Oct 7, 2010

Sustainable Landscaping

Landscaping with sustainable techniques is critical to green architecture. It is our gardens and landscapes that hog the largest volumes of potable water.

Design Sensibility - Gardens of the future would also have to be sensible in design. Large expanses of lush lawns can be replaced with strips of lawns interspersed with pebbled areas. Turf that is used for only display could be replaced with xeriscaping with native grasses interspersed with native succulents and wild flowers. These gardens can also be made beautiful by creatively mixing multicolored succulents such as cacti, pebbles, rock and desert grasses.

Control run-off water by redirecting stormwater to landscaping features such as dry ponds, rain gardens, bioswales to hold water.

Build small to lessen impact on the surrounding eco systems and maximize open space.

First, the soil is conditioned to help it retain water, and the soil is also regularly conditioned through the life of the garden to make it more efficient. Plants with similar water needs are grouped together so that they can be watered in bunches, and many shade trees, bowers, and protective walls are installed to reduce the risk of evaporation. Dense ground cover also helps to keep the soil moist. If plants with higher water requirements must be planted, they are typically planted close together and in a well protected area. They may also be situated uphill, so that plants below them can take advantage of their runoff and unused water.

A xeriscaped garden is at once easier and more difficult to maintain than a regular garden. It usually requires less weeding, trimming, and watering, three time consuming tasks associated with gardening. Since xeriscaping is designed to replace lawns, mowing is also not a necessity. However, the garden beds must be regularly cared for to ensure that they are at their most efficient. Thoughtful care must also go into planting in the garden so that it does not start to get weedy or ragged in the drier months of the year.

Smart Irrigation- Shrubbery and tree saplings can be watered effectively with drip irrigation saving a lot of water. Designing a landscape that doesn’t need any water in drought prone areas must be a priority. If every building would harvest its rain-water runoff and grey water for gardens, the total savings would be tremendous.

Use Native and Adaptive Plants - Shrubbery, Tall Grasses local to the region, that can withstand large periods of drought should be used for most part. There is an amazing variety of nice looking shrubbery that is drought tolerant. Some examples below of drought tolerant shrubbery that'll grow in Southern India and any other warm region. Silver Leaf (White Sage/Purple Sage), Bougainvilla, Hibiscus, Casurina, Tall Cacti, Pomegranate, Cypress, Frangipani, Desert Rose, Crepe Myrtle. Some drought tolerant ground covers are Portullacca, succulents such as cacti, native grasses, lilies, wild gazania..

Minimizing Hardscape Areas - Ground areas are hardscaped and softscaped with gradients to harness all water run-off into recharge pits or recycling tanks. Alternately if there are no recharge pits, it would be best to pave the ground with grid pavers, gravel, pebbles, porous pavement reducing the storm water runoff loads on the city's drains and increasing on-site filteration. Also lessens the heat island effect.

Using Reflective Materials for paving such as light colored locally available stone slabs, pea gravel, lighter shade replenishable wood boards would help reduce the heat island effect and enhance illumination levels

Landscaping for Building Sustainability- A powerful and age old technique for insulating buildings from heat & cold especially in situations where there are site constraints, constraints due to adjacent properties, would be to plant generous amounts of trees & shrubbery without compromising on letting in sufficient natural light. The flip side of planting too many trees, tall shrubs near a home is that the room interiors end up being dark which is again not healthy for the inhabitants and would result in switching on lights during the day thus offsetting any energy savings. A careful balance to be maintained by understanding the height, girth that the tree/shrub can grow to. We often plant them as saplings and hence plant them more closely than necessary and before you know it, you have an overcrowded garden which again is a kind of wastage.

Organic Gardening- Another destructive norm followed in today’s landscapes is to drench the gardens with artificial pesticides and fertilizers. This is very harmful to the local eco system and is as important a consideration to sustainable landscapes. There are several, practical natural alternates possible as described here.

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