Sustainable garden building can help end the recession

Sustainable landscaping

This sustainable patio area was built of all recycled materials

It’s easy to feel like you can’t make a difference in the larger events of the world. But there are very few people who have the influence to effect great economic changes. But just like voting, each individual DOES have an impact on the larger picture. It may take a ridiculously close election to make us realize that sometimes even a few votes can change who is elected. Well, each one of us can also impact the eco-system. Each person who builds a sustainable garden will help to turn around the demand that increases waste. Better, each person who uses more of the newly available products and systems developed in this country to improve sustainability in the home and garden is helping us develop new industries to help employ more people, create more jobs and help end the recession. As a bonus, the sustainable garden builder will have lower utility bills, easy maintenance and a beautiful landscape, too!

Here’s a list of just some of the things you can do to save money, help the planet, make your garden more enjoyable and maybe even more beautiful while helping to end the recession. Some of these projects you can do yourself. Some you’ll need to hire professional help. Or you might just compromise and do a little of both. Check into all the exciting products now being marketed that allow you to change your yard into a sustainable yet lovely garden. Many make building and maintenance easier. Most will end up saving you money.

Add solar lights to the garden.

Build in solar panels.

Grow native and water-wise plants.

Add permeable paving.

Build in water collection and storage from rain barrels to underground tanks.

Recycle or use recycled building materials.

Design in the right irrigation systems and add smart timers, subsurface drip lines, low volume emitters and spray heads or other appropriate water application systems.

Design shade trees on south or west facing sides of your house to cool your home with shade.

Regularly check for water drips or leaks.

Roof with living roofs or reflective colors and materials on all structures.

Build living walls.

Compost.

Grow fruits and vegetables — organically.

Use organic pesticides and fungicides, or better, hand wash and pick pests or build physical barriers.

Learn about companion planting.

Mulch.

Add natural drainage and erosion controls.

Build with your natural wildlife habitat in mind.

There are many more ways to make your garden more eco-friendly and comfortable. The first thing to make it all work is to change your thinking.  All successful environments are systematic, that is, each piece interacts with the next. Your garden is a whole event where soil, water, light, living and non-living materials all work together to create a whole. That whole landscape system then interacts with your house and the surrounding land. In short, everything is inter-related. If you build your landscape as a whole, not only will it function in a healthy, easy-care manner, but it will look great, just like all the pieces in a fine work of art blend together to make a whole, beautiful painting. And not only will you increase the beauty of your property, you will reduce the labor needed for maintenance and save money on energy bills. Plus you will be installing new, green materials produced by emerging technologies that can help us all create jobs and end the recession. Whether you start off small or go for big changes, adding sustainable products and systems into your property is a perfect solution that each one of us can start doing right away.

A few Mediterranean plants for the drought-tolerant garden

Designing a Mediterranean garden
Mediterranean plants have become very popular for dry-summer areas in the past decade. There is a wonderful choice of varied growth habits, flowering and colors in these plants. The Mediterranean is a large area encompassing southern Europe, northern Africa and even parts of western Asia — we’re talking about lands that surround the Mediterranean Sea. This is an area known for having a mild climate and dry summers. Some parts experience a climate much like parts of Texas and California. But many of the plants that are happy in this kind of environment are also flexible to be used in gardens elsewhere.
Since these plants have evolved to thrive despite periods of no rain they provide a good source for material that will thrive drought-tolerant gardens. Lack of rain has been hitting the headlines in so many different geographical areas that these plants are finding welcome homes in gardens over a wide range of territory.
Some favorite plants that originated around the Mediterranean have also found their way into the kitchen serving double-duty in the garden. Look for sage, fennel, olive trees and rosemary to fit the bill. Showy flowering choices for landscapes are Oleanders, Jerusalem Sage (Phlomis — not a sage at all!), some geraniums (Pelargoniums) and  Wall Germander (Teucreum). The list grows if you want to grow Mediterranean-like plants — those that like similar conditions but are native to places like Australia, South Africa, parts of South America and more. Although there are thousands of choices available, some popular examples used in landscapes are Bottle Brush and Eucalyptus trees, Hardenbergia, Grevilleas and Swan River Daisy  from Australia and the Bird of Paradise (Strelizia), Clivia and Treasure Flower (Gazania) from South Africa.
There are too many wonderful water-wise plants for the landscape to list here. But don’t overlook the Mediterranean climates for some of the best choices.