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Posted on 04-03-2017

More Eco-Yard Ideas

Edible Landscaping

A kitchen garden represented by any kind of edible landscaping replaces some turf grass with produce. Carefully designed and maintained, it can be as attractive as any other garden space. “According to GardenResearch.com, 30 million U.S. households, about 25 percent, participated in vegetable gardening in 2015,” reports Dave Whitinger, executive director of the National Gardening Association, owned by Dash Works in Jacksonville, Texas.

“To integrate edibles into a landscape, first assess the locations of sunny and shady spots,” says Charlie Nardozzi. “Then, identify plants suited to the growing conditions that will fit in those areas. Mix in edibles with flowers, shrubs and groundcovers to keep the yard beautiful.” For urban areas, he recommends raised beds and containers as a good way to integrate edibles, bringing in clean soil and moving containers to the sunniest spots in the yard.

“We have 3,000 raised beds in Milwaukee,” says Gretchen Mead, executive director of the Victory Garden Initiative, which helps install edible landscapes. “We went from about 35 new kitchen gardens eight years ago to more than 500 each year now.”

The easy-to-build raised beds go on top of or in place of turf lawns. For Midwestern residents, Mead recommends beginning with six crops that can be started as transplants, like tomatoes or broccoli, and then growing a couple of plants from seed, like zucchini or green beans.

Water-Saving Gardens

“Water-saving gardens use less of this precious resource through appropriate plant choices, rain-conserving features, employing berming and terracing to slow runoff, water-permeable hardscaping and smart irrigation practices,” says Pam Penick, author of The Water-Saving Garden. “Regardless of where you live, saving water is a priority for everyone. Drought is a growing problem in the Southwest and West, but also affects the Midwest, Southeast and even New England.”

“Rain gardens help absorb, retain and use rainfall, preventing it from draining into the sewer,” agrees Jennifer Riley-Chetwynd, with Colorado’s Denver Botanic Gardens. “Rain barrels collect water from gutters and downspouts so there’s more control in time and method of distribution, including perhaps drip irrigation.”  

According to the Groundwater Foundation, in Lincoln, Nebraska, rain gardens can remove up to 90 percent of nutrients and chemicals and up to 80 percent of sediments from rainwater runoff. Compared to a conventional lawn, they allow 30 percent more water to soak into the ground.

Hardscaping

Hardscaped areas are used far more frequently than the turf lawn they replace as we move through spaces like walkways, patios, fountains, decks and grilling areas to enjoy the outdoors. “Plant people can get excited about planting but forget to leave ample space for patios and paths, often resulting in an overgrown, pinched look for seating areas and other places meant to be inviting,” cautions Penick. “It can also be easy to underestimate how large plants can grow in a few years. Plan ahead for these ‘people spaces’ and install them before establishing garden beds.”

Landscapers recommend being generous with this technique without paving over paradise.  “Plants will spill and lean over hardscaping, so it won’t feel too large once your garden is filling in,” says Penick. “To address runoff and allow rainwater to soak into the soil, use water-permeable paving wherever possible: gravel, dry-laid flagstone or pavers; even mulch for casual paths.”

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