Green Landscape Design

As city populations soar and water resources become scarcer, it is inevitable that the green landscaping movement will flourish. The principles are simple: conserve water, use native plants, and use recycled materials. Applying that to a landscape can be a challenge, but as more people go in this direction, so the resources increase.

Cities have learned the value of green landscaping over recent decades as planners warn of increased strain on water resources and climate change, dedicating green spaces to new urban development, encouraging proper tree and plant selection by builders, and even roof gardens. But green design can easily be applied to residential properties also.

The largest user of water by far in our landscapes is the lawn. It’s hard to say goodbye to that vast expanse of green, but even decreasing its size a little and replacing the spray irrigation with drip can have a huge effect. If you want to stay ahead of the curve start thinking in these terms now. As water rationing and severe drought affects many areas of the country – especially in the southwest – that lush, green lawn wouldn’t last long anyway. Think about replacing the water-hungry grass with native plants. This can have a number of benefits as natives have evolved and adapted over thousands of years to the local conditions. They are hardy, being able to survive the cold of winter or heat of summer, once established would require little irrigation or fertilization, and are resistant to most pests and diseases that may plague non-native species.

Always consider the soil before planting anything. If you have a good foundation the materials you install will love you for it and flourish. Take a sample of your soil and have it tested. Make sure the pH is within tolerable limits and select plants that correspond to those results. Always add organic material to the soil. Compost is nature’s fertilizer and provides essential nutrients, water retention, drainage and beneficial microbes to the soil. On top of all should be a good thick layer of mulch. This is the icing on the cake, so to speak. It will also help with water retention, but also with temperature regulation. The mulch – usually a shredded hardwood – will break down over time into more compost, creating a natural ecosystem in your own yard. Extra mulch should be applied once a year to keep the level topped up. This will ensure your natural system continues to thrive and it will be a big help keeping down the weeds. Also think about plants doing double duty: don’t just create a border of shrubs and perennials, why not plant some vegetables or herbs that you can use?

Another aspect of the green landscape design is rainwater harvesting. Why not use what falls from the sky? It’s free. Look to the bottom of this article for a link into our overview of this subject. It only takes a small investment to get going and the reward is to have a self-contained landscape not dependent on water restrictions.

Think about using recycled materials in your hardscaped areas. Instead of wood, concrete or stone from a quarry for patios, decks or walkways, consider using materials made from recycled plastic or tires. Many of them look attractive and won’t get eaten by termites. You can even use recycled glass as another form of decorative mulch, but remember that glass doesn’t degrade!

So, the principles of green landscape design are not that difficult to incorporate into your garden. Just remember to think from the ground up. If you have great soil, a great garden will follow.