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Building a sustainability landscape in your backyard

You want to help the world. You want to create a sustainable environment right in your home. In addition to composting and other endeavors, did you know you can create your very own sustainability landscape in your yard?

You can enhance sustainability in your yard through a sustainable landscape. Sustainable landscaping has the following properties, all of which have been applied at one time or another in nature:

  • It minimizes waste by recycling water and nutrients
  • It retains topsoil, reducing erosion
  • It reduces or eliminates the need for harmful chemical fertilizers and pesticides

It would be best to accomplish these goals considering sun exposure, aspect (the direction a slope faces), soil conditions, rainfall levels, how much water is available from irrigation sources such as wells or reservoirs, and average temperatures throughout the year.

Here we dive into how you can create your sustainability landscape and help the world make a beautiful space for you and your family.

What to consider first about building sustainable landscaping

Build your sustainable landscape around your home and the ways you want to live. Ask yourself a few questions:

  • What do I love most about living in my house?
  • How much time will I spend on maintenance?
  • What is my budget for sustainability features?

Ask yourself which sustainability features you would like to use in your landscape with those answers. Here are some examples of sustainability features that might work well for you:

In general sustainable landscaping involves using as many sustainable or low water consumption items as possible. You can build a sustainable landscape by following these sustainability landscaping principles:

  • using native plants
  • reducing runoff using xeriscaping or rain garden features
  • adding swales to your landscape plan
  • placing high performing plants in different areas of your yard
  • use mulch where possible to reduce water use and help control weeds

These sustainable landscaping principles are highly recommended if you want the best results. Try implementing these sustainable landscape ideas into your backyard, patio, or front lawn.

Let’s take a closer look at how to accomplish these sustainable landscaping practices.

How to find native plants you can use in your sustainable landscape design

The best way to find native plants for your sustainable landscape is to contact your local cooperative extension. You can find these locations through an online search or by calling your state’s master gardener hotline (see links below).

This particular sustainable landscaping principle allows you to use plants that are naturally adapted to your climate and the surrounding conditions in your area. Remember, not all plants can survive in all places across the country; therefore, this sustainable landscape design principle is important to consider when planning a sustainable landscape for any given region. 

For example: if you live in Northern Minnesota and decide to plant drought-resistant plants, guess what? They’ll die from too much moisture because Minnesota tends to have heavy snowfalls every year!

In addition, Native plants tend to grow bigger and stronger than plants that have been transplanted from other areas and require less water and maintenance than plants that are not native to your area.

When you use plants that grow big and strong, you’re helping the sustainability of the land because those plants will need little to no irrigation unless it’s really hot out, plus they’ll naturally filter rainwater runoff as well as the air with their roots!

What is Xeriscaping?

Xeriscaping is sustainable landscaping that makes as little use as possible of water (especially for plants ), fertilizer, and pesticides. Xeriscape plants are native plants that require little to no soil preparation before growing because they already know how to deal with drought and the conditions their area has to offer.

How to choose xeriscaping plants

So you know what xeriscaping is and why you should want to create sustainable landscaping, but how do you actually start?

We’re going to assume that because you’re reading this article, that means that your first step will be to research local plants that are well-suited for your region.

Go to your local independent nursery and ask the professionals. Explain your goals in wanting to create sustainable landscaping using the xeriscaping method. They will be happy to give you plenty of ideas for plants that will be perfect for sustainable landscapes in your region.

Collecting rainwater in barrels can offset watering needs in your garden

Why Swales matter in your sustainable landscaping plan

Swales are an integral part of sustainable landscaping because they preserve water and save you money on your water bill.

How does a swale work, exactly? Well, it’s pretty simple, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t need to be tweaked for each property.

The only thing we’re going to say about swales here is that swales can include creating berms and mounds between your plants and the soil. These will help with available drainage while allowing for optimal irrigation during dry months when you need it most.

Creating healthy soil with mulch

Mulch is a super underrated aspect of every type of landscaping plan. Mulch is just a fancy word for ground-up plant matter, and it can come in many forms: bark mulch, wood chips, shredded leaves, and even wood pellets. But the thing about mulch that makes it such an integral part of sustainable landscaping is that it’s not thrown into the environment as waste after you’re finished using it. It gets recycled back into the soil itself!

This means more healthy soil (and water), which leads to less time wasted on weeding and watering plants — two things we’ve already established as super low on the sustainability scale because they contribute primarily to water pollution.

If this isn’t convincing enough, know that mulching also reduces lawnmower emissions and releases organic material back into the soil. It increases your healthy topsoil by adding organic matter, preventing water from evaporating from the soil.

The importance of shade trees in a sustainable landscape design

Shade trees are important in any sustainable landscaping plan because they provide valuable benefits to your yard — and yours alone. 

Shade trees can improve:

  • air quality
  • reduce noise pollution
  • control erosion
  • protect waterways
  • support animal life (by providing shelter and food)
  • and increase your property value 

When you choose the right tree for the right place, you’ll get all these benefits!

Planting a tree: the right tree for the right place

Just like every person has their personality, so does every tree. While we know some trees grow where they want no matter what, and others will only thrive in one spot or another, there are ways that we can help them along. A smart, sustainable landscaping plan makes choosing the best tree for each individual location easier.

Using a sustainable garden to conserve water and avoid soil pollution

Using a sustainable garden to conserve water and avoid soil pollution is one of the best sustainability landscaping choices you can make. Smartly using rainwater helps reduce our impact on water systems and guarantees that we will have clean enough fresh water every day. We’ll be able to eat healthier food, which tastes better!

A smart way to lawn responsibly is by turning those grassy areas into gardens. Even if those spaces are only a few square feet each, these spaces can still use them for growing your food or beautiful flowers!

Additionally, gardening can help bring back some of the types of wildlife – like bumblebees – that our homes have been slowly driving away thanks to pesticides and other chemicals in our yards.

Make sure you’re using natural resources carefully, choosing building materials wisely, and boosting up your community’s natural processes and local environment. In the sustainable development of your landscaping, the choices you make will make all the difference.

Selecting proper irrigation systems to maintain soil moisture, using natural processes to aid in gardening, and avoiding gas-powered equipment all help in a sustainable sites initiative and bolsters water conservation in the process. 

Consider sustainable practices in every area of your garden. Choose drought-tolerant plants to aid in water conservation. Maintain sustainable practices in the entire landscape design and consider your local climate before planting anything.

Sustainability landscape: lower maintenance costs, less expense on landscape managers, and a beautiful garden to enjoy

We hope this helps you with making a more self-sustaining landscape and allows you to pay attention to your plant selection and reduce waste in your yard. Avoid chemical-based fertilizers, reduce water, and help offset maintenance costs by installing a landscape that works with the local environment instead of against it.

Are you interested in learning more about landscape design and planning? Be sure to check out our gardening and plant care articles.