As the [population] grows, communities use more resourcesandgenerate morewaste. Environmental
agencies are lookingclosely at urban landscapes forsolutions tolong-term pollutionproblems.
Consequently, legal restrictions arebeing placed onlandscape design and maintenance practices.
Role of Landscape Managers
Landscape contractors and site managers can efficientlymanageresources so as toreduce waste and
prevent pollution.Withforethought, they can design andmaintainsustainablelandscapes that are
cost-effective and environmentally sound.
What Are Sustainable Landscapes?
Sustainable landscapes are managed with practices thatconserve limited, valuablenatural resources,
reduce waste,andprevent pollution of the air, water, and soil.Thegoal istoprovide as much value as
possible with the leastenvironmentalimpact.
What Are the Benefits of Sustainable Landscaping?
Traditionallandscaping often requires a great deal of water,energy, labor, andotherresource — in
which caseenvironmental and economic costs might outweighthenaturalbenefits of urban
landscapes. By contrast,sustainablelandscapes (a)rely onhealthier, longer-lived plants that (b)
require little or no chemical pesticideand fertilizeruse, (c)dramatically reduce water use, and (d) cut
back on wastegeneration anddisposal. Sustainable landscapes also need lessmaintenance anddo not
Using Sustainable Practices
Sustainable landscapes need not be hot, dry gardens of cactusand gravel. Theycaninclude beautiful
flowers and otherplants,shrubs, and trees that reducemaintenancecosts whileprotecting the
environment. Using sustainable landscapemaintenancepractices makes good business sense. They
decrease (a) resourcedepletion, (b)waste generation, and (c)pollution problems, at the same time
rehabilitating thelandscape in a picturesque and cost-effective manner.
Build Healthy Soils
Healthy soils are essential in urban landscapes. Organic matteradditions (compostorhumus) can
transform poor soils into afertile growth medium that supportshealthyplant growthwhilereducing
water and fertilization requirements. Healthydisease-andpest-resistant plants improve landscape
appearance andincreaseproperty values.
Use shredded or chipped plant materials with the necessarywood content as amulchcover over the
soil in planting bedsand other bare areas in the landscape.Mulch will
(a) insulate plant roots, (b) prevent weed growth and waterloss, and (c) controlerosion, dust, and
mud. Mulchdecomposition conditions the soil and addsnutrients.
Don't waste water! Overwatered plants may grow too fast.Therunoff contributestoground-water
pollution. Use water-efficient irrigation systems, such as drip orlow-outputsprinklerheads, that
deliver a precise volume of water toplant rootzones.Develop watering schedules based onhistorical
or actualweather data. Usesoil probesto monitorsoil moisture beforewatering.
Use precisely the right amount of fertilizer at the right time. Ifyou fertilizecorrectly,plants won't
grow too fast and willinstead be healthy and disease- andpest-resistant.Fertilizeaccording to the
needs of the individual plant. Use slow-releaseor organicformulas based on nutrient needs verifiedby
soiltesting. Thiswill reduce growthspurts that increasethe needfor pruning and mowing.
Grasscycle Turf Areas
Use mulching mowers that leave grass clippings on the lawn asyou mow. Theydecompose quickly and
release valuablenutrients back into the soil. You'll use lesswater and fertilizer,reduce maintenance
costs, and create no waste. If you'vebeenmowing often enough, the clippings will be short andwon't
cover the grass.
Excessive and haphazard pruning of shrubs and trees iswastefuland unhealthy.Pruning should be
used only tomaintain naturalgrowth patterns. Hedging,topping,andshearing of landscapeplants into
formal shapes only encourageexcessive newgrowth.Using natural pruning techniques at theproper
season willpromote healthierplants and also reduce“suckering” andstabilize growth.
Reuse Organic Materials On-Site
A chipper at the landscape site can mulch prunings andclippingsfrom woodyshrubsand trees, and you
can then applythe mulchon the landscape. Trimmingsandclippings fromlawns, trees,and shrubs from
large landscape sites canbecomefeedstock foron-site composting operations, reducingthe need for
Recycle Organic Materials Off-Site
If lawn clippings, shrub and tree trimmings, or prunings mustberemoved fromlandscape sites, take
them to a localcompostingfacility or green waste processorforrecycling.When buyingmulches and
composts, look for products withthehighestrecycled green-waste content to support andsustain
Practice Pollution Prevention
Landscape managers: Use Integrated Pest Management (IPM) sothat you'll rely lesson chemical
pesticides and herbicides,which can eventually make their way off-siteand contributetononpoint
source pollution (pollution not traceable to asinglelocation). As much as possible, use nonmotorized
equipment toreduceemissions andnoise pollution.
Retrofit Inefficient Landscapes
As established landscape sites age or grow beyond theirintended use, you'll needtoredesign them so
as to integrateresource efficiency, site function, andaesthetics.Reduce turfareas and establish new
landscape plantings of low-maintenanceanddrought-tolerant plants. Retrofit irrigationsystems. Enrich
depleted soils to save waterand promotehealthy plant growth.
Amend Contract Specifications
A good landscape-maintenance program requires a contractthatprovides for andpromotes sustainable
practices. Sitemanagersand contractors should develop anduse sustainablelandscapemaintenance
contract specifications that areresource-efficient.They should include good culturalpractices, water
management, greenwastemanagement, andpreventivemaintenance management clauses.
Think Recycle/Buy Recycled
Recycling materials from the construction, installation, orupkeep of landscapesites willreduce waste.
Wood wasteconverts to mulch. Plastic pots can berecycled forlandscapeuse. Buying recycled-
content landscaping products, such asplastic edgingor lumber, conserves natural resources and
strengthens markets forthese recyclablematerials.
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