As people become more alert to their impact on the planet, the sprawling, inefficient lawn covered in whizzing sprinklers may become a thing of the past. In its place, we may see more gardens with food plants and trees, irrigation tubes and xeriscaping, or "dry landscaping," the use of desert plants and land features to minimize water use.
But environmental considerations go far beyond water and space usage. A landscape analysis should consider goals such as:
- Preserving water quality and reducing water consumption
- Preventing soil erosion
- Reducing household heating and cooling costs
- Promoting biodiversity
- Avoiding pesticide use
- Conserving natural resources [source: Ecological Landscaping Association]
Then the landscaper should look at ways those goals are interrelated, and the different ways to accomplish them with combinations of plants and structures.
The landscaper also needs to think about the current state of the land. He or she should:
- Catalogue the existing plants in terms of their water and sun needs, as well as wind exposure
- Look at the microclimates (small zones of temperature, light, water conditions, soil acidity or species habitation) created by existing plants
- Take soil samples, checking pH levels, composition, texture, moisture retention and fertility
- Find the areas that stay wet or dry too long
- Look for stressed or dying plants -- plants with symptoms of over- or under-watering, pest damage, inappropriate light, and so on
- Strive to find the least toxic solutions to existing pest problems
- Look for soil erosion and seek a landscape design that will prevent it [source: Ecological Landscaping Association]
Then, together, you and the landscaper can look at how to balance all your goals for the land. In some cases, you may need to prioritize. For example, would you rather have the classic lush, green, rolling lawn, or does it make more sense to plant a terraced combination of trees and flowering shrubs to economize on water and reduce the house's cooling needs?
Whatever you decide, environmental analysis will help you obtain a garden that's green in every sense of the word -- environmentally sound, economically savvy, and full of healthy plants.
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