|The Magic of Gardening|
|Smart Yard Landscaping Principles|
The Alabama Cooperative Extension System folks have developed a very good handbook on sustainable landscape practices for Alabama homeowners called Alabama Smart Yards. You can access the entire publication online at: www.aces.edu/pubs/docs/A/ANR-1359/ANR-1359.pdf. However, I wanted to pass along several tips covered in the manual as well as great web resources on each topic discussed.
Here are several rapid fire bullet points to consider as you plan a new landscape or just improve what you already have:
· Follow good landscape design principles: A well-conceived landscape design, properly installed and well maintained, adds value to your property and enhances the quality of your life (www.aces.edu/pubs/docs/A/ANR-0813/index2.tmpl).
· Focus first on low maintenance plants suitable to your site: Once these plants are established in the right location, most require little, if any, supplemental water, fertilizers or pesticides. Choose plants that can tolerate our large variability in moisture availability. The primary focus should be on plants that can tolerate extended dry conditions after establishment (www.aces.edu/pubs/docs/A/ANR-1336/ANR-1336.pdf).
· Proper planting time and procedure: Woody perennial plants (shrubs or trees) are best transplanted in the fall or winter (www.aces.edu/pubs/docs/A/ANR-1405/ANR-1405.pdf).
· Welcome wildlife: Provide flowering and fruiting plants, seeds, and nuts to bring wildlife, birds and butterflies into your yard (www.aces.edu/pubs/docs/A/ANR-0778/).
· Plant for impact: Limit the number of plants with high water and maintenance requirements, placing them where they will have the greatest visual impact with access to water during drought periods. Consider harvesting roof water to water these small areas (www.aces.edu/urban/RainwaterCollection/index.php).
· Avoid invasives: Do not plant exotic, invasive species. If these plants are present in your yard, remove them. They crowd out native plants and seriously threaten Alabama’s ecosystems and wildlife (www.aces.edu/forestry/invasive/).
· Aim for diversity: Create a mosaic of trees, shrubs, groundcovers, native grasses, and wildflowers. Monocultures, large expanses of the same plant species, are prone to disease and insect infestation and aren’t as sustainable as a diverse plant community (www.ncsu.edu/goingnative/whygo/index.html).
· Avoid the quick fix or extremely fast-growing screen plants: Do not be fooled by the quick fix appeal of fast growing plants. Such plants may require frequent pruning, which creates more clippings and yard waste. Also, fast growth yields lots of lush, green shoots which can attract certain pests. Leyland cypress is a case in point. It grows very fast, but has many cultural and pest problems. Slower growing plants may take longer to fill in your landscape, but they’ll ultimately last longer and create less work (www.clemson.edu/extension/hgic/plants/landscape/trees/hgic1025.html).
· Maintenance needs: Do not overlook maintenance needs when designing your landscape (www.aces.edu/pubs/docs/A/ANR-0958/ANR-0958.pdf).
· Native plants: Native does not mean sacrifice. Some of our most beautiful landscape plants are natives and selections are available for improved cultivars (www.caes.uga.edu/Publications/pubDetail.cfm?pk_id=7763).
· Limit turf areas and the use of other water-efficient landscape techniques: Turf can be a beautiful component of a landscape, but it generally requires more water, fertilizer and maintenance than a properly-selected mixture of trees, shrubs and other ground cover options. The efficient use of water in the landscape is the primary way to avoid non-point source pollution of our water supplies (www.epa.gov/WaterSense/docs/water-efficient_landscaping_508.pdf).
· Choose turf species wisely: Turfgrasses vary in their adaptability to climate, light, fertility needs, drought tolerance, pest susceptibility and maintenance requirements. Research their specific requirements prior to making this long term decision. Your local Quality Co-op will know when to plant and seeding rates of commonly seeded grasses (www.aces.edu/pubs/docs/A/ANR-0092/index2.tmpl).
Tony A. Glover is a County Extension Coordinator in Cullman County.