How Green Landscaping Works


Tiered garden in limited space.
Tiered garden in limited space.
Michael Freeman/Red Cover/Getty Images

­Are you looking for a way to fight back against rising energy prices? Are you concerned about the global climate change or protecting the environment? Then you might want to consider the benefits of green landscaping.

Green landscaping is an alternative method of landscaping that allows you to remain focused on the aesthetic quality of your lawn or yard without using the hazardous chemicals and harmful techniques associated with some traditional landscaping practices. Green landscaping not only provides innovative methods of shaping your lawn, but has been proven to save energy and money spent on heating and cooling the inside of your home.

Before you consider green landscaping­, you must keep a few points in mind. First, you must take into account the climate you live in. Arid climates will restrict the plant life available for landscaping and require crafty irrigation systems. On the other hand, more temperate climates will be able to support a wider variety of plant life. Second, the region you live in will similarly determine the plant life you may select. Mountainous regions will demand plants that can thrive and grow at a high-elevation and in rocky soil. Conversely, marshy regions will necessitate plants that can endure water-heavy soil. Regardless of the climate or region you live in, an integral part of green landscaping is the use of native plants.

­Though green landscaping can come to life through a variety of methods, there are five basic techniques that are highly practical. Each of these five techniq­ues will help you save money on heating and cooling bills, conserve energy and plan all by yourself. These methods include:

  • Landscape shading
  • Landscaping windbreaks
  • Landscaping with green materials
  • Controlling snow with landscaping
  • Landscaping with solar power.

To learn more about what landscape shading entails, click to the next page.

Landscape Shading

One of the easiest green landscaping techniques is as simple as planting a tree. The technique known as shading is the strategic placement of a tree to provide shade from the warm summer sun. Unblocked, solar heat from sun rays can dramatically increase the temperature inside your home, which will increase the strain put on your air conditioner. However, the proper placement of a tree can reduce temperatures by up to 9 degrees Fahrenheit (12 degrees Celsius) through water vapor evaporation and transpiration, as well as the shade the tree provides [source: U.S. Department of Energy].

When using shading to cool your home, it is important to choose the right tr­ee for your project. If you are looking for a tree to keep the temperature down primarily in the summer months, be sure to select a deciduous tree. In the summer the leaves of deciduous trees will protect your home from the heat of the sun; in the cold of winter the leaves will fall from the tree and allow the sunlight to keep your home warm.

Other important considerations that will impact the effectiveness of the shading are tree size, shadow size and growth rate. Obviously, the larger the tree, the more shade it will likely provide. However, it is also important to take into account the size and shape of the shadow it will cast. Trees with long, horizontal branches will create wider shadows, which may better suit the architecture of your home. Similarly, trees with high crowns will cast a bulk of their shadow further from the base of the tree -- so be sure to plant your shading tree accordingly to maximize the results. Finally, it is often beneficial to select a tree with a slower growth rate. Though you may have to wait longer for it to grow large enough to shade a large area, trees with slower growth rates are denser and better equipped to resist damage from insects and weather [source: U.S. Department of Energy].

Click on the next page to see what landscaping windbreaks can do.

Landscaping Windbreaks

In addition to shading, using landscaping windbreaks is another simple yet effective way to use landscaping to lower your heating and cooling costs. In the cold months of the year, windbreaks can lower the wind chill outside of your home and help to prevent frigid drafts of wind from gusting into your house. Breaking up those wind gusts and halting the affects of wind chill can drastically increase the temperature around your home, depending on the strength of the winds [source: U.S. Department of Energy].

The ideal windbreak is composed of both large evergreen trees and evergreen plants with lower crowns, such as bushes or shrubs. Combined with a low wall or fence, evergreens with a foliage density around 60% can deflect heavy winds up and over your home. Trees and shrubs with lower densities may not be enough to avert winds, while those with heavier densities will likely suck the wind stream back down into your home. To best deter the cold gusts, plant your shrubs and trees in a varied mixture [source: U.S. Department of Energy].

Another helpful tip to add further insulation from winds is to plant shrubs, bushes, vines and other low lying plants near the perimeter of your home. In addition to having the larger windbreaks a distance from your home, the extra plants closer to your home will create a dead air space between your home and the icy winter -- trapping any heat that may escape your home. Better yet, during the summer months, this added insulation will also trap any cool air that may escape your home, as well as any cool breezes that are frequent on summer evenings.

Though you might think all of landscaping is "going green," read on to find out what it really means to landscape with green materials.

Landscaping with Green Materials

As you read on the previous pages, landscape shading and landscaping windbreaks are both methods of landscaping that you can use to help reduce your energy bills because of the effect they have on the inside of your house. In addition to these internally-effective techniques, landscaping ­with eco-friendly materials has many direct external effects for your land.

The most common landscaping material needs are concrete, bricks, stone, wood, wood chips and mulch. There are ways to make sure these materials pass the "green test," so don't grab just any traditional materials you see in a store.

Standard concrete is not good for the environment because of its carbon-dioxide heavy manufacturing process. If concrete is an essential material to your landscaping needs, you should consider broken, reused concrete or concrete pavers. Recycled glass pavers also serve the same function but release fewer greenhouse gasses during production [source: Green Your].

Bricks from the U.S. are made in natural gas kilns, rather than pollution-heavy wood-fired kilns. Adobe and terra-cotta bricks are greener than normal bricks because they do not require any kilns. In regards to stone, companies who take stones from quarries near bodies of water are the least eco-friendly. Seek out a company who finds their stones inland, or better yet, look in your own soil for rocks.

In order to avoid toxins, it is best to avoid treated lumber products, but if you must use wood, look for ammonium copper quaternary treated wood. With wood chips and bark mulch, make sure to avoid artificially dyed mulch and rubber mulch [source: Green Your].

So all that new foliage can make a difference in the summer -- but what about the winter? Read on to discover how to control snow with green landscaping

Controlling Snow with Landscaping

While many green landscaping methods seemingly focus on the elements in the air and sky, like wind and sunlight, eco-minded landscapers haven't neglected the ground either. In addition to better utilizing rainwater, runoff and snowmelt, controlling drifting snow is yet another way to conserve energy with your lawn. In addition to saving you money on your heating costs during the winter, growing natural snow fences can also prevent snow drifts from accumulating on roads and driveways, provide better drainage when the snow melts and reducing soil erosion [source: Josiah & Majeski].

When designing natural snow fences, using denser coniferous trees is recommended as­ they will best block snow from drifting. Besides density, another important aspect of natural snow fences is the height of the trees. As snow accumulates on one side of the fence, smaller trees may fail to prevent snow from the top of the mound from traveling over their peak. Larger trees, even if slightly less dense, are better suited to hold off snow drifts for the duration of the winter.

Finally, you will want to gauge how wide you need your snow fence to be based on the amount of area you are aiming to protect, as well as the estimated amount of snowfall typically received in your region. Similarly, you'll want to plan the distance between your natural snow fence and the area you're protecting based on how formidable your fence is. It's always a good idea to give a bit of distance between the protected area and the snow fence, as some snow will inevitably push through and create a smaller drift on the other side.

To read about how you can harness solar power for landscape lighting, click to the next page.

Landscaping with Solar Power

Outdoor lighting is sometimes one of the last aspects of landscaping you will take into account when planning your lawn or garden, especially if you tend to go outside during daylight hours. But if you happen to host a lot of lawn and patio parties or if you have treacherous steps that need good lighting in the evening, you will need to think about outdoor lights. Rather than purchase numerous electrical-related components for lighting, consider the benefits of solar-powered lights.

A solar-powered lighting system has many advantages to traditional electrically-powered lighting. First, to fit with the green theme, solar-powered lights do not draw on electricity and therefore conserve the earth's resources. Second, solar power is much easier to install in your lawn than electric lights. You won't have to plan for extension cords, electrical sockets or underground wiring. Third, solar power is kinder to your budget. Solar-powered lighting is definitely cost-effective, as it won't increase your electricity bill.

All you need to purchase is the solar light with solar collection panels and its post. Solar-powered lights still come in many of the shapes and sizes as electrically-powered lights, so this means you don't have to worry about the aesthetic of your lighting. If you want floodlights, tiered lampposts or any other style, you should be able to find it as a solar-powered light [Source: Savvy Cafe].

Now you are equipped with the basic knowledge of how green landscaping works. So go do your part and spread the green word to your neighbors.

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Sources

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