Beneficial Landscaping

Ah the weekend, what better time to get out there and work in the yard?

I know that in the dead of winter its difficult for most to think about working in the yard. But now is a good time to re-evaluate the way in which you manage your property.

Does your lawn or garden contain non-native species of plants? Do you use chemical fertilizers and pesticides? Does your yard create a welcoming place for birds and friendly insects?

The Environmental Protection Agency is very concerned about how you are using your yard. To help you create the most habitable and beneficial space possible, they have recommended the following tips...

WHAT: Beneficial landscaping, sometimes referred to as natural or native landscaping though it is more than that, contains a number of principles that revolve around balancing our needs and sense of beauty with those of nature (our ecosystems) because, in the long run, they are interrelated. These principles are:

  • Protect existing natural areas to the greatest extent possible (woodlands and wetlands, stream corridors and meadows).

  • Select regionally native plants to form the backbone of the landscape. Select appropriate plants for each particular site (each plant has its unique requirements and most sites have a variety of conditions). While there's not usually a problem with occasional use of exotic plants, native plants have evolved to local conditions over millions of years and form an integral part in the life cycles of the local wildlife; they also give an area its unique sense of place.
  • Reduce use of turf. Instead, install woodland, meadow or other natural plantings. Where lawns are needed (such as play areas), follow best management practices available from your county's cooperative extension agent to reduce harmful impacts and use composting mowers.
  • Reduce use of pesticides, practice integrated pest management. Again, cooperative extension agents can help with natural alternatives to pesticides.
    Compost and mulch on site to eliminate solid waste. Generate a free mulch - a soil additive that can replace the need for most fertilizers.
  • Practice soil and water conservation. Stabilize slopes with natural plantings, mulch around plants, and install drought- tolerant species.
  • Reduce use of power landscape equipment. Shrinking the size of the lawn and planting appropriate native species in less formal arrangements will reduce the need for extensive use of power equipment.
  • Use plantings to reduce heating/cooling needs. Deciduous trees planted appropriately along the south sides of buildings can reduce air conditioning costs by up to 20%; in winter they allow the sun's rays to warm buildings. Coniferous trees planted to block prevailing NW winter winds can reduce heating costs. Trees planted to shade paved areas reduce the summer heat-island effect that makes parking lots so inhospitable.
  • Avoid use of invasive exotics which outcompete native plants and result in declines in biodiversity. Examples include: Norway maples, kudzu, purple loosestrife, Japanese honeysuckle and multiflora rose.
  • Create additional wildlife habitat to partially compensate for land lost to urban/suburban sprawl. This is especially important along streams where the vegetation can filter runoff, aid in flood control, and provide wildlife corridors.

Human Benefits From Beneficial Landscaping By adopting and advocating beneficial landscaping, wildlife isn't the only benefactor. Here's how we can all benefit.

  • Safer environments for our families

  • Quieter neighborhoods (from reduced use of power equipment)

  • Water conservation that benefits the homeowner and community

  • Reduced flooding and costs for stormwater managementGreater opportunities to enjoy nature

  • Reduced landscape maintenance labor/more free time

  • Reduced landscape maintenance costsLess strain on municipal waste collection and water treatment

  • Cleaner water bodies for fishing, swimming, drinking. Lower heating and cooling bills

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