A sustainable landscape begins with a design that encompasses balance with the local climate and minimal resources.
As water costs continue to rise in the state, combined with a growing concern about the amount of available water, more Californians are considering sustainable landscapes for their homes. And in choosing this wonderfully drastic alternative to traditional lawns, they are lowering both their water bills and maintenance time by huge increments.
There are varying definitions of what sustainable landscaping encompasses, but essentially it should include an environment that is in balance with the local climate and one that requires minimal resource inputs such as fertilizer, pesticides, energy usage and, of course, water. Millions of dollars are spent annually in designing, implementing and maintaining traditional/urban landscapes. Unfortunately, long-term problems often arise when these processes are not properly executed.
While a landscape developed using sustainable practices will improve the environment by conserving resources, the key is understanding that the design process, plant selection and implementation of the plan must all seamlessly work together.
In considering a sustainable landscape, it is vital that both the landscaper and client consider a number of factors such how the space will be used, plant requirements, site conditions, the visual look to be achieved, timeline, and budget.
In addition to drought-tolerant plants, water-saving irrigation systems are a must in creating a sustainable landscape. For instance, irrigation specialists can create designs using appropriate technology. Depending on the situation, a drip or subsurface irrigation system may be used. If a system has been used for more than five years, newer technology is available such as evapotranspiration controls, soil sensors or refined control panels. Even if the system is new, irrigation heads may need to be realigned to prevent overspray onto sidewalks, for example.
Numerous building materials can also be incorporated into the design. It's important to be creative and use fewer virgin materials. For instance, hardscape materials may already exist on the site such as old bricks, stones, or other pavers that could be used for a driveway or to line a planting bed.
There also numerous recycled landscape products on the market in a variety of textures and colors, with many combining recycled plastics with wood byproducts. Requiring little maintenance, they make great choices for decks, fences, benches and planters. Materials such as asphalt with rubber tires, concrete made from fly ash, or decomposed granite are also good choices.