Sustainable landscaping encompasses a variety of practices that have developed in response to environmental issues. These practices are used in every phase of landscaping, including design, construction, implementation and management of residential and commercial landscapes.[1] [2]

Sustainability issues for landscaping Edit

Sustainability Issues for Landscaping include: Carbon Sequestration by Plants; Global Climate Change; Air Pollution; Water Pollution; Pesticide Toxicity; Non-Renewable Resources; Energy Usage. Non-sustainable practices encompass: Contamination of soil, air and water; persistence of toxic compounds in the environment; non-sustainable consumption of natural resources; Greenhouse gas emissions.

Effects of non-sustainable practices Edit

Some of the effects of non-sustainable practices are: Threats to health, well-being and even survival of humans and other life forms and their habitats; sedimentation of surface waters caused by stormwater runoff; chemical pollutants in drinking water caused by pesticide runoff; health problems caused by toxic fertilizers, toxic pesticides, improper use, handling, storage and disposal of pesticides; air and noise pollution caused by landscape equipment; and over-use of limited natural resources.

Sustainable landscaping solutions Edit

Some of the solutions being developed are:

  • Reduction of stormwater run-off through the use of bio-swales, rain gardens and green roofs and walls. [3] [4] [5]
  • Reduction of water use in landscapes through design of water-wise garden techniques (sometimes known as xeriscapingTM) [6] [7] [8] [9]
  • Bio-filtering of wastes through constructed wetlands [10]
  • Landscape irrigation using water from showers and sinks, known as gray water [11]
  • Integrated Pest Management techniques for pest control
  • Creating and enhancing wildlife habitat in urban environments [12]
  • Energy-efficient landscape design in the form of proper placement and selection of shade trees and creation of wind breaks [13][14]
  • Permeable paving materials to reduce stormwater run-off and allow rain water to infiltrate into the ground and replenish groundwater rather than run into surface water [15] [16]
  • Use of sustainably harvested wood, composite wood products for decking and other landscape projects, as well as use of plastic lumber [17]
  • Recycling of products, such as glass, rubber from tires and other materials to create landscape products such as paving stones, mulch and other materials[18]
  • Soil management techniques, including composting kitchen and yard wastes, to maintain and enhance healthy soil that supports a diversity of soil life
  • Integration and adoption of renewable energy, including solar-powered landscape lighting [19]

[20] [21] [22] [23] [24] [25] [26] [27] [28] [29]

Background Edit

A sustainable landscape is designed to be both attractive and in balance with the local climate and environment and it should require minimal resource inputs. Thus, the design must be “functional, cost-efficient, visually pleasing, environmentally friendly and maintainable" [30] As part of the concept called sustainable development it pays close attention to the preservation of limited and costly resources, reducing waste and preventing air, water and soil pollution. Also, compost, fertilization, grass cycling, pest control measures that avoid or minimize the use of chemicals, integrated pest management, using the right plant in the right place, appropriate use of turf, irrigation efficiency and xeriscaping or water-wise gardening are all components of sustainable landscaping. [31]

Benefits Edit

The geographic location can determine what is sustainable due to differences in precipitation and temperature. For example, the California Waste Management Board emphasizes the link between minimizing environmental damage and maximizing one’s bottom line of urban commercial landscaping companies. In California, the benefits of landscapes often do not outweigh the cost of inputs like water and labor. However, using appropriately selected and properly sited plants may help to ensure that maintenance costs are lower than they otherwise would be due to reduced chemical and water inputs. [32]

Programs Edit

There are several programs in place that are open to participation by various groups. For example, the Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program for Golf Courses [33], the Audubon Green NeighborhoodsTM Program [34] and the National Wildlife Federation’s Backyard HabitatTM Program[35], to name a few.

The Sustainable Sites Initiative, the cooperative effort between the American Society of Landscape Architects, the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center and the United States Botanic Garden, began in 2005 and will provide a points-based certification for landscapes, similar to the LEED program for buildings operated by the Green Building Council. The Sustainable Sites Initiative now has a document titled Guidelines and Performance Benchmarks[36]. The credit system is expected to be completed in 2011.

Proper design Edit

The primary step to landscape design is to do a "sustainability audit". This is similar to a landscape site analysis that is typically performed by landscape designers at the beginning of the design process. Factors such as lot size, house size, local covenants and budgets should be considered. The steps to design include a base plan, site inventory and analysis, construction documents, implementation and maintenance. [37] Other considerations include orientation to the sun, soil type, slopes, location of utility lines and planned usage.

Composting Edit

Composting is a way to recycle kitchen and garden waste while creating inexpensive organic fertilizer for the garden and landscape. (For details about how to compost, see Earthworms, microbes and other soil flora and fauna feast on such organic matter when provided adequate nitrogen and proper temperatures and moisture. The ideal size for a compost pile or bin is one cubic yard (3' x 3' x 3'). It should be placed in a partly shady location to avoid intense sun and drying out, as this will delay the decomposition process. The pile heats up during the decomposition process, then cools as material is transformed, this is a good time to turn the pile, so that undecomposed materials on the periphery of the pile can be moved to the center to complete the process. With adequate moisture, nitrogen, proper temperature and correct timing of turning the pile, compost can be made in about a 30-day period. Left alone this pocess will still occur, but may take three to four months under less-than-ideal conditions.

Compost can be added as an amendment to poorly draining soil, as a fertilizer on flower and vegetable beds, to fruit trees or used as a potting soil for potted plants. Trimmings from lawns, trees and shrubs from a large landscape site can be used as feedstock for on-site composting. Reusing on-site organic materials will decrease the need for purchasing other soil additives.

Irrigation Edit

Using mulch is a great way to reduce water loss due to evaporation, reduce weeds, minimize erosion, dust and mud problems. Mulch will also add nutrients to the soil when it decomposes. Grass cycling turf areas (using mulching mowers that leave grass clippings on the lawn) will also decrease the amount of fertilizer needed, reduce landfill waste and reduce costs of disposal. [38]

A common recommendation is to adding 2-4 inches of mulch in flower beds and under trees away from the trunk. Mulch should be applied under trees to the dripline (extension of the branches) in lieu of flowers, hostas, turf or other plants that are often planted there. This practice of planting under trees is detrimental to tree roots, especially when such plants are irrigated to an excessive level that harms the tree.

The practice of xeriscaping or water-wise gardening suggests that placing plants with similar water demands together will save time and low-water or drought tolerant plants would be a smart initial consideration.

A homeowner may consider consulting an accredited irrigation technician/auditor and obtain a water audit of current systems. In the event that the situation is difficult to manage, drip or sub-surface irrigation may be most effective. If the system has been in use for over five years, upgrading to evapotranspiration (ET) controllers, soil sensors and refined control panels will improve the system. Oftentimes irrigation heads are in need of readjustment to avoid sprinkling on sidewalks or streets. Business owners may consider developing watering schedules based on historical or actual weather data and soil probes to monitor soil moisture prior to watering.[39]

Building materials Edit

When deciding what kind of building materials to put on a site it is important to recycle as often as possible. Reusing old bricks from sidewalks as patio pavers is one way to provide an aesthetic appeal to an area while reducing what goes to the landfill.

But it is also important to be careful about what materials you use, especially if you plan to grow food crops of any kind. Old telephone poles and railroad ties have usually been treated with a substance called creosote that can leach into the soils and make any food grown there toxic enough to cause harm to anyone that eats it. In general, you should avoid any kind of treated material, especially wood, that could leach into the soil with rain. [40]

The Forest Stewardship Council ( was formed in 1993 "to change the dialogue about and the practice of sustainable forestry worldwide." Sustainably harvested lumber - also called certified wood is now available, in which ecological, economic and social factors are integrated into the managament of trees used for lumber. [41] A chain of custody document is used in the certification process.

Planting selection Edit

One important part of sustainable landscaping is plant selection. Most of what makes a landscape unsustainable is the amount of inputs required to grow a non-native plant on it. What this means is that a local plant, which has adapted to local climate conditions will require less work on the part of some other agent to flourish. For example, it does not make sense to grow tomatoes in Arizona because there is not enough natural rainfall for them to survive without constant watering. Instead, drought tolerant plants like succulents and cacti are better suited to survive. Also, by choosing native plants, you can avoid certain problems with insects and pests because these plants will also be adapted to deal with any local invader. The bottom line is that by choosing the right kind of local plants, you can save yourself a great deal of money on amendment costs, pest control and watering. [42]

Plants used as windbreaks can save up to 30% on heating costs in winter. They also help with shading a residence or commercial building in summer, create cool air through evapo-transpiration and can cool hardscaped areas such as driveways and sidewalks. [43]

Maintenance Edit

Pest Problems Maintaining plant health will eliminate most pest problems. It is best to start with pest-free plant materials and supplies and close inspection of the plant upon purchase is also recommended. Establishing diversity within the area of plant species will encourage beneficial organism populations (e.g. birds, insects), which feed on potential plant pests. Because plant pests vary from plant to plant, assessing the problem correctly is half the battle. The owner must consider whether the plant can tolerate the damage caused by the plant. If not, then does the plant value justify some sort of treatment? While pesticide is often chosen to solve the problem, physical barriers and repellents may help. If pesticides are the chosen method, selective organic or natural pesticide is often better because it has less impact on non-target species. [44]

Pruning Proper pruning will increase air circulation and decrease the likelihood of plant diseases. However, improper pruning is detrimental to shrubs and trees.[45] Hedging, topping and shearing of landscape plants causes excessive plant growth. In addition, topping is a hazardous practice which creates a hazardous tree which is highly susceptible to wind damage. Natural pruning techniques during the proper season, on the other hand, promotes healthier, more stable plants. [46] In temperate areas, deciduous plants should be pruned during dormancy. Plants should never be pruned at the end of a growing season because growth is stimulated and such new growth will be too tender to survive winter freezing temperatures.

Pollution Prevention Landscape managers should make use of the Integrated Pest Management (IPM) to reduce use of pesticides and herbicides and reduce non-point source solution.

See also Edit

References Edit

  1. Loehrlein, M. Retrieved November 2009.
  2. Loehrlein, M. et. al. Retrieved November 2009.
  3. Rowe, B., J. Andersen, J. Lloyd, T. Mrozowski and K. Getter. The green roof research at Michigan State University. Viewed 7/30/2007.
  4. Robinette, G. O. and K. W. Sloan. 1984. Water conservation in landscape design and management. Van Nostrand Reinhold Co. NY. 258pp.
  5. PennState Center for Green Roof Research. Viewed 9/23/09.
  6. Carver, S. 2008. Water-wise landscaping can improve conservation efforts. Landscape Mgmt. May/June Suppl Livescapes. P. 8.
  7. Eberle, W. M. and J. G. Thomas. 1981. Some water-saving ways. Kansas State Ext. 4pp.
  8. Krizner, K. 2008. Smart water solutions. Landscape Management May/June. p. 31-2
  9. White, J.D. 2008. When the well runs dry: managing water before it becomes a crisis. GrowerTalks. Aug. pp. 42-43.
  10. Campbell, C. S. and M. H. Ogden. Constructed wetlands in the sustainable landscape. 1999. Wiley & Sons. NY. 270pp.
  11. Melby, P. and T. Cathcart 2002. Regenerative design techniques : practical applications in landscape design. Wiley. New York. 410 p.
  12. Harker, D., G. Libby. Harker, K. Evans, S. Evans, M. 1999.
    • Landscape Restoration Handbook, 2nd ed. Lewis Publishers. Boca Raton. 865pp.
  13. Fizzell, J. A. 1983. Landscape designers must put energy conservation in their plans. Amer. Nurseryman. 157:65-71.
  14. Pitt, D. G. J. Kissida and W. Gould. 1980. How to design a windbreak residential landscaping. Amer. Nurseryman. Vol. 152(10): 10-11.
  15. Interlocking Concrete Pavement Institute. Permeable interlocking concrete pavement: a comparison guide to porous asphalt and pervious concrete. Viewed June 2008.
  16. Kerkhoff, K. L. 2006. How to capitalize and reduce stormwater runoff in your landscapes. Grounds Maint. P. 70.
  17. Thompson,W. J., K. Sorvig and Farnsworth, C. D. 2000. Sustainable Landsape Construction. Island Pr. Washington, D.C. 348p.
  18. EPA. 1998. Landscaping products containing recovered materials. USEPA Solid Waste and Emergency Response. 8pp.
  19. Bramwell, J. 2006. Power with a conscience. Amer. Nurseryman. 203(3):33-37.
  20. Dixie chopper –Propane. Viewed 7/22/2008.
  21. Weber, M. 2006. Cutting edge: fuel efficiency and productivity are driving innovation in equipment design. Grounds Maint. 13-24
  22. Welterden, M. and C. Ratcliff. 2004. Pulse of the industry. Grounds Maint. Dec. p.9-32.
  23. University of Minnesota: Sustainable Urban Landscape Information Series.
  24. California Integrated Waste Management Board.
  25. Ecoscapes: Sustainable Landscaping Viewed 11-15-09.
  26. Tufts University: Office of Sustainability. Viewed 11-15-09.
  27. Fine Gardens: Sustainable Urban Landscape. Viewed 11-15-09.
  28. Boulder County: Sustainable Landscaping Information. Viewed 11-15-09.
  29. New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection. Viewed 11-15-09.
  30. Colorado State University Extension. Viewed 11-15-09.
  31. California Integrated Waste Management Board.
  32. California Integrated Waste Management Board. Viewed 11-15-09.
  33. http://Audubon International. Viewed 9/23/09.
  34. Green NeighborhoodsTM Viewed 9/23/09
  35. Garden for Wildlife. Viewed 9/23/09.
  36. The Sustainable Sites Initiative. Viewed 9/23/09.
  37. Colorado State University Extension. Viewed 11-15-09.
  38. California Integrated Waste Management Board.
  39. Colorado State University Extension. Viewed 11-15-09.
  40. Sustainable Landscape Design's Custom Design Philosophy. Viewed 11-15-09.
  41. Viewed 12-07-09.
  42. Sustainable Landscape Design's Custom Design Philosophy. Viewed 11-15-09.
  43. Farmstead Windbreaks: Planning. Retrieved 12-12-09.
  44. Colorado State University Extension. Viewed 11-15-09.
  45. Colorado State University Extension. Viewed 11-15-09.
  46. California Integrated Waste Management Board. Viewed 11-15-09.
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