In February the landscape stirs to life. Well, not in Minnesota or even Tahoe but around here the plums, tulip magnolias , manzanita, forsythia, flowering currants and quince are in full bloom. Other deciduous trees and plants that still look bare now are starting to grow new roots deep underground. It’s time to plan this year’s garden. Think about how you can blend artistry with ecology.
A landscape developed with will improve the environment by conserving resources. It will require less maintenance and fertilizing, be balanced with our climate in mind and use less pesticides and water. Most of all it will be visually pleasing with lots of flowers. bees and butterflies.
Your goal may be a more drought tolerant garden but what’s right for your site? What plants to use that are more likely to withstand disease and pest damage? How do you keep the soil healthy and what irrigation system should be installed to provide for the needs of the landscape in the most efficient way possible? Where do you put the compost bin so you can return garden waste and kitchen waste back to the garden while recycling nutrients within the landscape? There are many components in designing and installing a sustainable landscape that is right for you and your site.
Start with a smart design. Utilize permeable paving like gravel or pavers the help manage runoff, giving the soil more time to absorb rainfall and recharge the ground water. Maybe you need a rain garden or small planted basin to catch and filter rainwater and keep it onsite.
Group plants in your garden according to their water needs. Some maybe can survive on rainfall alone after their second or third season while the perennial beds and vegetable garden will require a different schedule. Water slowly, deeply and infrequently so there is no runoff. Water in early morning or evening to maximize absorption.
Plant deciduous trees to provide cooling shade in the summer and allow sunlight to warm the house in winter. Trees and shrubs clean the air of nitrogen, sulfur dioxide, ozone and carbon monoxide and breathe in carbon dioxide ( a major greenhouse gas) , use the carbon to build mass, then exhale oxygen. They retain more carbon than they lose so every tree you plant helps reduce your carbon footprint on the planet.
Feed and shelter birds, butterflies and other wildlife in your landscape. Plant perennials such as echinacea, lavender, penstemon or salvia and other natives to attract pollinators like bees and hummingbirds. Plant flowers that attract beneficial insects to help control harmful insects and use organic pesticides.
Make your soil a priority by adding compost each year. Mulch your soil to keep down weeds and conserve water and use natural fertilizers like manures or fish emulsion that feed the soil. Compost the green and brown waste your garden produces like fallen leaves, weeds without seeds, grass clippings, spent flowers and vegetables.
Stay ahead of weeds, pulling them before they set seed and spread.
Take steps to develop a beautiful landscape that is right for you and your site and make your corner of the world contribute to the larger landscape around you.