Organic Landscape Design

Photo by Laura Leavell

Photo by Laura Leavell

These days many people are taking the organic route by trying to do seemingly everything as earth friendly and natural as possible. Organic Landscaping is coming back. Fifty years ago it was a necessary practice but with the development of pesticides and fertilizers, using organic methods for landscaping became unpopular. No matter what your personal political views are on the rise of organic use in our country, it’s hard to deny that organic landscaping has several benefits. Fewer chemicals in the yard where the kids play is one that caters to me as a health conscious mom. Plus, organic landscaping can be less expensive than inorganic landscaping. You’re not buying chemicals since the big push in organic landscaping is to use elements of the natural world around you for fertilizers, pest control, and general softscape upkeep.

Sometimes the word “Organic” scares me. I see big dollar signs and complicated methods, but with landscaping it is simply a return to the old ways. Use the natural elements of your area to design and promote your landscape. Here are some ways to make your own property organic.

For The Lawn
Purchase organic fertilizer for your lawn. The initial cost is more, but over time it requires less application which means less expense.
Practice aeration in your yard. Punching little holes all over the yard is better for grass root growth and will allow friendly bugs like earthworms to move more freely.
Try top dressing. Create a mixture of half composted material and half sand to spread thinly over your lawn. This is good for lawn rooting and will yield hardier grass.
Over seeding is the use of more grass seed for your lawn than you need. Use 1 ½ times more grass seed to allow quicker germination, thicker grass, and natural weed control.

For The Plants
Make use of native plants. Exotic plants require more time and attention and chemicals to thrive.
Keep soil healthy like nature does by keeping it covered. Use mulch or aground cover plant to keep moisture and nutrients where they should be.
Grow plants in conditions as near to their natural habitat as possible. Don’t put plants that love the shade in the sunny spot of your yard.
Grow a “monoculture”. A monoculture is a wide range of plants grown close together instead of a just one plant. This is a natural practice. Trying to grow one single type of plant can require chemicals to flourish. You don’t see wild roses growing in straight lines and beds by themselves out in nature. They are surrounded by other plants and work together to be healthy.
Practice natural pest control. Allow plants that harbor friendly insect predators like the ladybug to grow in your landscaping. This will reduce or eliminate the use of pesticides to keep your plants looking great.

I enjoy a great looking landscape. I’m discovering that a great looking landscape doesn’t always require the use of potentially unhealthy chemicals. Organic landscaping will give you beauty and peace of mind by using natural practices and materials for landscape upkeep and design. Let me know if you’ve had success “going green” with your landscaping!

Styles of paving

Photo by Brandon Blinkenberg

Photo by Brandon Blinkenberg

This is a guest post by Sarah Skinner.

I love properties with gardens that have winding stone paths, beautiful raised flower beds, or stony steps. These features seem to add so much depth and character to the garden. They are details in landscaping that we call paving and these details bring extra warmth to anyone’s outdoor space.

Hard surfaces are key in landscape design. Paving is one type of hardscaping- any element of landscaping besides the plants- that helps create tone and flow for a property. There are several different types of paving which can be used in landscaping.

• Bricks- available in many colors
• Stones- come in varying colors and sizes
• Concrete- which can come in setts or slab form
• Railroad ties- can be free!
• Wooden blocks- great for steps and garden borders

You can use these paving elements to create different design features in your garden. Some of these include:

• Patios
• Walls
• Steps
• Paths
• Raised beds
• Decks

Paving can easily be the most expensive design element of your landscaping. It’s important to get it right the first time. You can lay down the foundation for your paving ahead of time and live with it for a while to determine if you like the way it flows and its size, then go ahead and finish the paving.

You can easily incorporate your design styles into your paving ventures for your garden. You can use railroad ties and wooden blocks for a laid back look, bricks and stones for a more traditional look, and really any combination for your own eclectic mood. With paving, your imagination really is the limit.

Of course plants look wonderful paired with whatever paving you choose. Pots full of flowers look great placed strategically around a paved surface. Lining the paved walkway with flowers makes the pavement pop and really stand out. Plants with dark leaves and distinctive shapes and colors work best, but you’ll need to water them frequently. Paving can make the plants around it extra hot.

Whatever paving design you choose, it is sure to highlight your property. Paving will reflect your style and make your gardening even more inviting.

Raised Flower Beds

As we drive around town in the spring, I like to look at what other people have done with the landscaping of their property- particularly flower beds. We have a new house with basically no landscape design. And, with no money to hire a professional landscape designer, we are left to our own creative devices. Hence the driving around looking for real life examples. Raised flower beds have caught my attention.

Photo provided by ladyheart

Photo provided by ladyheart

Raised flower beds are creative alternatives to the traditional flower beds that lay flush with the ground. Raised flower bed design is extremely versatile and personal. You can raise a bed to waist height if you like or leave it a few inches off of the ground. It all depends on your own gardening needs. And, their design can be customized to compliment your landscaping style. They can be made of brick, stone, concrete, or wood. Here are a few features to raised gardening that make it a desirable option in your landscape design.

• You can create the right conditions for special plants that don’t thrive in your soil.

• A raised bed allows for better drainage and most plants do better in well-drained soil anyway.

• Raised beds make gardening easier for people with joint conditions because they don’t have to do as much bending and kneeling. They also work great for the wheelchair bound.

• They make beautiful, stylish additions to the hardscaping of a property as they add new depth and personalization.

• In small paved spaces, they are often the only means for gardening and displaying plants.

• They’re a great space saver. Without needing to till or cultivate between rows, you can plant rows of flowers closer together and have higher yields.

• The soil won’t wash away.

• You can hand cultivate since you’re dealing with nice top soil that isn’t compacted.

• If a raised bed is built with a wide enough coping, you can have extra seating in your garden.

Raised flower beds are a great alternative for use in landscaping. I love how they soften the contrast between the yard and paving or the wall and yard. It’s great to know your options when building flower beds and designing the landscape of your yard. What’s your favorite part about having a raised flower bed?