Eco-Friendly Landscaping

Artificial Turf Minimizing Turf Native Vegetation Xeriscaping Planting Trees

Stormwater Planter Boxes Mulching Driveways

Rainwater Management Rainwater Harvesting Managing Rainwater & Green Roofs

Managing Rainwater with Surfaces Gutters and Downspouts Infiltration Basin for Trees

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LANDSCAPING

Asustainable residential landscape can be every bit as lush and beautiful as a traditional landscape, while still conserving soil, water, and energy and reducing or eliminating the use of toxic chemicals. It can also grow in harmony with the local ecosystem,

attracting native wildlife.

The basic principles of green landscaping are fairly simple. First, use native vegetation because it requires less water and fewer special fertilizers, pesticides, and other chemical treatments. Second, design the landscape so that it requires less maintenance and irrigation. This means minimizing turf, instituting alternate mowing schedules, and installing smart, efficient irrigation systems. Third, reduce the use of harsh fertilizers and pesticides, replacing them with earth-friendly products, natural materials, or plants that work as natural insect repellents.

Obviously, it takes careful design and planning to apply these principles in ways that make your yard and gardens eco-friendly. This section offers a delightful mix of alternatives for sustainable landscaping.

Native Vegetation

What is it?

Native vegetation consists of plant species that are natural or indigenous to an area, including bushes, trees, flowers, and grasses. Native species evolved in their local environment over time. Thus, they are suited to local conditions of sun, rain, and wind. Also, you don’t have to compromise on beauty when mainstreaming native vegetation into landscaping, since it’s attractive and natural-looking. Native plants are typically hardier than non-native species, and consequently can put their energy into growing and blooming, rather than struggling to survive in foreign conditions. Native vegetation varies by region, of course, so you’ll need to research the plants that will grow best in your yard.

Why do it?

Environmental Qualities

Adapted to regional climate and soil conditions

Resistant to weather, insects, and drought

Preserve natural ecological balance by interacting harmoniously with other plant, insect, and animal species

Reduce need for using chemicals to control weeds and diseases

Eliminate use of landscaping materials, like bark-mulch, that might contain synthetic chemicals

Pros:

Well-suited to the local climate so less watering is needed, saving on utilities

Able to resist ravages of common local insects

Promote biodiversity by attracting native birds, amphibians, and desirable insects like butterflies

Live longer than non-native species

Landscaping requires less maintenance once established

Cost less to maintain

Cons:

Might attract undesirable insects or animals, like bees or deer

Limit the choice of plants and trees available for landscaping

Some might be unsuitable for family lifestyle (e.g. sharp- leaved or thorny plants are unsafe for children)

Might not blend well with non-native vegetation already planted

Maintenance:

Native vegetation requires some of the same maintenance as non-native plants, such as pruning, replanting, weeding, and maintaining soil fertility. However, less watering and insect

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control are generally required, and once established, native vegetation will require less long-term care.

Timeline:

Establishing a native vegetation perennial garden depends on size and current landscaping condition of the yard. Killing out an existing lawn, preparing the soil, and installing native plants might take up to 3-6 months. For new construction, native vegetation can be planted over several days or weekends. Generally, it takes up to 2 years for some native vegetation to become fully developed.

Steps:

1.Research native plants by blooming season, identify the types of animals, birds, and insects you want to attract, and choose appropriate plants.

2.Research site to identify areas like shady and sunny spots, or locations with special drainage requirements, and develop a planting plan.

3.If removing existing lawn, employ machinery, garden fork, or shovel. If killing lawn, smother the sod by covering it with at least 10 sheets of newspaper and then layering 4-6 inches of leaf mulch (leaf mulch creates new soil layer) and wait 2 months or rototill the sod and remove, being sure to completely turn over and mulch the soil. (This step can be performed before Steps 1 and 2.)

4.Remove non-native plants.

5.Once grass is dead or removed, add natural features to control stormwater runoff and add decorative style items like large rocks or boulders and natural pathways.

6.Plant desired native vegetation.

7.Mulch around all plantings with appropriate mulch materials.

8.Water all plants as necessary until established.

Cost Estimator:

Estimates for landscaping vary from 5-15% of the home value, depending on the type of lawn and vegetation planted. A budget plan can be completed for significantly less by using cuttings obtained from neighbors, friends, and local green or agricultural organizations, as opposed to a native plant nursery. The local co-op or state agricultural agency can provide many helpful hints on ways to reduce the costs of planting native vegetation and provide helpful research.

Quick Tips:

It is not advisable to cut down trees, even if they are not native species. Trees offer many benefits, both to wildlife and the homeowner, including providing shade which can lower energy costs. Additionally, many communities have ordinances prohibiting felling of trees.

While sod is decaying it is a good time to determine which native plants will work best,

When covering sod with newspaper, ensure no grass is left exposed so it dies completely and does not return later.

Plantings may be containerized or sowed from seed.

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Stormwater

Planter

Boxes

What is it?

Stormwater planter boxes are specially constructed planting beds, strategically located to receive runoff from roofs. Made of brick, stone, concrete, metal, or wood, they are generally located close to walls, under roof eaves, or near architectural features, such as downspouts, that direct stormwater from the roof to the ground. Properly developed, planter boxes are very eco-friendly, as the runoff waters the vegetation in the planter box, promoting evapotranspiration.

Naturally, planter boxes must be designed and plants selected to handle the expected amount of stormwater runoff during a storm. Ideally, the box will contain a soil and compost mix, blended to provide maximum nutrients and minerals for the plants while still providing permeability for good water absorption and drainage. Rainfall enters the planter box, passes through soil and roots, and eventually exits out the bottom at a slow pace, effectively recharging groundwater.

There are three basic types of stormwater planter boxes: infiltration, flow-through, and contained. The infiltration style box is an in-ground planter with exposed surface and open bottom. Water can flow from downspouts directly into an infiltration box, and since it has an open bottom, there is no need to redirect drainage. The flow-through and contained planter boxes are similar, except that an overflow pipe is installed on the flow- through type. The pipe directs water into the stormwater system at ground level. Perforated pipe connected horizontally to the overflow pipe controls drainage during periods of heavy rain. Contained planters are not usually placed directly beneath roof runoff, but they do gather rainwater, which is then absorbed into the soil. Some contained planters have holes on the bottom to allow for excess water to drain.

Why do it?

Environmental Qualities

Reduce stormwater runoff volume and flow rate

Use stormwater for watering vegetation

Increases evapotranspiration

Filters stormwater runoff through mulch, soil, and plant roots

Adds wildlife habitat

Reduces potential ground erosion from heavy stormwater runoff

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Pros:

Attractive means of controlling roof stormwater runoff

Can function as a buffer around buildings, patios, decks, and walkways

Enhances landscaping aesthetics

Can be constructed wherever desired, on flat or sloped land

Can be designed in any configuration

Cons:

Successful water infiltration into soil depends on soil type and permeability

Can be high maintenance

Maintenance:

Planter boxes require regular maintenance. The vegetation needs the same care as other landscape features, including pruning, fertilizing, mulching, weeding, watering during dry seasons, and replacement of plants lost. Cold climates require winterizing. Wood construction boxes require periodic painting or sealing, while stone or masonry boxes will need periodic cleaning. Flow pipes or weep holes must be cleared of dead vegetation, insect habitats, and other blockages.

Timeline:

One planter box can usually be built and planted in a single weekend, depending on the size and complexity of the box.

Steps:

Cost Estimator:

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1.Develop a plan for planter box location.

2.Choose the planter box style: contained, infiltration, or flow- through box with overflow pipe (for large storms).

3.Prefabricate the box and then install, or construct in place (add weep holes for drainage).

4.If you build a contained planter box, place filter fabric in bottom of box or lay several inches of clean, uniformly graded stone in infiltration bed.

5.Place 12-18” of soil and compost mix on top of filter fabric or infiltration bed.

6.Plant flowers, small shrubs, or other vegetation.

Quick Tips:

✓✓Planter box must be constructed and located so that it captures enough runoff to water vegetation. ✓✓Downspouts should not send runoff directly to planter boxes if they are small or if area experiences very heavy rainfall on a regular basis.

✓✓Water vegetation every 3 days for first 2 months until plants are established and then only as needed depending on rainfall,

✓✓Keep planter box free of dead vegetation,

✓✓Always keep overflow devices clear of debris.

The cost to construct a planter box with underdrain can range from $8 to $42.60 per sq. ft., depending on materials and box size. Maintenance cost can range from $400 to $500 annually for a 500-sq. ft. box.

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Xeriscaping

What is it?

Xeriscapingreferstolandscapingdesignedtoconserve water by creating a water-efficient environment in a specific area. Through strategic grouping of plants requiring less water and the installation of water-efficient irrigation systems, a well-designed xeriscape uses only a fraction of the water required by traditional landscapes. Natural land contours are included in planning to ensure judicious use of water from the irrigation system and rainfall. A xeriscaped area uses drought-tolerant plants suitable for the region and integrates natural materials like native rock or stone to create water runoff troughs and pathways. The final result can be a beautiful, lush, practical environment that requires little maintenance.

Why do it?

Environmental Qualities

Takes full advantage of rainfall by preventing runoff

Is in harmony with local eco-cycle through plant selection

Greatly reduces need for watering

Promotes growth of native vegetation

Provides habitat for local wildlife and insects

Significantly reduces runoff of chemicals used for fertilizing and weed control into the stormwater drainage systems

Fewer grass clippings containing chemicals are sent to the landfill

Pros:

If done properly, lowers utility bills

Less maintenance required due to lower water requirements

Saves money spent on plantings, seed, and maintenance labor

Cons:

Requires more planning and start-up effort than traditional landscaping

Limits plant selection

Less use of traditional weed control chemicals might increase need for more manual weed removal

Must be maintained, including weeding, pruning, and mowing (if lawn is planted)

Maintenance:

Like any landscaped area, xeriscapes require periodic maintenance, including pruning, raking, mowing, and removing of dead vegetation. If following environmentally sound maintenance practices, meaning little or no chemical use, weeding will be routinely required. Mulching is important to xeriscaping because it helps plants and soil retain water, so mulch needs to be refreshed occasionally.

Timeline:

The xeriscape can be installed over a 2-3 month period.

Steps:

1.Plan the xeriscape project by identifying site contours, runoff patterns, seasonal shaded and sunny areas, and location of desired patios and walkways.

2.Analyze soil to determine texture, drainage qualities, and nutrient content.

3.Reduce existing turf area and install landscape features like patios, decks, or paths.

4.Select native plants that require little water and are adaptable to the site.

5.When planting, group plants based on water requirements to create efficient water-use zones, and plant drought-resistant ground cover on steep slopes subject to extreme water runoff.

6.Install a drip irrigation system or retrofit an existing spray sprinkler system to be more water-efficient.

7.Plant grass first, then shrubs and trees. Generously mulch trees and shrubs using organic material like compost or straw.

8.Develop a routine maintenance plan.

Cost Estimator:

Project cost will vary based on regional native vegetation and climate as well as complexity. Professional xeriscape installation is comparable to traditional landscape installation. The average cost is $1-$4 per square foot for a professional installation and half that for a DIY project. If an existing irrigation system must be adapted, the cost will increase.

Quick Tips:

✓✓Apply adequate organic material to sandy or clay soil to improve water retention and drainage.

✓✓Where needed, add decorative troughs of stone to slow down water runoff during heavy rainfalls. ✓✓Any turf left intact or planted should be drought- tolerant.

✓✓Ensure the irrigation system does not waste water on hardscapes (impervious surfaces).

✓✓Select native plants that are drought-tolerant and will grow well in the property soil.

✓✓When mulching, leave the base of vegetation (e.g. tree trunk, stems) bare. Do not pile mulch up against base, as this will damage vegetation.

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