Gardening: Make your landscape more eco-friendly

Simple techniques help you covert your landscape into an eco-friendly haven.

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Want to know how to make your landscape design more eco-friendly? Check out these simple, straightforward tips for converting your landscape into a haven for clients, passersby, and wildlife.

Using organic landscaping techniques can save you money because your outdoor space is a prime location for showing off your commitment to developing a green building that is not only better for the environment, but is also healthier for humans and animals alike. Developing a stunning yet beautiful landscape will be more attractive, require less maintenance, and save you money from year to year.

Following are six easy-to-implement tips for you to apply in your next project.

Choose the right plants: 
Choosing plants for their beauty is one way to build a pleasing landscape design, but failing to also examine their maintenance requirements can cost you money and increase time spent caring for them. Drought tolerant plants are a good bet for any climate, but those that are considered native to your area are even better. Since they grow naturally without any human intervention, they will require little more than the rain that falls naturally, and they won’t need much, if anything, in the way of soil amendments.

Compost: 
Adding compost (a mix of decomposed organic matter) contributes beneficial nutrients, minerals and organisms, increases water retention, improves soil structure, and prevents soil erosion. Together, these benefits mean less watering, few (if any) fertilizer applications, and less work. If you make your own compost, you will have a ready supply that is local and inexpensive.

Mulch: 
Composed of bark or wood chips, shredded leaves and branches, straw and hay, or rocks and gravel, mulch will help prevent weed growth, reduce evaporation and water loss, and add to a pleasing visual landscape. Again, the benefits include lower maintenance requirements, lower irrigation costs, and reduced need for pesticides.

Organic amendments: 
This group of materials includes lime, organic fertilizers (made without synthetic chemicals), and manures (both animal and nonanimal), which will improve soil acidity as well as mineral and nutrient content. These products are made from readily available, renewable, nonpetroleum-based materials, are healthier for plants, animals, insects and humans, and can often be less expensive than conventional products.

Use integrated pest management: 
If you have done your homework and designed an efficient, natural landscape, you won’t suffer from as many pests as comparable, conventionally designed outdoor spaces. However, when you do require pest management, choose integrated pest management, which relies on a whole-systems approach that looks at the relationship shared between pests and their environment. It substitutes harmful chemicals for safe, complementary control methods.

Effective integrated pest management involves many aspects, but can include two important factors - prevention and removal. By removing features that attract pests, adding physical barriers, and employing humane, mechanical methods for removing pests, you will cut pesticide and herbicide costs while making your space less toxic and more enjoyable for all who dwell in it.

Practice intelligent landscaping: 
Take water conservation to the next level by considering the whole system in terms of water use. That means, among other things, grouping plants together by similar water needs so those that require a lot of water are together, and those that can survive in more desert-like conditions are in a different area. A smart landscape design will lower water consumption, reduce plant deaths, and increase the overall beauty of your space.

Toxic, potent chemicals may be a great short-term solution to your landscaping improvement requirements, but they are no good for the earth or the health of those enjoying your outdoor space, including local wildlife. So, green up your green space. The planet will thank you.

About the author: Nestor Santtia  has 23 years of experience in homes and green building. She is a Certified Green Building Professional and a member of the U.S. Green Building Council. Visit www.GetGreenGlobal.com to learn how to improve the health and safety of your family.