Sustainable Landscaping: How To Guide
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  • 1. Sustainable LandscapingFact Sheet No. 7.243 Gardening Series| YardBy J.E. Klett and A. Cummins* What does the term sustainable soil amendments. Many non-native plants Quick Factslandscaping mean? There are varying establish more quickly and develop adefinitions but sustainable landscaping healthier root system with the addition of • When designing a sustainableshould include an attractive environment organic soil amendments. landscape, long-term successthat is in balance with the local climate and Improving the overall condition of your is accomplished through arequires minimal resource inputs, such as soil—including permeability, aeration and series of short-term goals.fertilizer, pesticides, gasoline, time, and drainage—is a slow process. The additionwater. Sustainable landscaping begins of organic materials such as composted • A functional and attractivewith an appropriate design that includes grass clippings, manure, and fall leaves, design will be unique to afunctional, cost efficient, visually pleasing, can improve soil condition over a period specific site and should beenvironmentally friendly and maintainable of time. Garden soil that provides good based on a careful reviewareas. For additional information, see fact water retention and both oxygen and water process.sheet 7.220, Colorado Gardening: Challenge permeability (loam texture) may take 10 orto Newcomers and 7.228, Xeriscaping: Creative more years to create. Incorporate 3-4 cubic • Identify what inputs areLandscaping. yards of organic matter per 1,000 square currently excessive. There are short-term as well as long- feet per year. Be sure that organic matter is • Develop a budget andterm goals for a sustainable landscape. For incorporated completely into the existing timeline that are realistic andexample, a short-term goal may include soil. For more information on soils, see celebrate the accomplishmentsaving water or installing and using a Garden Notes #711, Vegetable Garden Soil of each short-term goal.compost bin. Composting locally grown Management and Fertilization, 0.502, Soilcrops and kitchen waste and returning it Test Explanation, 7.235, Choosing a Soilback to the garden increases soil organic Amendment, and 7.236, Landscaping onmatter and helps plant growth. See 7.212, Expansive Soils.Composting Yard Waste for more information Base fertilizer applications on a soilon composting techniques. analysis and specific plant requirements (see A long-term goal may be to create a more 0.500, Soil Sampling). Many annual flowers orself-sustaining garden. This includes all bedding plants and vegetables have a higheraspects of total plant health care, proper plant nitrogen and phosphorus requirement thanselection, reduced inputs and maintainability. herbaceous perennials, shrubs and trees. Some native plants can actually decline from too many applications of fertilizers.Soils, Composting Most have lower nitrogen and phosphorusand Fertilizers needs, having adapted to the lower fertility Much of Colorado has heavy, clay soils. conditions of Colorado native soils.Clay texture can lead to poor water and Determine the fertilizer requirements foroxygen penetration. In addition, Colorado your individual situation. Excessive fertilizersoils often lack organic material. To improve application is not a sustainable practice.plant health, soil amendments are oftennecessary. The choice of a soil amendment greatly Irrigationdepends on what is being planted. Native Often, a portion of Colorado is in, orplants may be adapted to local soil conditions on the verge of a drought. Average annual © Colorado State Universityand might not necessarily benefit from moisture for the Denver Metro area is Extension. 3/05. 10/11. www.ext.colostate.eduJ.E. Klett, Colorado State University, professor and*Extension landscape horticulture specialist; A. Cummins,Colorado State University Extension, horticulture agent,Douglas County. 10/2011
  • 2. Sustainable landscaping means using water Therefore, shading the south and west side Appropriate Design appropriately and avoiding waste. See fact will contribute to summer cooling. See sheets 7.239, Operating and Maintaining 7.225, Landscaping for Energy Conservation As part of the design process, answer a Home Irrigation System and 4.702, Drip for further information. the following questions: Irrigation for Home Gardens. Often two large deciduous trees can • How will the space be used? provide sufficient summer shading for a single family home. Consider the mature • What are the site conditions? Is Hardscape Selection size of tree species before planting; plant the there a need for renovation? The choice of building materials for trees far enough from the house to avoid • What is the timeline and what is the the landscape is extensive. Explore options foundation problems. Avoid fast-growing for utilizing reused materials in your species that are weak-wooded and easily budget? landscape. For example, used bricks or break in wind or snow. See 7.419, Large • How much time will be needed to broken concrete can be used for retaining Deciduous Trees for appropriate selections. maintain the landscape? walls or raised beds. Also, recycled plastic material may be an appropriate choice for Plant for Wind Protection • What resource uses are too high? decking or fences. However, an example of Cold winds can penetrate a building • Visually, what look is trying to be inappropriate recycled materials for use in in the winter and may be responsible for achieved? a garden is the use of creosote-impregnated some heat loss during windy days. In railroad ties to build a raised bed. The Colorado, prevailing winds blow from the chemicals used to treat the wood can leach northwest, therefore, landscaping for wind into the soil and are not safe to use near protection should be concentrated on the food crops. north and northwest sides of the building atapproximately 12 to 14 inches. The Front a distance of one to three times the matureRange is a high plains desert with the height of the trees. Evergreens provide theSan Luis Valley, Arkansas Valley and Plant and Turf Selection most wind protection. See 7.403, Evergreenthe Western Slope exhibiting even drier Select the right plant for the right place. Trees for appropriate selections and 7.225conditions. Therefore, water conservation Plants not adapted to the local environment Landscaping for Energy Conservation.is essential. Prevent water loss through require more resources. Plants placedevaporation by using organic mulches. Add in inappropriate growing conditions Slopes3 to 4 inches around flower beds and under (lighting, moisture, temperature, etc.)trees but avoid mounding mulch against An appropriately graded site should become stressed and are more prone totree trunks as this practice can encourage provide drainage away from permanent pest problems. Plants suited to Colorado,disease and insects. structures. Steep slopes should be terraced whether native or exotic, are more Group plants that have similar water with a series of raised beds or planters to sustainable. Always consider the maturerequirements together. Designate parts of reduce erosion potential. size of the plant prior to placement in theyour landscape for higher or lower water landscape.use. For example, place a vegetable garden A principle of sustainable landscape isin the higher use area and a native shrub Landscape design begins with an to limit the amount of irrigated turf to areasborder in a lower water use area. understanding of the future use of high use by the homeowner. Select turf Using irrigation technology to species adapted for your location and use. of the property. Lot size, housereduce water use is an important rule of For more information on plant and turf size, local covenants and budgetsustainable landscaping. Consult with a selection see Garden Notes #561. all play into the design planningcertified irrigation technician or a certified process. A professional landscapelandscape irrigation auditor and request a designer or architect can assistwater audit of existing systems. Consider Dealing with Diverse Sites with the construction planning anddrip or sub-surface irrigation for more Plant for Shade plant selection. The design processefficient water use. Regular maintenance Use deciduous plants to create shade in generally includes:of existing systems is necessary to assure the summer to help cool the home, whileefficient water utilization. allowing light penetration in the winter as • a base plan Even if the system is new, irrigation solar heating. Evergreen trees planted close • site inventory and analysisheads may need realignment and to the home can create shade year roundadjustment to prevent overspray onto the and block winter sun. • construction documentssidewalk or street. Sprinkler systems should South and west facing parts of the housebe designed for uniform coverage with • implementation receive the most intense sunlight; northsome overlap. Irregular patterns will create and east exposures are generally cooler. • maintenancedry areas interspersed with overly wet areas.
  • 3. Landscape Lighting often increases beneficial organismImplementation sequence: Municipalities and other government populations. Beneficial organisms include agencies are moving toward decreasing birds, insects, and microorganisms.• Obtain permits and locate light pollution. For these reasons, Multiple plantings of a single species are underground utilities incorporate appropriate light schemes into less sustainable.• Clear the site of any debris, such the landscape including down-lighting. A If a pest problem develops, a correct as undesirable sod and weeds sustainable solution is to use solar garden diagnosis is important. Different plant lighting. problems have various solutions. Contact• Use care to control the roots your local Colorado State University of perennial weeds, such as Extension office or garden center for bindweed and thistle, with repeat Maintenance of the diagnosis and treatment options. treatments of systemic herbicides Sustainable Landscape If treatment is needed, investigate to minimize future weed problems Many organic yard waste materials all of the possibilities. Commonly, the in the new landscape can be composted including leaves, grass first reaction is to opt for a pesticide but clippings, vegetable and flower plants and there are alternatives. Some treatment• Create a rough grade and identify options include physical barriers, pruning, small amounts of woody material. Do major drainage issues not place weeds, diseased plants or plants sanitation, irrigation adjustments, mulch, sprayed with chemicals in your compost and proper plant selection.• Install drainage system if needed bin. Remember, compost is used as a If pesticides are the best option, choose• Construct masonry and wood soil amendment, not a soil fertilizer. See one that has the host and the pest on the projects 7.212, Composting Yard Waste and Garden label. In most cases, a selective pesticide Notes #231, Plant Nutrition for additional is better than a broad-spectrum pesticide• Incorporate soil amendments because it tends to have less impact on non- information.• Install metal or wood edging and target organisms. Make sure to read and create shrub borders and planting Reduce Pest Problems follow pesticide label directions. areas Most pest problems directly correspond with the health and condition of the plant.• Install sprinkler heads and drip Other Maintenance Tasks: Stressed and weakened plants are more irrigation susceptible to disease and insect problems. • Annually aerate lawn areas• Plant all one gallon containers Maintaining plant health will prevent most or larger including balled and pest problems. • Reapply mulch as necessary burlaped or bareroot material Start with pest-free plant materials and • Fertilize as directed supplies; check for diseases and insects by• Install bedding plants, ground inspecting all plant parts including leaves, • Remove dead plant debris covers and turf areas stems and roots, before you purchase them. Roots should be firm and light in color. • Prune woody plants• Maintain the landscape Plant diversity in a yard can discourage plant pests. A diverse plant population Colorado State University, U.S. Department of Agriculture and Colorado counties cooperating. CSU Extension programs are available to all without discrimination. No endorsement of products mentioned is intended nor is criticism implied of products not mentioned.