How to Incorporate A Sustainable Landscape Into Your Garden
By Danica Dodson, Arlington Parks & Recreation
Posted on June 17, 2020, June 17, 2020

sustainable landscape

As summer approaches, temperatures start to rise and unfortunately, your water bill is likely to rise as well. Not to mention, who wants to spend hours tending to plants in the taxing summer heat? Incorporating a sustainable landscape into your garden is a great way to reduce water waste and grow a beautiful landscape of native, noninvasive plants that require less labor and chemical use. APRD’s Urban Forestry Land Manager Wendy Pappas offers these tips for turning your garden into a sustainable landscape that will save you time, energy, and money.

How Does a Sustainable Landscape Work?

A sustainable landscape reduces the amount of water waste through irrigation by incorporating drip irrigation, which is a type of micro-irrigation system that allows water to slowly drip to the roots of the plants and produces less wasteful runoff and evaporation. A sustainable landscape also reduces water waste through rainfall by including areas like rain water gardens or water harvesters and collectors. 

The sustainability of your landscape depends not only on these water-saving techniques, but also on the types of plants you grow. Sustainable landscapes feature native plants that are noninvasive and suited to the space you already have in your garden, allowing plants to maintain their natural growth form and reducing the need for regular labor and maintenance.

Right Plant, Right Place

Sustainable landscapes incorporate the “right plant, right place” concept. With this approach, you consider the space you already have in your garden and choose native plants based on what is best suited for your area. Do you have a lot of sun or shade? What is the native soil like in your particular area? Do you have clay or black gumbo soil or is it sandy? All of these questions will determine which plants will be best suited to your landscape.

Soil and Water PH

It is also important to consider the PH levels in your soil and irrigation water, which tend to be more alkaline. This means that when you go to the garden center to choose a plant, you would want to stay away from plants that like to grow in acidic soil, such as azaleas or hydrangeas. Another reason to avoid choosing these plants for your sustainable landscape is because they require a large amount of water, which goes against the goal of growing a sustainable garden and they are not native Texas plants.

Why Practice Sustainable Landscaping?

Reduced water usage is a major benefit to homeowners who create a sustainable landscape. By incorporating a drip irrigation system, you can water your plants only where and when they need water, rather than drenching them and creating excess runoff that then flows down the street or evaporates in the summer heat.

Plants chosen for sustainable landscapes require less water and also need little to no chemical applications since they are native to their area. You can also spend less time and energy on labor by relying on long-living plants that are deep-rooted and drought-tolerant. These plants will come out on top against weeds and will not need to be mowed, therefore reducing your use of fossil fuels and your overall cost on landscape maintenance.

How To Start Incorporating A Sustainable Landscape

The first step in creating any sustainable landscape is to assess your area and develop a vision for what you would like to incorporate. Is your site flat or sloped? Does it have trees? Which areas get the most sun? Think about which features will best suit you and your household – do you want a flower garden or a vegetable garden? What about an area for kids to play?

If you would like to incorporate a patio, consider an area that will provide you with shade from the sun. You can plant trees in locations that will block the sun from your house, which will reduce your cooling costs in the summer. If you plant deciduous trees, they will lose their leaves in the winter and allow the sun to warm your home during the cooler months.

To get the most out of your sustainable landscape, plant native grasses rather than hedges to reduce your overall cost and labor. Native grasses will only need occasional trimming, unlike hedges that need to be maintained continually throughout the year.

Be sure to choose native or adapted flowering plants that require less water but still stay beautiful throughout the year. For an extra touch, you can add rocks as an interesting focal point in your landscape. You need to add roughly 3 inches of mulch around your plants to keep the ground cooler and retain soil water, so you won’t need to water as much. This also adds organic matter to your soil and helps with weed control.

Creating a sustainable landscape is all about choosing the right plants for the right place to promote healthy, natural growth while reducing waste. We hope these tips help you bring sustainable beauty into your landscape while lowering your water usage, maintenance costs, and labor this summer!

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