How do you achieve a sustainable landscape?

Written by: Shonda Lucks

To achieve a sustainable landscaping you may need to change the way you think about traditional landscaping. Many things need to be considered for a sustainable landscaping. The goal is to Coneflowerreduce the use chemicals like fertilizers and pesticides while also reducing the amount of water and energy needed to maintain the landscaping. No landscape is ever truly considered “no maintenance” but you can achieve a low-maintenance landscaping that is sustainable.

A sustainable landscape will require more of an educated thought out plan in comparison to a traditional landscape design. Using the proper plant selection is key, the right plant for the right place. There are thousands of different varieties of trees, shrubs, vines, perennials, annuals (in small area) and even edibles that are available and can be considered for your landscaping. Your plant choice must be one that is adaptable to the area that will thrive without a great deal of maintenance, fertilizer, pesticides and drought resistant.

Soil conditions need to be considered as well. The St. Louis area has a vast array of soil types and pH. The soil close to our rivers have very different properties than the soil farther out. Knowing your soil is the key to the success of a sustainable landscaping.

Establishing some of the goals of the sustainable landscaping should be thought out also. The areas of focus would be:

  • Erosion issue
  • Sun exposure/ Location
  • Bio retention or rain garden: levels of runoff
  • Prairie garden
  • Wildlife benefits
  • Drainage: wet or dry area
  • Seasonal consideration for plant choice

Plant choices are very important in a sustainable landscaping. You will want to make sure you or your landscape designer is using zone hardy plants for the area that can survive with a minimal maintenance requirements. Be very cautious and aware of invasive plants varieties when selecting your plant list.20140902_090119

Be creative in using hardscape material such as bricks, stones and/or mulch for your high traffic areas to help keep down the weeds. Don’t forget to take advantage of the preexisting elements that are there like walls or fencing. Add some fun character to the area with focal points like benches, gazing balls, boulders or whatever puts that personal touch to it. This can be a good way to add recycled materials as well. Achieving a sustainable landscaping that is also aesthetically pleasing is challenging and requires some planning out. However, remember this is your way of enhancing the environment and providing natural recourses for plants and wildlife. Do your research and/or hire a professional, but whether you are working it or enjoying some time in the garden it is a proven to stress reduce and all the factors that stress brings on your mind and body. So add a new sustainable garden or two to your property, dig in, go native, go green. And remember to have fun with it.

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Elements of Nature and Properties of Soil Second Edition Nyle C. Brady & Ray R. Weil

Plant Selection for Sustainable Landscapes OSU Extension Service