Tips for Sustainable Landscaping and garden design

Sustainable landscaping and Garden Design is an approach to designing and constructing the artificial landscapes that surround our buildings and improving the natural landscapes which already exist. Sustainable landscaping means putting back much of what may have been in place before development, thereby enhancing biodiversity. It may also mean introducing things that were not there before, to ensure that the landscape can be socially, economically and environmentally sustainable in future.

Sustainably designed and constructed landscapes should be mainly self-sustaining and planned for the long-term without the continual input of large amounts of water, external energy and consumables to survive. Ideally these landscapes should maintain themselves and survive by being part of the natural cycles of the local environment. Sustainably designed and constructed landscapes work with natural systems to improve the sustainability of your home. Natural systems have been operating sustainably for millions of years and by working with natural systems in the way you landscape and maintain your site and gardens you can make a major contribution to the sustainability of your home.

Landscaping and garden design can simultaneously address aesthetics and amenity, water management, air quality, climate modification, biodiversity, habitat creation and local food production, and it can help warm and cool your house. The planning and design of outdoor space should be considered an integral part of your home’s sustainable design. The scope of design of outdoor space may range from revegetation of a large bush block to the detailed design of small courtyard spaces intimately linked to a sustainable home. The extent and type of vegetation is obviously important but sustainable landscape and garden design can do many things such as provide practical solutions to reducing water use through water sensitive design by itself or as part of a wastewater treatment system.

While the benefits are obvious (less maintenance, cost and labour) actually achieving a sustainable landscape and garden means changing the way we think about home landscaping. The following are a few tips for sustainable landscaping and garden design.

Use native plants

The key to using native plants is matching suitable plants to your particular landscape and garden environment. Growing indigenous plants that are native to your local area means they’ll flourish in the soil and require little maintenance to keep them healthy.

Australian soils are generally low in organic matter. They also vary greatly in their makeup and acidity level depending on their location. For example, Sydney is rich in sandstone and Cumberland clays, while Western Australian soil has a relatively high pH level of 7.0. When choosing a native plant, be sure to check with your local nursery that the plants are going to be happy in the type of soil in your garden.

One great thing about native Australian plants, besides their beauty, is that they are well-suited to our natural environment because they require minimal watering. For small plants, encourage them to develop a deep root system by keeping them moist from the beginning. This system will allow them to thrive on less water and cope with drought more effectively down the track.

Harness water

Collect, store and use as much storm water from your property as possible. Installing a tank that collects rainwater is also a fantastic idea, as you will have water that is free from the chlorine and other additives used in regular potable supplies.

Use natural stones in your garden

Natural stones are taken from the earth, and are a fantastic option to your sustainable landscape. With no harmful chemicals, natural stone pavers, pebbles and walls can afford you a variety of distinct looks to incorporate into your landscape and garden design with no impact on the environment.

The wide range of natural stone materials also means they are suitable for any Australian environment, both aesthetically and sustainably. Natural stone will perform well in Australian conditions, maintaining original look and structural integrity as well.

Reduce the use of chemicals in your garden

If your lawn is not looking well, you may reach for a chemical product to try and bring it back to life. However, the best option is to solarise the area to kill pathogens, and then reseed the following spring. Solarising can be easily done with plastic tarps held down by heavy objects, however it will also kill beneficial insects and larvae, so don’t do this unless absolutely necessary.

Weeding is also where many chemicals tend to be used, however once again, there are better options for the environment. Corn meal can be applied before weeds sprout to prevent them, and white vinegar and salt is the perfect remedy for weeds that have set up shop on your lawn.

Use natural garden care

There are so many alternative options for natural garden care that save energy, especially when it comes to looking after your lawn. Using a push mower is a good place to start. Non-electric mowers use no gas or power, are lightweight, reduce noise pollution and do not pollute the atmosphere. They also leave grass clippings on the ground as an organic free fertiliser.

Xeriscaping

Xeriscaping refers to the practice of landscaping specifically for areas that are susceptible to drought. It is a term that refers to any landscaping technique that aims at conserving water through creative landscaping. This technique focuses on landscaping by planting drought tolerant and slow-growing varieties of plants. A common factor in xeriscaping is reducing the amount of grass used in your outdoor space, since its usually one of the most taxing elements when it comes to water conservation.

Planting native plants is another common practice of xeriscaping, as they’re acclimated to the local conditions, therefore requiring less water and maintenance. Plants most suited to xeriscapes are often known as xeric plants, so keep this in mind when you’re next at the nursery looking out for some beautiful blooms.

Reduce waste by composting

People tend to see composting as a complicated, messy and smelly affair. However, if it is done correctly, it is an incredibly cheap and easy way to provide your garden with some seriously good humus, a nutrient-rich fertiliser. Composting is incredibly simple - some ideas of things to compost include fruit scraps, vegetable scraps, coffee grounds, eggshells, grass and plant clippings, dry leaves, finely chopped wood and bark chips, shredded newspaper, straw and sawdust from untreated wood.

Simply combine all your materials in a purpose-built compost bin, make sure it has sufficient air flow and water. Over time the materials will decompose into a soil-like product that’s full of rich nutrients for your garden and lawn. You will known your compost is ready to be fed to your garden when it takes on a dry, brown, crumbly appearance.

Edible landscaping

Integrating edible plants into your garden is an amazing way to not only provide some major ornamental beauty to your landscape, but to also save yourself some cash by growing your own food. This is great for the environment in a number of ways, such as reducing the carbon footprint caused by traditional food manufacturing, and eliminating the chemicals and additives that are so often contained within supermarket-bought food.

Having an edible landscape does not mean you have to be able to eat everything that is in your garden. Segmenting off a section of your garden for a vegetable bed that grows lettuce, blueberries, tomatoes, strawberries, pumpkin, kale, spinach and herbs is such a fun project and an awesome way to teach kids about sustainability practices and where their food comes from.

Have a chat to your local nursery about the best edible plants to grow for your local climate. Some will need shade and some will need sun, and they may also need different kinds of soils. It is always best to set yourself up for success and do your research.

Natural shade

Sustainable landscaping can be applied to create shade and also provide privacy from surrounding buildings. When considering the site, consider existing vegetation which can create great areas for recreation.

Planting shading trees will help cut your air conditioning bills in summer, and if they are deciduous, in the fall they will drop their leaves allowing more sun to shine into your home and so contribute to reducing heating costs. Plus the dropped leaves are great for composting.

Solar-powered lighting

By using of solar lights, homeowners may design a residential landscape in a way that is better for the environment while also reducing energy bills.

They are an excellent way for homeowners to reduce their carbon footprint as the lights are powered by the stored energy throughout the day. This means homeowners can light their gardens through the night with no additional power consumption.

Mulch

Mulch all garden beds to help retain moisture and repress weeds. Garden waste and by-products can be recycled to keep your garden healthy. Mulch can be made from dry lawn clippings, leaves and plant material, hay and straw, sawdust, old wood chips and compost.

Permeable surfaces

Minimise hard landscaping and maximise permeable surfaces that allow water to percolate and filter down into the soil.

Create an ecosystem

Plant bare-rooted fruit trees, herbs and vegetables, and attract wildlife to your landscape with trees such as banksias and grevilleas.

Disclaimer

Information provided in the text above is general in nature and does not consider your specific Sustainable Landscaping and Garden Design needs and requirements. The information is not professional advice and should not be treated as such. You must not rely on the information in the text above as an alternative to professional advice. If you have specific questions relating to this subject, we strongly recommend that you seek independent professional Sustainable Landscaping and Garden Design advice.