Millions of dollars are spent each year designing, implementing, and maintaining our landscapes. Unfortunately, long-term problems are caused when we as gardeners make decisions based on our needs and wants without considering the environmental impact. You may have heard the term sustainable landscaping. What does a sustainable landscape mean?
A sustainable landscape is an attractive environment that is in balance with the local climate and requires minimal inputs, such as fertilizers, pesticides and water. The first step is an appropriate design that includes functional, cost efficient, visually pleasing, environmentally friendly, and maintainable areas.
There are several principles to consider when getting started with the design process. Using a naturalistic design will require less maintenance; provide seasonal interest, while benefiting wildlife. Using native plants that are adapted to local conditions will thrive with little care. Native plants are a better food source for native wildlife. Picking plants that are compatible with each other and the environment allows you create plant communities that require similar needs. Always consider the mature size of the plant and select plants whose ultimate size and shape fit the needs of the landscape. Using a wide variety of diverse plant material will not only provide more seasonal interest but will encourage more wildlife to find shelter in your yard. Plants placed in inappropriate growing conditions (lighting, moisture, temperature, etc.) become stressed and are more prone to pest problems.
Stormwater runoff is another issue that can be addressed by how we choose to garden. Rain gardens, green roofs and rain barrels are a great way to collect rain water and reduce the amount of pollution and runoff.
A soil test is the best way to determine the appropriate fertilizer to add to your soil. Apply fertilizers sparingly and at the correct time, according to the directions. This is also true when applying pesticides as well. Approximately 67 million pounds of pesticide is applied to lawns each year. Homeowners use ten times more pesticides per acre than farmers. Two thirds of pesticide users dispose of the excess in the trash! Many beneficial insects are very sensitive to pesticides. If you must spray, wait until late evening and use less toxic products.
Consider the water usage requirements for maintaining your landscape. Turf is considered a high water use zone. By reducing the amount of turf in the landscape and developing more naturalized areas you can reduce your water usage. Where feasible use hand tools and electric tools rather than power tools. Keep power tools well tuned.
Mulching can help your landscape no matter what the soil conditions. Mulch covers and cools the soil, minimizes evaporation, eliminates weed growth and slows erosion. Mulching will also aid in reducing your water usage by insulating a plants root system. As mulch decomposes, nutrients are added to the soil.
Implement a compost bin that you can use for locally grown crops and kitchen waste. This will increase the organic matter in the garden while recycling nutrients. Not only will this help the environment it will help your finances as well. Incorporating organic matter into the soil will increase its water holding capacity which means plants in this media will not need water as often.
The Pender County Extension Master Gardener Volunteer Association is having a Fall Plant sale. They have chosen an ample selection of deer resistant, salt tolerant, and pollinator plants, as well as shrubs, Japanese Maples, and “Homegrown Favorites” propagated by the Pender County Master Gardeners. A variety of bulbs for fall planting may be ordered as well.
The dates of the sale are Sept. 12, noon to 6 p.m., and Sept. 13, from 8:30 am to noon at the Hampstead United Methodist Church on 15395 US Highway 17N in Hampstead.
Proceeds from the plant sale go toward funding our School Outreach program in Pender county schools, Speaker’s Bureau, Ask a Master Gardener booths, and various community workshops.
For further information, call 910-259-1238.
For more information on plant selections, visit ces.ncsu.edu where you can submit questions via the ‘Ask an Expert’ link, or contact your local Cooperative Extension center by phone: If you live in Pender County, call 910-259-1238; in New Hanover County, call 910-798-7660; in Brunswick County call 910-253-2610.
Susan Brown is the consumer horticulture extension agent with the North Carolina Cooperative Extension in New Hanover County. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or 910-798-7476.