We’re thankful for Paul Ballard of Avalon Property Management for contributing this post.
The landscaping around your home is an important part of what makes your home beautiful and valuable. An average lawn produces more cooling than the best AC, and the time you spend caring for it is good for your emotional wellbeing.
But your lawn is also a problem. The little things you do every day to maintain it– watering and applying pesticides or fertilizer – are actually hurting the environment. How is that possible when you only use a small amount of these things?
Your individual use doesn’t seem like much until you consider the total quantity used by the 50 million acres of manicured grass in the USA. Every year in America, lawns use 3 million gallons of water, 70+ million pounds of pesticides, 200 million gallons of gas, and 90 million pounds of chemical fertilizers.
Lawns, in spite of being so inviting, do incredible harm to the environment.
Does that mean you should exchange the lawn around your home for pavements?
Actually, not really. It is possible to have beautiful landscaping without heavy costs to the environment. Good landscaping and environmental health do not have to be in opposition. But to create that type of landscaping, you must be willing to do things differently.
To create landscaping that is in harmony with nature, you may have to undo your existing lawn. But in the end you will be extremely happy with your new creation. This post explores simple ways to make the landscaping around your home friendlier to the environment.
How to design landscaping that is environmentally friendly
Good planning is the foundation for eco-friendly landscape design.
- Site analysis: Map the area where the landscaping will be to determine sun exposure, wind speed, and soil drainage. The characteristics of specific areas form the basis for deciding which plants are best for those areas.
- Lawn size: The best way to reduce the environmental footprint of the landscaping is to reduce the size of the lawn. More grass equals more water. When thinking of size, avoid choosing plants that will quickly outgrow the site and need replacement.
- Allocate areas for turf: Designate specific areas where you want the landscaping to have grass. These should be functional areas such as play spaces and areas around the home’s front entrance, explains Avalon Management.
- Water needs: Water used for lawn irrigation accounts for over 60% of domestic water use in most homes. To cut down on water use, choose plants that require less water. This means plants that are native to the area; are adapted to the climate and can survive without irrigation. Native plants also don’t need pesticides; they are pest-resistant.
- Find out the area’s hardiness zone: Hardiness zone maps tell you which plants are likely to thrive in an area. Knowing your area’s hardiness zones will guide you in your selection of plants. Your goal should be to create an area similar to the natural habitat these plants thrive in.
- Group plants: To further reduce your water usage, group plants with similar water needs together, this will limit your watering to just the area where these plants are.
- Use flowering shrubs: In place of flower beds, which need plenty of water and care, dedicate more space to flowering shrubs and trees. These will supply the colors flower beds should have provided but without the maintenance burdens.
- Use ground cover crops in place of grass: In areas where you would have used grass, replace turf with ground cover crops. These are low-growing and will spread to cover wide areas. They help eliminate bare spots in the landscaping and reduce weeds.
- Layer the landscape: Doing this will add character, create focal points of interest and maximize the curb appeal of your home. To layer the landscape, use a wide selection of plants arranged in a staggered format. This can be done by planting trees, shrubs, vines, and groundcovers in successive rows.
- Use a lot of hardscaping: Hardscaping is the non-living element of landscaping design. Examples of hardscaping include boulder retaining walls, paved walkways, benches, arbors, rock gardens, stepping stone pathways, and more.
- Use smart irrigation: Replace the sprinkler system with drip irrigation or soaker hoses. Sprinklers are wasteful; 30%-50% of their water does not reach the target. Drip irrigation systems deliver water directly to the plants, without wastage.
- Water only when necessary: Unlike newly planted trees and shrubs, which need regular watering, established plants only need occasional watering. If you made the right plant selection, most of the plants in the yard will not need watering.
- Water at the right time: If you need to water the plants, do it between 9 o’clock at night and 9 o’clock in the morning. During these times the rate of water loss due to evaporation and wind is less.
- Mulch heavily: Space out your plants and apply 2-3 inches of mulch between the plants. Mulching helps to keep the soil cool and encourages the growth of earthworms, which promote soil health and fertility.