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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.

(source)

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Eco-Friendly Landscape Essentials

Organic matter is the most basic element that determines soil fertility, and compost is the best organic matter source that you can offer a landscape, so compost is an essential part of any green landscaping project—its job is to nourish your plants by infusing the soil with life and fertility. “Feed the soil, not the plants” is a common adage among landscapers and gardeners, and if this goal is met, plants will not require supplemental nutrients in the form of fertilizer. If the native soil on a project soil does not have adequate organic matter, compost will need to be added. And what exactly does compost do? Let’s take a ground-level look at the process:

  • It insulates the soil and helps it to retain moisture longer than usual.
  • It adds a complex web of microorganisms to the soil that can be thought of as nature’s “fertilizer factories.” Chemical fertilizer can prove to be fatal to many of these sensitive organisms, and overuse of non-natural products can kill all life in the soil.
  • Most of these little bugs eat organic matter in the soil and turn it into nutrients that plants need in order to thrive.
  • It provides a complete nutrient base that facilitates the symbiotic relationship between the microorganisms and the plant. Plants produce sugar (carbohydrates) through photosynthesis and send this energy down to the roots. Roots collect nutrients like nitrogen, calcium, and magnesium, and will often make a trade exchange with microorganisms—sugars for nutrients.

Bagged compost can be purchased at any hardware store or nursery, but the best quality compost is often found at your local compost facility (sometimes located near your local dump). This facility compost material is usually for large projects only—the minimum purchase is generally a truckload that will run an average of $20 per truckload and $100 per dumptruck load.

The green landscaping industry takes its cues from various horticultural viewpoints such as permaculture and organics. These methods emphasize emulating nature by creating a complex web of soil life to sustain plants, rather than constantly applying harsh petrochemical fertilizers to push growth. Compost is a great alternative to these harsh treatments because it contributes to the desired soil complexity and one application can sustain plants for at least a year, while the effects of harsh chemical fertilizers last a month at most.

There are many debates surrounding how to incorporate compost into the soil, most of them centered on rototilling, a process that creates some damaging effects by contributing to soil compaction and erosion. Unfortunately, rototilling happens to be the only economical way to thoroughly mix compost into soil. Most green landscaping companies aim to avert considerable soil damage by rototilling a substantial amount of compost into a site’s soil before planting, and thus, very littler fertilizer is needed.

The process of adding any beneficial material to the soil is called amending the soil. Once the soil is properly amended with organic matter, let the planting begin! Sustainable landscaping companies generally place very small plants in 4-inch pots. These small plants will grow faster than larger plants, and they usually prove to be masters at adapting to wherever they are planted by quickly spreading root systems deep into the soil. Smaller plants also require less energy for growth, further reducing the carbon footprint of a green landscape.

(original source)

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Getting Started with Sustainable Landscaping: Tips from the Field

Sustainability in landscape has many different meanings. Some define a sustainable landscape as a discipline that emphasizes plant health, soil condition, water quality, and resource conservation. To be sustainable does not mean the elimination of fertilizers, synthetic compounds, petroleum based products and gas powered equipment. Rather, sustainability means the creation of outdoor spaces that utilize the three R’s, ‘reduce, recycle, reuse’. A sustainable landscape creates a balanced relationship between the natural and manmade environment.

The Approach

Each year millions are spent on designing, building, and maintaining landscapes that use too many unsustainable resources. This is wasteful and depletes our water, contaminates the soil and water table, and pollutes the air from the use of gas-powered equipment. These problems can be avoided or reduced by practicing sustainable landscape design and construction. Using sustainable practices will reduce greenhouse gasses by conserving resources, energy and minimizing fertilizer and pesticide use. A sustainable landscape will also reduce labor costs, making it less expensive overall to implement and maintain.

Gary’s Sustainable Landscaping Guidelines

1. [For new planting areas] add 6″ of compost to the soil and use a rototiller to incorporate the compost into the top 4″.

2. Mulch and top dress with 3″ of compost.

3. Design low volume irrigation by installing low volume nozzles and subsurface drip system to reduce water use and increase soil moisture. Install an Evapo-Transpiration (ET) controller to reduce over watering. ET controllers use weather data to calculate ET.

4. Install drainage systems to eliminate storm water contamination and add rainwater harvest systems to reclaim run off and collect rainfall. This can be then pumped or gravity feed to the irrigation system.

5. Construct retaining walls, block or vegetative to prevent run off and erosion. Segmented retaining walls are a good way to prevent run off and erosion and allow for drainage behind them. They are engineered and can be built to over 4’. This wall system can keep soil and debris out of the storm water systems.

6. Plant lawn on level ground to prevent run off and conserve water. Always encourage clients to plant turf on the level (see #7)

7. Reduce amount of lawn and instead use ground cover plants or synthetic turf.

8. Practice prudent use of synthetic fertilizers and pest controls. Use Mechanical and natural methods as part of an integrated program. There are polymers on the market that will aerate the soil and combine with a liquid compost product to get great results.

9. Remember use products and materials that are part of Reuse, Reduce, Recycle practices.

(original post by the Ecological Landscaping Association)