Eco Friendly Landscapes

Whether you are starting your landscaping from scratch or revamping an existing garden, you can make choices that are sustainable. Some strategies include using recycled materials in your landscape such as broken concrete or salvaged metal, mulching your garden beds, installing permeable paving, planting drought-tolerant trees and perennials, and using a passive solar landscape design that maximizes sun exposure in the winter and shade in the summer. Upgrading to sustainable landscaping is not only a good choice for the environment, it can also save you money on utility expenses  The amount of maintenance required for your yard will also be reduced dramatically.

These trends highlight the importance homeowners are placing on how a landscape functions and fits into their lives.  They want it to be a solution not a source of problems.  By following these four principles of Sustainable Landscape Design you will achieve that goal.

Principle #1 – Treat Water as a Valuable Resource

We have seen the dramatic results of drought all over the world. Every year we are seeing more and more extra weather, from drought to flood and wind and snow. We need to manage the water we get, control runoff and save water for reuse.  This also effects our choices in plant types and species as well as garden style and cultural practices.  Decisions need to be made in regards to water use, irrigation practices, plant material and rainwater collection.

A sustainable design focuses on proper plant selection (right plant, right place), drip irrigation if necessary and rain gardens or collection points to capture storm water. This new approach to design keeps water in the proper perspective.

Principle #2 – Value Your Soil

Like water, soil is a finite resource. There are choices we can make to improve our soil and to reduce or eliminate runoff and soil erosion in our landscape.

A sustainable design uses deep rooted perennials and grasses to hold the soil. These plants can be combined in appealing combinations. Beautiful blooms, textures and forms serve functional purposes in the design.

“Twilight Zone” little bluestem Photo courtesy Walters Gardens.

Principle #3 – Preserve Native Plants

In my opinion, your first choice in a landscape should always be native plants. There are so many wonderful plants to choose for your landscape. I know there are some amazing adaptable perennials too, but if you start with a base of natives, you will be rewarded year after year.

A sustainable design matches appropriate plants to the site. Right plant, right place.

Native planting at Sunset Elementary in Newton, KS

Principle #4 – Conserve Materials

Does your landscape add to the landfill? How much waste does it produce each year? Lawns are an important functional element in the landscape. I need a space for my children and pets to roam. They can also generate large quantities of yard waste, especially if you collect grass clippings. Do we need a huge lawn or can it be reduced in size and replaced with beautiful wildflowers, grasses and ornamental trees and shrubs?

A sustainable design evaluates every aspect of the landscape with the goal to reduce your negative environmental impact, while including features that are beneficial to the natural world and beautiful at the same time.


The main goals of sustainable landscape design are to minimize both the input of resources and the output of waste in our yards and gardens. In order to achieve these eco-friendly aspirations, residential garden owners should treat water as a resource, value the soil, preserve existing plants and conserve materials.

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About the author 


Serial entrepreneur and longtime practitioner of sustainable landscapes and sustainable living. An international teacher, speaker and workshop holder. Author of forthcoming book, How to be Happy. Practicing what she preaches in Kilmarnock, Ontario, and Leesburg, Florida

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