In today’s world of landscape design, construction, and maintenance, sustainability has become an increasingly important value.
In response to the long list of environmental issues currently faced by our planet, such as pollution, clean water shortages, and the effects of climate change, landscape designers are promoting new, innovative ways to preserve our natural resources and protect our environment.
Sustainable landscaping all comes down to your ability to align your yard and outdoor spaces with the surrounding environment.
This approach to landscaping means that you carefully consider the local climate, including factors such as temperature, precipitation, and even wind, in all your landscaping decisions.
Whether you’re choosing specific plants, shrubs, or trees, determining pavement materials, or considering how to use mulch and compost, sustainable landscaping has countless benefits.
In the world of sustainable landscaping, no two yards are the same. Someone designing a sustainable landscape in Florida, for example, will have many different concerns compared to one in Alaska.
For sustainability, these two projects should look very different. That’s why, here, we’re taking a focused approach to sustainable landscaping and digging into ways to design and implement a sustainable landscape in a wet environment.
WHAT IS SUSTAINABLE LANDSCAPE?
Some may believe that an appealing landscape and sustainability can’t coexist—but this couldn’t be further from the truth.
In many ways, sustainability can enhance your landscape’s natural appeal because it improves upon the relationship between your yard and the surrounding, natural environment. In many ways, sustainable landscaping is all about balance.
So, what exactly is sustainable landscaping? There’s no single definition for this concept, but in general, it means to make decisions and follow practices that align your yard with the natural conditions of your local environment.
Sustainable landscaping seeks to minimize the impact of your outdoor space, making it more habitable to local flora and fauna and conserving as many resources as possible.
Ecosystems thrive or collapse based on balance—sustainable landscaping strives to restore and maintain this balance, all while saving you time and money.
WHY IS SUSTAINABLE LANDSCAPING IMPORTANT?
Sustainable landscaping is more than just saving the planet.
Of course, preserving resources and reducing your impact on the surrounding environment is critically important—but a sustainable yard can offer so much more. For example, using native plants and trees can reduce your need for expensive pesticides and fertilizer.
Not only does this save you on monthly costs, but it also protects you and your family from an excess of hazardous chemicals.
A sustainable landscape, especially over time, requires far less energy and money for regular upkeep and maintenance.
And who couldn’t use a little more time and money in their lives? While some sustainable landscaping practices may cost more upfront (certain plants or materials) you’ll save in the big picture.
Native plants and trees, for example, survive far better in their local environments, which means you’ll spend far less on replacing them or spraying them down with pesticides.
Using rain barrels on your property to collect rainwater and using permeable surfaces to pave will save on water costs and reduce runoff, which can cause harmful erosion.
STONE AND GRAVEL FOR PAVING
Whether you’re designing a driveway, walkway, or patio area, there are many different materials you can use to pave the surfaces of your landscape.
Aesthetic appeal is important, of course, as you want your space to be as eye-catching as possible. However, if you live in a particularly wet environment, your paving materials could make a major difference.
Instead of hard surfaces, like concrete or tiles, consider using low-impact materials that allow rainwater and snow to absorb into the soil.
This decision can reduce runoff and even help recharge the groundwater beneath your home. Stone and gravel are a few options for permeable paving materials.
If you’re insistent on the look and feel of concrete for your landscape, you could even use a new material called previous concrete.
This unique type of concrete has a higher porosity than traditional concrete and is commonly used for parking lots and sidewalks.
When rain falls naturally on a landscape, grass, soil, and plants filter most of this water, allowing it to absorb back into the ground.
This is a key step in the water cycle. However, when paving over your landscape with hard surfaces, like concrete or asphalt, the water has no place to go, which creates runoff.
Runoff water can collect pesticides, sediment, fertilizer, and other pollutants that build up in the water supply.
One way to combat this is by implementing rain gardens in your landscape. A rain garden is a landscaped area designed to capture, filter, and store rainwater, which helps cut down on flooding and erosion.
A rain garden can look very different depending on the size and plants you use, but there are a few common features.
These gardens always have some type of dip, or bowl, in the ground to collect excess rainwater. Additionally, native plants with deep root systems are preferred because they store much more water.
The garden bed is also generally dug to a lower depth, allowing for more water retention.
Plants love water, right? While it’s true that plants require water for their survival, not all plants and trees need the same amount of precipitation.
Some plants, such as succulents (cacti, aloe, jade plants), will even suffer and may die if they receive too much water.
By choosing plants, trees, shrubs, and flowers that are native to your local environment, you’ll be choosing ones that have evolved to not only survive but thrive, in the amount of precipitation your area receives.
In rainy environments, iris, monkeyflower, daylily, and rose mallow all do well. If you have standing water on your property, cattail, elephant’s ear, and various ferns, all do well.
No matter what type of climate you live in, you should consider how sustainable practices can improve your next landscaping project. Sustainable landscaping can save water, require far fewer chemicals and pesticides, and even save you money in the long run.
On top of all this, sustainable landscaping can strike a finer balance between your outdoor space and the surrounding environment, allowing you to take a step in the right direction toward preserving our planet and natural resources.