Sustainable Landscaping Ideas

Sustainable landscaping means that you do not deplete or damage the environment. Natural resources do not last forever. In the landscape these include water, soil, wildlife and plants. When one part of the garden eco-system is off balance, all of the remaining parts are affected. Through proper stewardship, you can leave the landscape better than the way you found it.

Start With Soil

Remember soil is alive. Even the best plants can fail in unhealthy or dead soil. Find out what type of soil is native to your region. Choose plants that can adapt to it. If the soil condition is too poor, amend it with the needed ingredients. Clay can benefit from the addition of loose organic amendments. Sandy soil may lack nutrients and does not hold moisture. Unless you are using desert plants, you will want to add rich compost. Microorganisms are an important part of healthy soil. Compost will help return nutrients back into the soil, and attract microorganisms. They may be too small to see, but they are always working. If you add fertilizer to the soil, make sure it is organic.

Do Not Use Chemicals

Landscape chemicals come in the form of herbicides, pesticides and fertilizers. For every chemical application, there is an effective organic alternative. Become educated about anything you spread on your garden. If a plant struggles too much in your garden environment, choose a different plant. Chemicals go from soil to plants and then into the food chain. This can cause problems for humans, animals, insects and soil microorganisms. One example is the rapid decline of reptiles and amphibians. Scientific evidence has uncovered a direct connection to chemical herbicides and pesticides. These chemicals don't discriminate and kill good organisms with the bad. Chemical fertilizers leave residues in the form of salts, which may alter the soil pH. Some plants cannot tolerate these pH changes.

Draw Beneficial Insects

A far better way to fight pests is by using nature's own checks and balances. Beneficial insects eat invading insect species such as aphids. These good insects are also needed to pollinate plants. Focus on caring for plants--a healthy plant better withstands insect and disease infestations. Use herbs and flowering plants throughout the landscape to attract and feed beneficials. Strong-scented plants also deter bad insects. Earthworms are important for soil aeration, and pesticides added to turf areas can kill them.

Install Native Plants

There are many sustainable reasons to use native plants. They are better adapted to the soil and climate of a region. Once established, they will require less water. Wildlife seek native plants for food and shelter. Native plants are not invasive, and they define the unique flora of a region.

Do Not Use Invasive Plants

Every plant in your garden does not need to be native--there are many good exotic plants. But avoid plants known to be invasive, because they can be hazardous to the local ecosystem. In order to garden sustainably, it is important to know as much as possible about every plant you select.

Recycle and Reuse Materials

Resist the urge to carry everything away. Leaves and other garden debris can be reused in the form of compost. Donate unwanted landscape materials to a rebuilding center. Have a compost bin for food waste and smaller garden debris. Sticks and limbs left in piles make good homes for small mammals. Fallen trees in the woodland setting should be left to decompose there.

Do Feed the Animals

If deer and other animals are nibbling on foliage, plant an area just for them. Include berry-producing plants and native foliage to place near the perimeter of your landscape. This will help keep deer in those areas and out of your roses. Hang bird feeders and nesting boxes. Fill nectar feeders, and plant flowers that attract hummingbirds. Birds of all kinds will help keep the insect population under control.

Keywords: wildlife plants, using native plants, sustainable landscaping, landscaping benefit ecosystem

About this Author

Marci Degman has been a Landscape Designer and Horticulture writer for since 1997. She has an Associate of Applied Science in landscape technology and landscape design from Portland Community College. She writes a newspaper column for the Hillsboro Argus and radio tips for KUIK. Her teaching experience for Portland Community College has set the pace for her to write for GardenGuides.com.