around bends, over rises, in the shadows, and behind bushes. This allows the stroller to experience the garden as a series of events, not just a static view–to participate and not simply observe. Alvin Horton explains in Creating Japanese Gardens:

The idea of anticipating and then discovering beauty, detail by detail, is central to the stroll-style garden. Such beauty is often subtle, so its discovery requires a pleasant effort by the stroller.”

The Discovery

What the stroller will discover are your garden’s focal points. Anything sufficiently interesting can be a focal point: a sculpture, a dramatic plant, a group of plants, a section of the garden, or a view of a distant scene. As the garden’s designer, it will be your job to create these focal points.

Instead of trying to fit many focal points into a smaller garden, you can build it around one major element, having that come into and out of view from several well-chosen vantage points along the path. This change of perspective, seeing something from a new side or within a new context, can generate sufficient surprise and mystery to reward strollers.

To capture a viewer’s full attention, allow only one focal point to be visible at a time. Obscure the view until you are ready to reveal it. You can do this with tall plants or a section of fencing, by causing the path to go up or down a hill, or by curving the path.

Curves give the added benefit of making your garden seem larger. The trick is that, to discourage short cuts and make the path feel natural, every curve must have a clear purpose, either turning toward a goal (a bench, a statue, a gate) or curving around an obstacle (a boulder, a shrub, a clump of grass).

The Mind Journey

Messervy suggests that when people view your garden, they “unconsciously take a journey through it in their minds.” To invite meditation, include a comfortable seat or a sturdy surface from which to view each focal point. The vantage point should feel safe; you can achieve this by having walls (of living material or hardscape) at its back and sides to “enfold” the viewer, relaxing the body and releasing the mind to wander.

Unplanned focal points can appear in your garden. A flock of cedar waxwings descends on your highbush cranberry (Viburnum trilobum) and strips it of berries. A rabbit or frog leaps across the path. Dew touches the giant web of a skilled spider. These chance events make strollers more alert and add to their sense of discovery.

The Road Traveled

Your choice and placement of path materials will significantly affect a stroller’s experience.

With stepping stones, you can influence the speed with which strollers progress and the attention they pay to their feet, and therefore indirectly the attention that remains to give their surroundings. Small stones with rough surfaces set farther apart will keep people’s eyes on the path. Place larger stones where you want them to pause, look up, and appreciate the view.

Wide, clear paths foster a slow pace and constant observation of the garden, while narrow or overgrown paths increase the stroller’s speed. Widen your path at viewing areas to allow strollers to notice your focal point.

Changing your path material can signal a change in the mood or character of the garden. In fact, if you do change your path significantly and the garden doesn’t follow through on the promise, your visitors may be subtly disappointed.

One well-designed urban park in Saint Paul, Minnesota, includes two paths that deliver contrasting experiences. Around the edges of the park, the country path of crushed gravel meanders under trees footed by wildflowers, then crosses a brook on stepping stones. The city path, wider and laid with rows of brick, flows past benches and open paved areas in the park’s center. Using well-chosen path materials, the park offers two distinct journeys within the same city block.

(original post)

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How to Plant a Kitchen Herb Garden

Have some extra space in your yard or garden? Plant a fresh and simple herb garden only steps away from the kitchen.

Suggested Herbs

  • basil (‘Purple Ruffles’ or ‘Dani’)
  • sage
  • oregano
  • common thyme
  • sweet marjoram
  • lavender
  • rosemary
  • parsley
  • chives
  • cilantro

Pick a Location

Pick the location for your herb garden. An ideal location would be a few steps from your kitchen, but any spot that gets about six hours of sun a day is good. If you have space in front of a kitchen window, plant the herbs in small containers for an indoor garden.

Prepare the Area for Planting

Prepare the area for planting by loosening the soil. If the soil is compacted or consists of heavy clay, improve drainage by adding some compost, peat moss or coarse sand. Work the material into the top foot of soil before you plant. Tip: Plant early in the morning or late in the afternoon to prevent the transplants from wilting in the midday sun.

Dig Planting Holes

Because you are starting herbs from bedding plants and not seeds, you will need to create larger planting holes. Dig each hole to about twice the width of the root ball of the new plant.

Add Plants to Soil

Space the bedding plants about 18 inches apart to give them room to spread out and grow. Tip: Place taller herbs, like sage, rosemary and marjoram, toward the back of the garden, and place parsley and cilantro at the front.

Label Herbs

Add labels to each of your freshly planted herbs to make them easy to identify when cooking.

Surround With Flowering Plants

For accents of color in your herb garden, add flowering plants like zinnias and salvia. Tip: Plant perennials on one side and annuals on the other for easier replanting next year.

Water Regularly

Give the new transplants plenty of water. Once established, make sure your herbs get an inch of water each week throughout the growing season.

Harvest Mature Herbs

Begin harvesting from the herbs as soon as they are mature, but take only a little bit each time you harvest. If you remove more than a third of the plant at one time, it takes longer to recover and produce new foliage. To promote branching, keep the tops of the plants pinched back in early summer. With judicious picking, most herbs can be harvested for several months. Tip: Fresh herbs taste best when harvested in the morning. Also, herbs are most flavorful if harvested before they bloom.

(original source)