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.
How to Make a Rain Barrel

Caring for Your Rain Barrel

The screen should prevent accumulation of debris in your barrel and will protect against mosquito larvae. If mosquitoes become an issue, add a couple of tablespoons of vegetable oil to the water to prevent larvae from forming. Keep screens free of leaves and debris and leave the drainage hose adapter open in winter months to avoid ice damage.

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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.

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