Creating a Sustainable Landscape
It seems everyone is talking these days about sustainability. What exactly is sustainability and how does the concept apply it to residential gardens and home landscapes?
What is sustainability? According to the US EPA:
Sustainability is based on a simple principle: Everything that we need for our survival and well-being depends, either directly or indirectly, on our natural environment. Sustainability creates and maintains the conditions under which humans and nature can exist in productive harmony, that permit fulfilling the social, economic and other requirements of present and future generations.
Sustainability is important to making sure that we have and will continue to have, the water, materials, and resources to protect human health and our environment.
In terms of landscape design, sustainability is defined as
- First, do no harm. Preserve existing vegetation wherever possible, especially native vegetation. Protect existing trees, especially desirable species, from the impacts of construction and landscape work.
- Reduce runoff during construction through temporary seeding and silt fencing. Capture rainfall after construction through bio-swales, rain gardens, and above or underground rain storage tanks and infiltration systems.
- Reduce excessive use of nitrogen fertilizers. Yes, this may mean reducing the total area of lawn grass.
- Restore compacted soils. Soils often become compacted during the development and construction of a home or neighborhood. This leads to poor drainage, weakened plant growth, and increased rainfall runoff. Breaking up compacted soils and adding organic matter will go a long way toward restoring the health of the ecosystem and garden.
- Reduce reliance on wasteful irrigation. Plant selection with use of attractive, yet drought-tolerant species is a key factor, as well as minimization of thirsty lawn areas. The use of drip rather than spray irrigation is another way to minimize wasteful use of water.
- Compost yard waste. Composting lawn trimmings, weeds and other green matter, including kitchen waste can be accommodated in all but the smallest yards.
There are other elements of a sustainable landscape that are more technical, for the more curious more information can be found at the Sustainable SITES Initiative website, http://www.sustainablesites.org.
The important message to take away from this brief description of sustainability in the landscape is that all of these measures ultimately promote the health and well-being of the community and the homeowner and enhance their relationship with nature and their surrounding environment.
Whether your property is a small, urban backyard or a sprawling estate, the key concepts of sustainability can be applied to craft a healthy, aesthetically beautiful and functional environment.
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