Creating A Landscape That Is Environmentally Friendly

Written by: Kristy Buttermore & Eric Lanehart, PLA, ISA

As the population grows and the demand for resources increases, it is more important than ever to be conscious of our impact on the environment. One way to do this is to create an environmentally friendly landscape for your yard, vegetable garden, or your community park.

There are many benefits to having an eco-friendly landscape. It can help reduce water usage, conserve energy, and promote biodiversity.  An eco-friendly landscape can also add value to your property and make it more attractive to potential buyers and your neighbors.

Creating an environmentally friendly landscape does not have to be difficult or expensive.  There are a number of simple steps you can take to make your landscape more sustainable. With a little planning and effort, you can have an eco-friendly landscape that is both beautiful and good for the environment.

What are the benefits of an environmentally friendly landscape?

The benefits of an environmentally friendly landscape are numerous. For one, planting native vegetation will reduce the need for watering.  Even if you use a well, this will reduce wear and tear on the pump. Native plants, or plants friendly to the local environment, typically need less fertilizers and pesticides. This can ultimately help preserve the natural environment and enhance the quality of life in landscape.

In addition to being more cost efficient, an eco-friendly landscape can add value to your property. Potential buyers are increasingly looking for homes that are sustainable and environmentally conscious. Having a well-maintained and sustainable landscape can make your property stand out and attract more buyers.

Finally, an eco-friendly landscape helps promote biodiversity. By planting native plants, you can encourage a wider variety of pollinators and other wildlife to visit your property. This can help enhance the beauty of your landscape while protecting and preserving biodiversity.

Landscape design featuring flowering plants, tall grasses, large leafy plants, and palm trees.

What should you consider when planning your landscape?

When planning your landscape, there are a few important considerations that you should take into account.

  1. Climate – Before selecting plants and other materials for your landscape, you should research the native plants and trees of your area. Choosing native plants ensures that they will be better equipped to handle the weather fluctuations in your region.
  2. Soil Quality – Before planting, you should also test and assess the soil quality to determine if your soil requires more nutrients. Having soil that is nutrient rich will help you to create a stronger and healthier landscape.
  3. Water Conservation – Consider selecting plants and materials that conserve water. Installing rain gardens and irrigation systems can help to reduce water usage, while selecting plants that require less water can help reduce the cost of maintaining the landscape.
  4. Do your research –  Most municipalities and states have online resources to determine what plants are actually native and or eco-friendly in your local.  For instance, The University of Florida has The University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS). They produce easy to understand documents for just about everything you need to know to select the best native plants for your landscape. Keep in mind, the Big Box companies such as Home Depot and Lowes do not always sell native plants. Native plant selections may only be available at local growers or private nurseries.

By considering these factors and selecting materials that conserve energy, water, and promote biodiversity, you can create a beautiful and environmentally friendly landscape for your property.

Landscaping for water conservation

Water conservation is an important goal for landscaping projects, and there are several steps you can take to ensure that your landscape is designed with this goal in mind. Here are a few tips for creating a landscape that is both beautiful and environmentally friendly:

  1. Rainwater Harvesting – Installing rain barrels or reservoirs can help to collect and re-use rainwater for watering grass and landscaping.
  2. Place Plants Strategically – Selecting plants that are native to your area and healthy for the local climate will help to reduce water usage. Placing these plants in areas where they can thrive with the least amount of water will help to conserve resources.
  3. Mulch – Using mulch around plants can help to reduce evaporation and water runoff. This will help to conserve soil and water while also encouraging microbial activity and preventing weeds.

Water conservation is an important goal for landscaping projects, and using these tips can help you to create a garden that is both sustainable and aesthetically pleasing.

Native plants and habitats

Native plants and habitats are always a great choice for any landscaping project. These are plants that have better chances of survival, since they have adapted to the region’s climate, soil, and other environmental conditions.

Here are some tips to consider when creating a landscape with native plants and habitats:

  1. Choose native plants and trees that are appropriate for the region you live in. These plants and trees will be more likely to thrive, and will require less maintenance.
  2. Incorporate wildlife habitats like nests, food sources, and hiding places. This will encourage birds and other wildlife to visit your landscape.
  3. Create pathways made of pervious pavers or loosely placed stones. This will help to reduce the number of weeds sprouting up, while also making the landscape easier to maintain.

Firebush plant with butterfly
Fakahatchee grass

By utilizing native plants and habitats, you can create a beautiful, sustainable landscape that has a positive impact on the environment.

Fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides

Using fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides can be bad for the environment if used improperly, so it’s important to be mindful of what you are using in your landscape. If possible use organic fertilizers, such as compost, to nourish the soil. Avoid the use of synthetic fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides.

Choose eco-friendly organic products to control pests and weeds. Beneficial insect predators such as ladybugs, praying mantises, and lacewings are a great option for small and or enclosed areas like greenhouses.  These insects are predators to the bugs eating your hard work.  These can help to keep harmful insects away or eliminate them altogether. Hand weeding can help to reduce the use of herbicides.

Instead of using herbicides and pesticides, try out some alternative methods. You can cover crops with mulch or plastic to prevent weed growth, use row covers to protect crops from pests, and use crop rotation to reduce the risk of:

  • Soil depletion
  • Pest infestations
  • Disease spread

By making the switch to eco-friendly fertilizer, pesticides, and herbicides, you can do your part in creating an environmentally friendly landscape.

Soil health

Soil health is essential for a healthy garden and landscape. Healthy soil contains beneficial organisms that can help to break down organic material, store nutrients, and suppress diseases. Composting helps to add organic matter to the soil while providing essential nutrients to the plants.

Mulch helps the soil temperature and water content, while also helping to reduce the need for weeding by blocking the growth of weeds. Adding organic matter to the soil can help to improve soil fertility and drainage. Placing organic matter near plants helps to keep the roots cool in summer and warm in winter. When organic matter breaks down, beneficial insects and organisms help to aerate the soil.

Compost tea can be used to add beneficial bacteria and fungi to the soil. This helps to reduce diseases and gives plants access to the beneficial microorganisms. Cover crops, such as clovers, can help to improve soil structure and fertility by providing a green layer of organic matter to the soil.

Improving soil health is key to creating a sustainable garden and landscape. By using organic matter and composting, you can make sure that the soil stays healthy and that the plants in your landscape get the nourishment they need.

Environmental friendly hardscape

One way to create a landscape that is environmentally friendly is by integrating hardscaping into your landscape design. Hard surfaces, such as brick and stone pavers, allow for water to drain into the soil when you leave ¼” spacing between the stones. There are pervious pavers which allow water to pass directly through the stone.  They also provide attractive, durable surfaces for pathways and patios and can act as a buffer between lawn and garden areas.

Hardscaping can also be an effective way to prevent or control soil erosion and to create  delineated areas in your landscape. There are many materials to choose from, such as flagstone, brick, concrete paving stones, gravel, crushed granite, and pavers.

The material you choose will depend on your area, the intended use of the surface, and overall design of the landscape. Incorporating hardscaping into your landscape design can be an effective way to create an environmentally friendly landscape.

Hardscape walkway featuring stones, pavers, and grassy plants

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