How to landscape your yard naturally

Apr 11, 2012
Courtesy of: Pam Roy Right plant, right place: a garden of silver grass and black eyed Susan.

I recently attended a seminar on planting design for future gardens geared to landscape design professionals. With more than130 attendees, it was obvious there is much interest in how to design landscapes that are more sustainable, more environmentally friendly and create havens of beauty and serenity for us to enjoy.

One of the presentations related to natural landscaping, and I’d like to share some of the main points in this column.

Why consider natural landscaping? you may ask. Some of the benefits of natural landscaping include a more efficient use of resources – less water and energy use, lower utility bills, and less need for fertilizers and pesticides.

The use of biorention areas and rain gardens sends less water to storm drains, thus there is less potential for flooding and less pollution downstream and into Puget Sound.

Landscaping along natural lines creates better habitat areas, not only for wildlife and birds, but also for the people. Landscapes that don’t require intensive maintenance and offer year-round color and interest positively impact property values.

Here are some simple steps you can take in your own garden to create a more natural landscape.

Let’s start from the ground up. Healthy, happy soil! If possible, preserve and reuse existing topsoil. Amend soils that have been impacted with compost mixing in 2-3 inches to a depth of 8-12 inches. Mulch existing planting beds with wood chips, compost or leaves.

As these breakdown, they add organic matter to the soil. There is much to be gained by conducting a soil test before adding amendments. These can be taken to WSU extension office or to a soil lab.

What plants are best suited to landscaping naturally? You’ve probably heard the slogan “Right plant, right place.” Evaluate the various microclimates and soil conditions in different areas of your yard to ensure plants will thrive where planted.

Group plants by water use needs to maximize watering efficiency. The use of drought resistant plants will lessen the amount of watering needed once the plants get established. Select hardy disease resistant plants to minimize pesticide use.

Many native plants of the Pacific Northwest can be attractive additions to the ornamental garden and have interesting flowers, berries and seasonal leaf color changes. Planting during the spring and early summer or autumn rainy season minimizes the need to water.

What about lawn areas? Some gardeners are eliminating the high maintenance, high resource lawn. If having lawn is important to you, consider downsizing the lawn. Keep the lawn mowed at 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 inches tall and use a composting mower that leaves the clippings on the lawn to decompose naturally and contribute their nutrients back to the lawn.

Promote good root growth and healthier, turf that will need less water by proper soil preparation (see above).

Incorporate some of these principles into your own garden and enjoy your landscape, naturally!

Pam Roy, owner of Planscapes, is an award-winning landscape designer and has been a Certified Professional Horticulturist for 30 years in the Northwest. Contact her at 425-252-9469 or view gallery.mac.com/pnw54. Attend her class on colorful edibles for containers at Edmonds Community College, Arts NowuLearn on April 16.

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