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What is Sustainable Landscaping


Sustainable practices for residential landscape design

One of the main goals of sustainable landscaping is water management

Sustainable landscaping asks us to consider the input and output of our landscaping and find ways to minimize both.

The main goals of sustainable landscape design are to:

  • Conserve water and energy
  • Reduce waste
  • Decrease runoff

For this to happen residential gardeners should:

  • Treat water as a resource
  • Value soil
  • Preserve existing plants
  • Conserve material resources.

Principle #1 - Treat Water as a Resource

The demand for water is at an all-time high. Wasteful irrigation accounts for over one-third of the residential water use. Rainwater is treated as waste and allowed to flow into gutters and sewers.

A sustainable landscaping approach would be to treat water as a valuable resource. With proper design and plant selection, the need for irrigation can be reduced or eliminated. Rainwater harvesting can be used to capture stormwater on site and use it for irrigation.

Principle #2 - Value Your Soil

It's likely that your garden's soil is compacted. Compacted soil leads to problems such as restricted plant growth, erosion, runoff and flooding. Runoff caused by compacted soils is one of the main sources of water pollution.

One solution is to areate and topdress compacted soil.  Either through digging, if in a bed or through the use of a mechanical aerator, that you can get at a rental store. 

Principle #3 - Preserve Existing Plants

Don’t make the mistake of removing existing plants from your site to ‘start fresh’.  You are creating extra work for yourself and by disturbing the seed bed, may just bring up a whole host of weed pests that you didn’t have before.  This generally ends up doing harm because it disrupts the natural processes occurring in the yard.

A sustainable landscaping approach would be to assess the existing plant material and preserve native plants. Invasive, non-native plants should be removed and replaced with a more appropriate choice. Right plant, right place is a popular saying that should guide your plant selection.

Principle #4 - Conserve Material Resources

The typical modern landscape produces high amounts of yard and construction waste. Additionally, many of the hardscape materials used are energy-intensive and transported hundreds, or even thousands of miles.

A sustainable landscaping approach would be to reduce yard waste by selecting appropriately sized plants and reusing and recycling construction waste. Building materials should be carefully selected, using locally sourced materials whenever possible.

Principles of a Sustainable Landscape Design

Homeowners and gardeners are becoming increasingly aware of the positive impacts they can have on the natural world. At the same time, they are looking for ways they can sit back and enjoy the fruits of their labor.

Here are the top trends in landscape design right now. :

  • Rainwater/graywater harvesting
  • Native plants
  • Native/adapted drought tolerant plants
  • Low maintenance landscapes
  • Permeable paving
  • Fire pits/fireplaces
  • Food/vegetable gardens (including orchard, vineyards, etc.)
  • Rain gardens
  • Drip irrigation
  • Reduced lawn area
Natural Stone Patio

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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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