Quick and Dirty: Sustainable Landscaping Made Simple

These sustainable ideas are cheap and easy, whether you have acres of land or a few patio plants.
Rainwater Collected from Roof and Stored in Barrel

Rainwater Collected from Roof and Stored in Barrel

©2011, Dorling Kindersley Limited

2011, Dorling Kindersley Limited

Rain barrels are used to collect rainwater from the roof. These supplies of water are a valuable alternative to city water or well water.

Similar Topics:

Who has the worst reputation in the world of green living? Sustainable landscaping. This misunderstood outcast eats its lunch alone in the far corner of the cafeteria while the popular parts—eating organically and recycling—rule the cool kids’ table. Why? Because we assume it requires too much of two things—money and effort—when it’s actually just the opposite.

“My mother always told me the best way to keep a house clean is not to mess it up in the first place,” says Lee Garrard RLA/ASLA, co-owner of MedicineWheel Land Planning in Athens, Georgia and Charleston, South Carolina. “If you don’t mess up the land, there’s nothing to repair. Nature provides us with everything we need to work with the land instead of against it.”

Whether you have acres of land or a few patio plants, implementing these ideas is cheap, easy and sure to help sustainable landscaping rise up the ranks of popularity:

Develop a Crush on Rubble

That pile of discarded aggregate isn’t junk, it’s your new hardscape. Recycled local materials like brick, stone, lumber and even metal can enjoy a new life as walkways, walls, decks and patios. “I found some broken concrete, arranged it in a pattern in a 20-by-20 space, filled it with dirt and planted grass between the joints,” Garrard says. “The grass took off and made it look beautiful and substantial.”

Think Inside the Box

Garrard and co-owner/landscape designer Lauren Stubbs set up nesting boxes for birds and bats on Rushland Plantation—a 500-acre neighborhood in Johns Island, South Carolina—to support local wildlife and offset the need for fungicides and pesticides. “A bat can eat over 1,000 insects a night,” Garrard says. “Providing dependable water sources like bird baths and forms of shelter encourages wildlife to work with you.” Something as small as incorporating a small stone pile makes a big difference: it provides cover for insects, amphibians, chipmunks and other creatures.

Rein in the Rain

Make the best of a rainy afternoon by watching where the water goes. Where does it drain? Where does it pool? “This is a great opportunity to use what is naturally happening to focus plants that love water in specific areas,” Garrard says. “You’ll water less and offset erosion issues.” He also suggests rain barrels and rain chains to harvest rainwater, which is better for your landscape than what comes out of the hose.

Get to Know the Natives

Plants indigenous to the area don’t require as many fertilizers or pesticides, need less water and play nice with the local animals and insects.

Matter Matters

Composting gets a bad rap for requiring too much effort, but how much time (and money!) does it take to buy mulch, then return to the garden shop to get the extra bags you should’ve bought the first time? Compost returns organic matter to the soil and keeps it out of landfills. In the fall, let the leaves fall where they may…and leave them there to feed the soil instead of raking and blowing.

What is a Medicine Wheel? Find out more at MedicineWheel Land Planning, Charleston, South Carolina and Athens, Georgia, 843.906.8404.

Next Up

Sustainable Landscape Design

Sustainable landscaping pairs plants that benefit each other – and you.

What Is Permaculture?

Find out about this holistic approach to sustainable growing.

10 Ways to Green Your Garden for Earth Day

Creating a more eco-friendly garden is easy. Try these simple ideas for celebrating Earth Day by creating a more sustainable yard.

Celebrity Landscape Designer Vickie Cardaro

This talented designer to celeb creatives like Simon Doonan and Jonathan Adler uses sustainable design for island and coastal homes.

Outdoor Design Redo: Plastic Makes Perfect

Do something good for the planet by using plastic transformed into fences, sidewalks and furniture.

Sustainability Drives Kitchen Remodel

A Seattle couple minimizes waste by finding ways to reuse materials throughout their kitchen.

Eco-Friendly Home Remodel

Designer Katarina Andersson employed smart design choices and sustainable materials to turn this duplex into a functional single family home.

Green Remodeling: Exterior and Whole House

Amp up your home's curb appeal with these eco-friendly updates for the exterior and whole house.

Organic Landscaping

Choose less work and less environmental impact when you go organic.

1,000+ Photos

Browse beautiful photos of our favorite outdoor spaces: decks, patios, porches and more.

On TV

Flea Market Flip

7:30am | 6:30c

Flea Market Flip

8:30am | 7:30c

Flea Market Flip

9:30am | 8:30c

Flea Market Flip

10:30am | 9:30c

Rehab Addict

11am | 10c

Rehab Addict

11:30am | 10:30c

Fixer Upper

12pm | 11c

Fixer Upper

1pm | 12c

Fixer Upper

2pm | 1c

Fixer Upper

3pm | 2c

Fixer Upper

4pm | 3c

Fixer Upper

5pm | 4c

Fixer Upper

6pm | 5c

Fixer Upper

7pm | 6c
Tonight
Tonight

Beachfront Bargain Hunt

8pm | 7c

Mexico Life

9pm | 8c

Mexico Life

9:30pm | 8:30c

Island Hunters

10:30pm | 9:30c

House Hunters

11pm | 10c

Mexico Life

12am | 11c

Mexico Life

12:30am | 11:30c

Island Hunters

1:30am | 12:30c

Follow Us Everywhere

Join the party! Don't miss HGTV in your favorite social media feeds.