Sustainable Landscaping

Hannah Mitchell

May 21, 2021

Some landscaping is complex, high-maintenance, and resource-consuming. These yards have plants that consume high quantities of water and yet still die faster, as they aren't hardy enough. But it doesn't have to be that way. Your landscape design can be beautiful while being environmentally sustainable and easy to maintain. What's the difference? A bit of knowledge and intentionality. Make your yard the perfect space for you, both today and for the rest of your life.  While the sustainability movement started in the late 60s and early 70s, it wasn't until 1987, less than 30 years ago, that the most recognized and acceptable definition of sustainable development appeared. Several countries in the UN created the Brundtland Report, which defined sustainable development as  "development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs." By considering the needs of our planet as well as ourselves, we can preserve the limited resources we have to secure them for the future.  You don't have to overhaul your entire yard in order to create a more sustainable landscape. Cultivating an eco-friendly, low-maintenance landscape can happen through small changes and intentional choices. Sustainable landscaping is focused on many different principles, including reducing waste and the use of chemicals, conserving water, minimizing pollution, welcoming wildlife, and recycling natural resources. Here are some practical outworkings of this philosophy to practice in your own yard.  

Conserving Water  

When we see water as a valuable resource, we pay more attention to how much we use! Overusing water is not only a waste for the environment, but also for your bank account.  

Barrel collecting rainwater

A great way to save water is by harvesting rainwater. Rain barrels are perfect for collecting water to reuse for your plants. Rain chains and cisterns are also great ways to put rainwater to use. You can also create a dedicated container for stormwater runoff from roofs and gutters, to reduce leaf litter and waste, and to stop pollution from entering our water supply. If there is an area of your yard where rainwater tends to pool, consider installing some flood-resistant plants, tucked in with loosely packed, deep soils. These rain gardens can absorb water and filter out pollutants.  Finally, check your irrigation to make sure there are no leaks or waste. You can also save money and time by installing an automatic sprinkler system, instead of manually turning on and off-- or forgetting to turn on and off-- sprinklers connected to a hose.  

Reimagining The Lawn

Take your water conservation to the next level by replacing a grass lawn with different ground cover or mulching. Mulch regulates soil temperature, retains moisture, and inhibits weeds. It keeps plants healthy and adds nutrients to soil, reducing the need for chemical fertilizers. Grass also guzzles water, which puts a dent in your wallet and our world. Mulch or other ground covers have little to no water or maintenance requirements. Ground cover plants hug the ground, usually don't need to be mowed, and don't require pesticides or herbicides.  If you decide to stick with a grass lawn, leave your grass clippings around. These clippings are 75-85% water, and rich in nitrogen, keeping your lawn moist and healthy. If you need to remove those clippings, however, don't just throw them away. Try adding them to a compost bin! Recycling and reusing natural materials is an important element to sustainable landscaping. One of the best and easiest ways to do this composting! Reduce the garbage you produce, and collect free fertilizer rich in nutrients.  

Compost pile

Careful Plant Selection

Select your plants carefully with consideration for the climate in your area. For our Gainesville landscaping, drought-resistant plants are even more important than they would be ordinarily, as we have no lack of sun and heat! However, we can also get heavy downpours and hurricanes. Consider flood-resistant plants for areas of your yard more prone to collecting rainwater, and consider wind-resistant plants that will stay strong during storms. Sustainable landscaping is all about intentionality: considering what plants will work best for each part of your landscape design.  

Another principle of sustainable landscaping is considering what resources we are putting into our plants. Use fertilizer and pest control carefully; be sure to use the right products in the right amounts, at the right times of year. Reach out to trained professionals, such as your friends at LawnMore, for any fertilizer tips or advice. Another way to consider what resources we're using is to weed out and remove any problematic plants. Replace any plants that require excessive water, labor, or pest control, with hardier material.  

Attract more bees and pollinators to your garden as part of your approach to creating a sustainable landscape[/caption]Finally, create a safe haven to attract pollinators, birds, and small animals by adding trees, flowers, shrubs, and grasses that create food and shelter. Not only are you providing resources for creatures in your environment, but these animals will also help you in return by pollinating, fertilizing plants, and keeping away pests.  For a comprehensive guide to practical sustainable landscaping right here in our state, look to the nine principles of Florida-Friendly Landscaping from IFAS. For more advice on how to make your eco-friendly Gainesville landscape dreams a reality, reach out to the friendly professionals at LawnMore.

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