How can people make their landscape design more eco-friendly?

People are becoming more and more concerned about the planet and the environment these days, and they're extending this thinking to the way they plant their lawns and design their landscape. The traditional sprawling green lawn covered with sprinklers looks like it's becoming a thing of the past. The benefits of using flowering shrubs, food plants and trees to conserve water and reduce household cooling expenses are being appreciated more all the time. When considering an eco-friendly landscape design, keep the following goals in mind:

  • Reducing the consumption of water through xeriscaping ("dry landscaping") - using plants that require less water
  • Preserving water quality
  • Reducing the costs of heating and cooling in your home
  • Avoiding use of pesticides
  • Conserving natural resources
  • Preventing the erosion of soil
  • Promoting biodiversity [source: Ecological Landscaping Association]

Then, work with a landscaper to figure out ways to accomplish your goals by combining structures, land features and plants. You and your landscaper need to keep in mind the state the land is in now when planning out your new design. Together you should:

  • Catalogue the plants you already have, along with their wind exposure and sun and water needs.
  • Consider the microclimates (zones of light, soil acidity, water conditions, temperature or species habitation) of your existing plants.
  • Check soil samples for composition, texture, fertility, pH levels and moisture retention.
  • Look for plants that are stressed or dying and determine the cause: pests, too much or too little water or light, etc.
  • Work on a landscape design that will prevent soil erosion.
  • Seek ways to resolve pest problems in the least toxic manner possible [source: Ecological Landscaping Association].

Finally, with the help of your landscaper, prioritize your goals and decide how to balance them with the qualities that your garden already has.