By Jason Wyrwicz. President of Pots, Planters & More.
For today's discerning businessowner or homeowner, it's not enough that a landscape or outdoor area be beautiful and functional: it should also go easy on the Earth, reducing its overall footprint via thoughtful techniques and cutting-edge technologies:
Dedicating landscape space to plant containers and even tucking a few in amongst trees and shrubs is a chic way to update an outdoor environment with bold shapes and colors while helping to reduce the use of water, fertilizer, and pesticides.
- Thoroughly watering a plant within the confines of a pot or planter box is much more efficient than watering plants in the ground, where roots can spread broadly and must compete with weeds, as well as face more rapid evaporation of moisture, writes Sierra Bright for Natural Living Ideas.
- Additionally, keeping fertilizers restricted to a container reduces the amount of run-off that finds its way into natural waterways and can help fertilizers last longer because they remain more concentrated in a smaller amount of soil.
- In the same way fertilizer can be reduced when planting in containers, pesticides can be nearly eliminated. Anne Gibson of The Micro Gardener writes, “Insects that move from plant to plant in the garden are less likely to discover planters on a balcony, verandah, or deck. Even if a problem is detected, you can isolate affected plants by relocating the pot until the problem is under control.”
An old trend in landscaping that has gotten a reboot in recent years, the goal of xeriscaping is minimizing the use of supplemental water to create a more self-sustaining landscape.
- Sprinklers can waste a lot of water if they run while it's raining or dowse passersby on the sidewalk instead of plants. As E. Vinje of Planet Natural notes, “Drip irrigation - and even hand watering - are more efficient, targeted ways to deliver moisture to your plants. Keeping moisture in the soil adds to the overall efficiency.”
- In order to cut down on the amount of water used, it's important to maximize its effectiveness. The Alliance for Water Efficiency recommends organic mulch like bark chips, leaf litter, or wood grindings. to keep plant roots cool and minimix runoff and evaporation. Additionally, mulch can help resist weeds, keeping them from drinking up the lion's share of the water.
- Plant Selection: Curate plants that are both drought-tolerant and zone specific for the area. “In general these plants have leaves which are small, thick, glossy, silver-gray, or fuzzy; all characteristics which help save water,” according to Eartheasy. Grasses, succulents, and trees can all help with moisture retention and erosion control as well.
Smart Solutions – Forward-thinking technolgies can ratchet eco-friendly landscape into high gear.
- The Edyn Garden Sensor and Water Valve is a WiFi enabled monitor that plugs into the soil and connects to an app on your smartphone. “The probe helps manage water, soil and fertilizer needs with a solar-powered sensor that measures ambient temperature, humidity, light intensity and soil electrical conductivity,” notes Dave Swanson of Smart Home.
- Devices like the Netatmo Weather Station and Rain Gauge monitor real-time atmospheric data from two modules set up inside and outside and outside to measure temperature, humidity, barometric pressure, carbon dioxide levels, and amount of rainfall and send the information to a smartphone, allowing the homeowner or businessowner the control to shut off the sprinkler the moment the first rain falls.
- "Attractive patios and walkways are key to a well-designed garden,” notes Lauren Bonar Swezey of Houzz, “But a potential downside to paving is that it can create impermeable surfaces where sheets of water are dumped into storm drains instead of soaking into the soil.” The eco-friendly solution is materials like Resin Bound Pavers and Bound Recycled Glass that are made with reused industrial materials for flexible, colorful, and permeable walkways that look great and help replenish the water table from a landscape.