If you were to look in the dictionary for a definition of sustainability, you would soon discover that it is a very broad topic with numerous definitions, dependent on what you want to sustain. As it relates to our landscape, the one that I liked best was, “It’s the long term responsibility for the care of our localized (landscape) environment by meeting today’s needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs.” This would include reducing pesticide risks, recycling our waste, conserving our water usage etc., but it’s also more than that. You might ask why am I wanting to discuss sustainability of our landscape? My answer is quite simple. We, like our ancestors, didn’t look at the long range plan for caring for our landscape. “We want everything now, “we’ll deal with the future when the future comes.”
Rather than continue as we have and making many (f not more) of the same mistakes as our ancestors, we seriously need to consider the following:
1. Know your plants and use the right plant in the right place. I’m sure many of you like me have bought plants on an impulse because they had attractive flowers or some other desired feature. Are you aware that there are at least 30 different things you should know about each of your plants? Because we don’t know all about them like we should, we probably never gave any thought as to what will happen to them over a long period of time. Because we don’t know our plants as well as we should, we usually don’t consider their maintenance requirements, (especially out of pocket costs and time requirements), now and in later years. Think about your trees for a moment – how often do you have them checked and properly pruned if needed? This should be done at least every 3 -5 years.
2. Avoid overplanting and using too many plant varieties. Each plant has its own specific cultural needs and they should be compatible with neighboring plants. Are they?
3. Before you plant anything in your yard, see what you have to work with. Have your soil tested. Match the plants you want to use to what your site will allow.
4. Develop a realistic landscape plan and stick with it. It will save you money, lots of needless work, and disappointment.
Any of the above mentioned points will greatly impact the sustainability of your landscape. So before you plant anything, do a realistic review of what you have. Are you satisfied with its sustainability or are changes in order? Keep in mind your ability to provide the needed time and funding to maintain your landscape.