Sustainable landscaping is an effort to manage residential and commercial landscapes responsibly in response to environmental challenges. There are best practices in every aspect of landscaping from design to management.
One of our newly implemented practices involves removing turf and replacing it with low-maintenance perennial plantings because turf requires too much maintenance and too many materials to be sustainable because it requires:
- 26 mowings
- A core aeration
- Spring cleanup
- 3 Fall leaf removals
- 5 fertilizing applications
- 3 Herbicide applications
- Watering three times a week every week for 25 weeks, (75 waterings)
When problems arise, this turf is basically a drug addicted carpet, so there are fungicide and grub treatments or an herbicide application.
All of this is avoidable by installing a properly planned perennial garden. It requires less of everything. 83 waterings a year and 4 maintenance visits is all the care it requires. An added benefit is when maintained properly it won’t require weeding after a while. While beds require some maintenance the idea is to perform “turf audits” to see what function the turf is performing.
For example, if the function is to sparsely populated the ground under maple tree you might want to remove it and install something else. If it is on a slope and meant to control erosion then maybe you want to keep that grass and if their are kids in the house, the more turf the better. Deciding when you remove turn in favor of more sustainable solutions all boils down to how you’re using the turf.
If you’ve decided to move forward and practice sustainable gardening keep in mind that simply making a changeover isn’t all it takes. How you make the change is important. Traditionally we would come out and use a sod cutter to remove all that grass with the top layer of soil and then dump it off site. We would then we bring in new topsoil, rototilt it and then level it. The leveling is quite a process and involves a ton of material. This is not sustainable. The new practice is to apply roundup to the area to kill the grass then we mow the straw as low as we can and leave it right there.
Finally we apply half it’s an inch of leaf mulch to the new bad and it’s ready to plant. We love this method because it saves time money and materials. Maintenance requires less effort because the reduction of weeds afterwards is incredible. The dead sod forms a barrier that the weed seeds simply can’t penetrate.
We know that the sound of using chemicals such as “roundup” makes environmentalist cringe. However sustainability isn’t at all a competing concepts. Using a small amount of roundup in exchange for all that material reduction is worth it. I bet that you will save more gallons of fuel than the amount of roundup we use. That alone should be worth it.
To reap the benefit of less maintenance in the long run you must ensure that you are starting out weed free vs trying to weed it by hand for the next three, four or five years. Sustainability requires that we think about the whole picture. It is an environmentally friendly method because it reduces the amount of materials used on-site and you put the right plant in the right place which means they’re healthier and the live longer. It is economically feasible because not only are you reducing the long-term maintenance cost of the property but you are also reducing the cost of the initial installation of the project.
The landscaping industry is changing and as part of a new way doing things you can either get on board now or get on board later but it is only a matter of time.