By Guest Contributor Clara Beaufort, Founder and CEO of GardenerGigs
Eco-friendly landscapes are being embraced by home owners everywhere and for good reason – not only do they generate low monthly maintenance costs, they conserve water and soil nutrients while limiting exposure to toxic fertilizers and pesticides. Though harder to pull off than simply planting drought-resistant plants and preserving water, the effort to plan an eco-friendly landscape is about the same of that of a traditional lawn. The payoff is more rewarding, however, as you create a “green” landscape that is kind to all eyes, the earth and your wallet.
Assess What You Have
Assess your land area thoroughly. Which parts are mostly in the sun or shade? How does the water run and drain throughout your yard? Find answers to these questions and keep your yard’s size top of mind since you’ll want to be picking plants that won’t outgrow their designated spaces. Also notice breeze patterns – some plants require more air circulation than others.
Once you have this information, decide what activities will take place on certain parts of the yard. Maybe you want a designated play area for children or pets, or entertain guests on a hardscape.
Your pre-planning analysis will clue you in on what materials you will need for the landscaping project, always with an eye to conserving water. Artificial turf for play areas and permeable pavers for hardscape and walkways make good use of water and prevent erosion.
If you live in an arid climate, consider xeriscaping – landscaping centered on low-maintenance, drought-tolerant plants. With climate change and several states in the country experiencing regular droughts, xeriscaping is a good way to have a “green” garden with minimal concerns about wasting water in such drought-prone areas.
A professional landscaper can help you develop a design that optimizes the use of your space and soil for your view and activities. Here, you’ll need to consider what plants, flowers, structures and other elements will go into your eco-friendly design.
Factors to take into account include:
-The plants already on your lawn, as well as their sunshine, water and air circulation requirements.
-The microclimates of the yard (temperature, sun and shade zones, soil acidity, animal/insect population, etc.)
-An honest assessment of how much work you’ll want to put into maintenance
Taking these factors into account will help you establish priorities and goals, using what you already have, while balancing your vision with your projected input into the space for the future.
Selection of Plants and Materials
The next step is plant selection. Remember that the plants you buy will grow, so while they might look to have the right size in the store, they might soon outgrow the space you’ve designated for them. To avoid this, don’t be afraid to consult with a plant expert.
To keep your yard as eco-friendly as possible, choose native varieties that resist pests naturally, which can flourish in your area. An easy-to-follow guide to native plants can be found online at Plant Native.
Believe it or not, ground cover, trees and shrubs can help you heat and cool your home – they serve as insulation. According to the Salt River Project (SRP), a desert-adapted tree planted on the east or west side of a house can cool your home by as much as 9 degrees. Planting these near yard spots where your home absorbs the most sunlight will provide cooling shade during the summer, and also enable you to enjoy your patio or outdoor entertainment area throughout the year.
When it comes to ground cover, consider using durable, low-maintenance paving stones for your walkways, pool deck or patio. To save the most water possible, synthetic turf or artificial grass is your best bet, eliminating the need for mowing and watering. Other low-maintenance materials that are excellent energy and water savers include xeriscape, gravel, concrete walkways, and bark. Permeable pavers, some of which are made with recycled materials, are also an option.
For a no-fuss garden, you may also fill the space with structures such as benches, rock gardens and gazebos.
Use Energy-Saving Equipment
Use an eco-friendly reel mower rather than an electric or gas mower to help preserve the environment. You can additionally spring for solar landscaping lights and rain barrels for efficient, cost-effective lighting and watering of your garden.
Going eco-friendly green with your garden is a no-brainer option – you save money while helping to preserve the environment and natural landscape of your area. The lower maintenance is an added bonus. Small wonder eco-friendly landscaping has gotten so popular in so many neighborhoods across the country. Join the trend for a pretty “green” garden of your eco-conscious dreams.