Ten ways to make your landscape more sustainable

"Rudbeckia 1" by Waferbord at Flickr/CC BY 2.0

“Rudbeckia 1” by Waferbord at Flickr/CC BY 2.0

Here’s a guide for making your gardens and outdoor spaces more earth-friendly:

1. Use native plants as much as possible.  They are naturally less maintenance and often help to restore native ecosystems.  On the flip side, don’t use invasive plants, which can quickly destroy existing natural environments.

2. Use locally-sourced plants and materials.  This reduces shipping pollution and packaging waste.  For all other materials, look for Fair Trade and ethical sources.

3. Preserve existing trees and vegetation when possible, which reduces erosion and maintains wildlife habitats. Along the same lines, try not to disturb existing grade and topsoil.

4. Safely remove toxic waste, and look for organic alternatives to toxic pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers.

5. Enrich soils naturally (compost, fallen leaves, etc.).

6. Choose plants that are most suitable to a given site.  For example, use drought-tolerant shrubs and perennials in dry, hot areas to reduce the need for supplemental watering.

7.  Eliminate large lawn areas.  Power-guzzling lawn mowers are not particularly earth-friendly.  Nor are the chemicals needed to maintain large weed-free lawns.  Opt for small, organically-maintained lawns where you need them, and plant ground covers or low-mow grasses elsewhere.

8. Reduce the need for power tools in general.  Choose plants that will be the correct size when fully-mature, so they won’t require shearing.  Plant ground cover around trees and install gravel strips along buildings to eliminate trimming.

9. Deter water runoff with rain gardens, bioswales, permeable/porous paving, and rain barrels.

10. Use recycled and reclaimed materials.