No matter where you live, smart planning means landscaping for your climate. While magazines, websites and home and garden television shows display verdant English gardens dripping with wisteria and spritely fountains, responsible landscaping means ecologically sustainable plants and watering systems is the way to go.
If you’re in a newly built home, designing a low-maintenance yard from scratch is more straightforward than removing an existing water-guzzling lawn. In more arid climates, consider xeriscaping—also called desert-scaping or dry-scaping—lower water use protects natural resources and native wildlife, while seamlessly flowing with the natural environment. Even in moister climes, it’s wise to utilize plants that grow naturally without excessive watering. Choosing native plants with the assistance of a local garden center can start you on your way.
Plan your site use
Consider how you’ll use the space before tearing up the existing landscaping. Are the flat areas better for play spaces or for entertaining? Is there a slope or terraced area? Does water flow downhill from another yard? How does the sun, shade, wind, or other weather patterns move through the yard? Determine the best use and how weather patterns affect the area to reduce the amount of effort you’ll need to spend maintaining your landscaping.
Consider your needs:
- Hire a professional to test your soil to see if you need to add special fertilizers.
- Review the drainage and correct elevation issues so that water flows away from your home. A flooded basement is avoidable with proper preparation.
- If you’re new to homeownership and landscaping, think about hiring a professional to get advice or to complete the project.
- Where possible, utilize drip irrigation systems rather than sprinklers. These reduce water waste and soil erosion. Set timers on your irrigation system to avoid overwatering and waste.
- Try to preserve any naturally existing trees, especially native ones, but replace high-maintenance trees when necessary.
- Choose shade-tolerant plants for areas shaded by trees or buildings.
- Install ground cover plants, or even lava rock, gravel, or river stones to reduce water consumption and run-off.
Make space functional
For play areas, use environmentally-friendly grasses, or replace turf with pea gravel, mulch, sand or specially design playground materials made from repurposed rubber tires and other recycled products. Entertainment spaces allow for artistic use of paver stones with gravel between for drainage, raised beds that double as sitting areas and decorative pathways through your landscaping.
Whatever your landscaping needs, careful planning to reduce maintenance requirements gives you more time to enjoy your yard. Cover any bare soil with water-permeable fabric weed barriers and layer gravel or mulch over the fabric. Advanced planning means less weeding later. Reach out to a landscape professional or garden shop for information on ordinances and specifics on safe herbicides that protect your environment while simplifying your life.