What is sustainable landscaping?• Promotes the use of environmentally responsible landscaping practices that preserve the functioning of natural ecosystems – Reduces/prevents pollution – Conserves natural resources – Maximizes ecological function – Promotes usefulness – Looks attractive!
Why use sustainable landscaping?• Requires less maintenance• Reduces environmental harm – Pollution, climate change, etc.• Benefits wildlife – Food, water, cover• Provides seasonal interest• Maintains local character
Your yard is part of a larger system• Nature doesn’t know property boundaries – Vegetation part of community – Wildlife – Water, nutrients, energy move through system• If all yards provided good habitat the result would be large, continuous, healthy landscape – Large animals require large home ranges – Difficulty migrating over patchy landscapes – Become more important as climate changes, species shift ranges
Our ideas of landscapes change over time• Current view: Human manipulation of nature – Yards with planted flowers, shrubs, etc. – Lawns• Brief history: Landscapes should be useful – Used to grow crops, pasture animals – Lawn was English influence on early wealthy Americans • Used to show wealthy status• Future view: Sustainability – Lawns reduced to usable size • Consider alternatives – Sustainable maintenance – Consideration of wildlife, system as a whole
Impacts of Current Landscapes• Pollution: Air, noise, water – Climate change• Flood damage/erosion• Harm to biodiversity and wildlife• Consumption of natural resources• Impacts to public health and safety• Cost and labor intensive• Monotonous
Air Pollution• Direct: Lawn and garden equipment – 1 hour mowing = 100 miles in car – Emits 5% of ozone- forming VOCs – Emits 55 tons of VOCs per day • VOCs linked to health effects and climate change Lawns cover >20 million acres in• Indirect: U.S.; largest “crop” Transportation, manufacturing
Air Pollution: GHG Emissions and Climate Change• ~1/3 of anthropogenic CO2 emissions since 1850 attributed to land-use – Includes deforestation, agriculture, development• Landscaping practices release GHGs – CO2 from fossil-fuel powered machines – Nitrous oxide from fertilizer usage (300x more powerful than CO2) – Soil disturbances release GHGs• Lawns release 4x more carbon than they store through photosynthesis
Noise Pollution Lawnmowers: The sound of suburbia…..
Water Pollution: Pesticides• Homeowners use 10x more per acre than farmers• 67 million lbs applied on lawns each year• 2/3 users dispose of excess in trash, remainder down drains• Detectable limits found in 5-10% of wells• Neurotoxins, carcinogens, endocrine disruptors
Water Pollution: Fertilizers• Use has doubled Eutrophic lake nitrogen input covered in weeds into ecosystems• 40-60% of nitrogen in surface and groundwater• Nitrogen and phosphorus result in eutrophication, possibly dead zones in aquatic systems
Flood Damage and Erosion• Lawn has shallow root systems – Not able to stabilize banks – Lawns only absorb 10% of rainfall of forest – Runoff results in erosion, flash flooding, aquatic habitat destruction
Flood Damage and Erosion Prairie plants have extensive root systemsLonger roots = stabilizessoil more efficiently andrequires less water
Harm to Biodiversity: Habitat Loss• Traditional development leads to habitat loss and fragmentation – Destroys and degrades natural habitat – NASA: 1/3 to ½ of Earth’s land surfaces impacted by human development• ¼ of all species faced with extinction in 50 years – Single largest cause is habitat loss
Harm to Biodiversity: Pesticides• Pesticide use: – 67 million lbs applied to lawns/yr – 60-70 million birds poisoned/yr in U.S. – <1% of the half million plant and animal species in U.S. considered pests• Overpopulation of a “pest” species usually means unbalanced system• Majority of herbivores that feed rest of food chain are insects• Beneficial species also killed• Use can lead to pesticide-resistant pests
Harm to Biodiversity: Lawns• Monoculture – the anti- biodiversity – Doesn’t exist in nature – Requires maintenance!• Sustainable landscapes – Minimize lawn to usable size – Use sustainable maintenance practices – Consider alternatives
Harm to Biodiversity: Invasive Plants• Native plant – evolved in an area with native community• Non-natives lack natural enemies, resist population control• Not all introduced plants will become invasive• Gardens are staging areas for invasives – We coddle them, give them competitive edge – Lag phase – up to a decade in which potential invasive seems “innocent” • Pollinators, birds, etc. haven’t discovered yet• Be wary of what you plant!
Invasive Plants Originally Ornamentals Purple loosestrife, Norway maple, Burning bush, Japanese knotweedInvasive plants can takeover natural areas
Consumption of Natural Resources: Water• Lawns use 30% in East; 60% in West• Droughts, water restrictions Shorter root systems in lawn grass require more frequent watering
Consumption of Natural Resources: Fossil Fuels• Much landscaping done with power tools• Average 1/3 acre of lawn consumes: – 5 gal gas for mowing and trimming – Equivalent of 7 gal fertilizing • Natural gas is heated to combine atmospheric nitrogen and hydrogen into ammonia – 5 gal watering – 1 gal for cleanup• 18 gal/household x 120 million households = 2.2 billion gallons of gas for lawn care per year – Does not include other landscaping activities
Impacts to Public Health and Safety• Poisoning – 50-75% don’t store pesticides safely – 50% don’t read/follow pesticide labels – 110k sickened by pesticides/yr in U.S.; 3 million worldwide• Accidents – 75k/yr require ER treatment for mower injuries
Cost and Labor Intensive• $25 billion/yr spent on lawn care• 1 acre lawn costs $400-700/yr to maintain• Average homeowner spends 40 hrs/yr mowing
Monotony, thy name is lawnEcologically dead landscapes •Big business horticulture results in same plants sold from coast to coast •Loss of local character
Sustainable Landscaping PrinciplesDESIGN MAINTENANCE• Natural design •Integrated Pest• Ecological value Management• Lawn reduction •Careful nutrient• Native plants application• Biodiversity •Water conservation• Right plant, right place •Energy conservation• Plant for the long term •Composting• Energy conservation •Mulching• Water conservation• Edible landscapes
Design: Natural Designs• Require less maintenance• Benefits wildlife• Provides local and seasonal interest
Design: Ecological Value VS•Reconnects fragments, resulting in larger habitats andcorridors to aid in dispersal•Captures carbon, through restoration of forests and othernatural vegetation Your landscape is part of larger system!
Design: Lawn Reduction• Minimize areas of lawn• More sustainable maintenance• Lawn alternatives – “No mow” lawns mowed monthly or even less frequently • Use less water, fertilizers • Ex: Buffalo grass, mixed fescues, sedges (Carex pensylvanica) – Shortgrass meadows (mixed with wildflowers) – Groundcovers – Moss• Remember to select non-invasive species!
Traditional lawn alternativesFrom top left: buffalograss, Pearl’s premium, moss,shortgrass meadow, Carex
Design: Use of Native Plants• Have evolved in local conditions (climate, soil, etc.) so thrive with least care – Less watering, fertilizing, pesticide application• Do not pose risk of exotic invaders• Provide “sense of place”• Many to choose from! Top: Norway maple Bottom: native sugar maple
Design: Native Plants• Improves quality of air, soil and water• Prevents flooding• Controls erosion• Enhances biodiversity – Attracts beneficial insects, which outcompete and even eat pest species – Feeds food chain
Design: Biodiversity• Diverse landscapes more pest- resistant• Attract beneficial insects (predators, pollinators), insect- eating birds, mammals
Design: Biodiversity• Wildlife need habitat!• NWF Backyard Habitat: applies basics of wildlife management to urban and suburban landscapes – 140k habitats and over 70k acres – Basic elements: • Food • Water • Cover • Sustainable landscaping practices
Right Plant, Right Place!• Assess site conditions – Soil, amount of light• Select plants – That thrive in those conditions – Whose size and shape fit needs• Reduces maintenance, results in healthier plants
Design: Plant for the Long Term• Perennials v. Annuals – Perennials live for more than two years • Herbaceous plants that die back in fall but come back in spring • Technically includes woody plants – Annuals die every year• Annuals provide instant gratification• Perennial usage – Take 3-5 years to mature – Reduces cost and transportation impacts from annual replacement
Design: Energy and Water Conservation• Using native plants adapted to local conditions – Less maintenance = less resource usage• Planting trees – Improves air quality by filtering pollutants – Reduces storm water runoff – Provides habitat – Reduce atmospheric CO2 – Reduces urban heat through evaporative cooling and shading concrete areas – Can lower winter heating bills by 25% and summer cooling bills by 50% • Evergreen windbreaks on north side • Deciduous trees on south side to provide summer shade, winter sun
Design: Energy and Water Conservation• Green roofs – layer of living vegetation on roofs – Moderates temperature – Dramatically reduces storm runoff – Provides habitat – Reduce GHG emissions: In Detroit-sized city would eliminate year’s worth of CO2 emitted by 10k SUVs and trucks• Living walls
Design: Edible Landscapes• Integrates edible plants into design – Reduces food miles – Connects us to nature – Contributes to food security – Reduces climate change – Produces healthy, organic food – Saves money – Produces interesting varieties• Can include natives: – Paw paw, raspberries, sage, some wild onion species, wild grapes, wild strawberries, walnuts, blueberries, mulberries• Others: – Fruit trees; perennials like strawberries, asparagus, many herbs; annuals like squashes, peppers, tomatoes, greens• Edibles can be beautiful and don’t have to be limited to “vegetable garden” in back yard!
Edibles can be beautiful& provide an opportunityfor landscape to be useful
Maintenance: Integrated Pest Management (IPM)• Goal: reducing or eliminating pesticide use while managing pests at acceptable level• Three prongs: – Prevention: • Healthy plants less susceptible to pests • Start right: right plant, right place • Best varieties • Watering practices, induced competition, companion planting – Observation: monitor and identify pests – Intervention: • Mechanical controls: hand picking, traps, vacuuming, etc. • Biological controls: use of beneficial insects, microorganisms • Chemical controls: use least toxic chemicals – Spot treat rather than broadcast
Maintenance: Careful Nutrient Application• Use soil testing to determine if fertilizing is necessary• Use compost• Use organics and slow release• Apply sparingly and at correct time• Little to none needed for natives
Maintenance: Water Conservation• Use less water – Only water when needed – Water early in day – Don’t water concrete – Water deeply, infrequently – Use drought tolerant or native plants Drip irrigation • Xeriscaping: use of drought tolerant plants, but not necessarily native
Maintenance: Water Conservation• Retain water – Use mulch – protective cover placed over soil • Organic mulch provides nutrients during decay process: leaves, grass clippings, wood chips, straw, shredded newspaper, Don’t haul cardboard, pine needles away your leaves! Nature • Also reduces erosion, is giving you suppresses weed growth garden gold…. – Capture runoff (rain barrels or rain gardens)
Maintenance: Energy Conservation• Reduce lawn size and maintenance!• Use hand tools over power tools• Electric over gas tools
Maintenance: Composting• Compost: decomposed organic matter from plants (kitchen, lawn) and animals (not recommended) – Encourages soil microorganisms – Acts as slow-release fertilizer (eliminates need for synthetic) – Suppresses plant diseases and pests – Increases yields – Improves soil structure, improving water retention• Saves on disposal fees, landfill space, transportation impacts OM is ~25% of solid waste in landfills Breaks down anaerobically, producing methane, which is 23x more potent as GHG than CO2
Sustainable Lawn CareMowing Chemicals• Mow with a sharp blade • Avoid fertilizers and• Don’t cut shorter than 3” pesticides – Taller grass = longer roots = – Kill good and bad insects, kill less watering microbes in soil; result is – Taller grass shades out weed system out of balance seeds • Accept certain level of• Leave grass clippings on insects and weeds lawn • Encourage predators – Breakdown provides nutrients – Birds, bats, beneficial insects – Does NOT cause thatch buildup • Top dress with compost• Mow when dry • Appropriately time chemical – Otherwise blades cut applications & consider unevenly, spreading disease organic alternativesWatering – Ex. Corn gluten• Only water when needed Limit lawn size – Less frequent but deeper and consider alternatives!
Sustainable Landscaping Resources• New England Wildflower Society• Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center• Project Native• Greenscapes• EPA (Smithsonian)• American Beauties• NWF Backyard Habitat
Sustainable Landscaping ResourcesONLINE BOOKS• New England Wildflower • “Bringing Nature Home” – Society Tallamy• Lady Bird Johnson • “Noah’s Garden” – Stein Wildflower Center • “Native Plants of the• Project Native Northeast” – Leopold• Greenscapes • “Native Alternatives to• EPA (Smithsonian) Invasive Plants” – Burrell• Plant Native • W. Cullina (NEWFS) • “Edible Estates: Attack on the Front Lawn” – Haeg