Friday, July 23, 2010

Tips for eco-friendly landscaping. Just remember C-P-R

Eco-friendly? Organic Gardening? Waterwise? Xeriscape? Native Landscape? What do they all mean? And what’s the difference between them all?

When the National Gardening Association conducted its 2008 Environmental Lawn and Garden Survey, they asked participants, "How knowledgeable would you say you are about how to maintain your home lawn, garden, and landscape in an environmentally friendly way?" 22% of the respondents said that they aren't very knowledgeable and 8% said that they are “not at all knowledgeable”.

The problem may be that, when it comes to landscapes, most people just don’t know what “environmentally friendly” means.

There are just too many terms that are used to describe “environmentally friendly” landscaping. The terms “green” gardening, eco-friendly landscaping, organic gardening, Waterwise, Xeriscape, native landscaping, wildlife friendly and greenscaping are just a few of the terms you will run across in your search for environmentally friendly answers. A beginning eco-gardener may not know where to start.

But other than the term Xeriscape, (which is a registered trademark), most of the terms do not have any “official” definition. And for the most part, the practices that they encourage are all very similar and even overlap.

When you dig down into the details of these programs, in fact, you will find that they all grow from the same strong roots of Conservation, Preservation and Restoration or C-P-R.  

Conservation – Conserving water is the basic concept behind Xeriscaping, also known as Waterwise and drought tolerant landscaping, and is an important consideration in every kind of environmentally friendly gardening. Many techniques branch off of this root, including using mulch and micro-irrigation, capturing and re-using rainwater, eliminating water hogging lawns, etc.  

Preservation – Preserving the natural eco-system and our natural resources is another concept important to all eco-friendly gardening. Your goal should be to create a landscape that works with Mother Nature, not against her. To do this, you need to get to know your site; choose plants and utilize techniques that don’t disrupt the current site conditions; eliminate chemicals which could harm natural water supplies and prevent runoff which can wash healthy nutrients out of the soil.  

Restoration – When your home was built, the characteristics of the property were changed. You, and all of the homeowners that lived there before you, have probably added chemicals and other elements to the soil. Your house is also taking up space that was once wildlife habitat. Restoring your site to a more natural condition will benefit local wildlife and the local eco-system.

That’s it. Those are the three basic concepts. It doesn’t really matter whether a program is called Waterwise or eco-friendly. As long as it keeps one or more of those concepts in mind, it’s going to provide some much needed CPR for your landscape.

So next time you are trying to determine if something you are doing is environmentally friendly, just give it the CPR test. If it helps to Conserve, Preserve or Restore the local environment, then you are on the right track.

(*The term CPR for the planet was adopted from the work of David Brower, famed conservationist and author.)

For more information about eco-friendly landscaping, visit these sites:

The National Gardening Assocation - Plant finder, weed library, articles and other tools for your garden

Creating a Water-wise landscape - Virginia Cooperative Extension document outlines many of the concepts utilized in Xeriscape

Greenscaping: The Easy Way to a Greener, Healthier Yard - EPA website on creating environmentally friendly landscapes.

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