Sustainable landscape design for your property can be easier than you may think

May 3, 2011

Making your property more sustainable is a trend that seems to get more interest from homeowners every year.
Many small changes can greatly improve sustainability and can be fairly simple to do, according to an Iowa State University horticulture expert.

Ann Marie VanDerZanden, professor in the Department of Horticulture and co-author, with Thomas Cook, of the recently published book "Sustainable Landscape Management: Design, Construction, and Maintenance," defines sustainability as minimizing inputs -- such as water, fertilizer and time -- on your landscape.

"If homeowners look at what they already have in their yard, they are often surprised at how a few, small changes can make a difference," she said. "It can be as easy as switching out a few plants from ones that require lots of inputs, to ones that don't."

VanDerZanden says roses are a good example. Many types of the flower require spraying for insects and disease, protection from the cold, and other input costs.

"If you like roses," says VanDerZanden, "the alternative might be to put in a shrub rose. It won't have the same overall structure, but it will give you roses that you can cut and bring inside and enjoy, but they require much less inputs."

Plants that grow well in Iowa can be found at most nurseries or garden centers. Many times the tags on the plants will tell if the plants are disease or insect resistant and will work in your climate and .

Iowa is generally situated in hardiness temperate zones 4 (north of Interstate 80) and 5 (south of I-80).

A major part of being sustainable is capturing water as it moves through your landscape, according to VanDerZanden.

For those who are ready to undertake larger projects, VanDerZanden says driveways, sidewalks and patios are great places to make sustainable improvements.

Using water-permeable concrete when installing your paved areas allows water to filter down through the pavement and get into the soil below. From there it enters the , she said.

Also, using permeable pavers or rough-laid stones that have gaps when you install them allows water to stay in the ground and not run off, causing soil erosion or flooding once it gets into the storm sewers.

While some larger projects such as replacing pavement are dependent on weather, there is really no bad time to get started, she says.

"Spring and fall are both excellent times to start," she said. "You can even do it in the summer if you are careful to give the plants enough water."

Whatever the size of the project the homeowner chooses, VanDerZanden says, "It doesn't have to be a huge, daunting task. Baby steps will still get you there."

Explore further: EPA's new green parking lot allows scientists to study permeable surfaces that may help the environment

Related Stories

Survey finds horticulture grads prepared for green jobs

November 4, 2009

Professors Ann Marie VanDerZanden and Michael Reinert of Iowa State University (ISU) wanted to find out how their recent Department of Horticulture graduates were faring in the workplace. To learn more about their former ...

Horticulture students link problem-solving to employment

March 17, 2011

Recognizing the need for university students to develop problem-solving skills they will need in their careers, educators are looking to student-centered, problem-based learning strategies. Problem-based learning (PBL) experiences ...

Recommended for you

Climate ups odds of 'grey swan' superstorms

August 31, 2015

Climate change will boost the odds up to 14-fold for extremely rare, hard-to-predict tropical cyclones for parts of Australia, the United States and Dubai by 2100, researchers said Monday.

Quantifying the impact of volcanic eruptions on climate

August 31, 2015

Large volcanic eruptions inject considerable amounts of sulphur in the stratosphere which, once converted into aerosols, block sun rays and tend to cool the surface of the Earth down for several years. An international team ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.