Resilient Landscaping—Why It Matters

By MNR News posted 04-26-2022 15:16

  
Who doesn’t love a well-tended yard and garden? Easy on the eyes and one of the “purest of human pleasures” according to Francis Bacon. 

Yet, sadly, many American homes have yards and gardens that take far more than they give. Creating that pristine American green—which has become a standard feature of most homes in the U.S.—requires tons of water and chemicals that are harmful to the environment.

To create a sustainable, resilient yard and garden, consider these tips. 

Plan

Here’s the good news: Your yard, no matter how big or small, can become a force for environmental good. But you need a plan. While hopefully no one goes to the grocery store to buy chips and cookies willy-nilly when they have a family to feed, that is exactly how many people visit the local nursery when buying plants for their yard or garden. This approach leads to uninformed decisions that can have negative long-term repercussions. 

With a little research and some thoughtful planning, your yard can be a productive, positive contributor to the place you call home. 

Your Local Ecosystem 

Part of your planning and research should include gaining an understanding of what plants are native to the local environment. The more you can cultivate a yard and garden that will thrive in the conditions around you, the better. Most people do at least some of this without thinking—for instance, it makes perfect sense not to buy a cactus or palm tree for a Minnesota yard. Yet there are other gardening practices that, despite having become commonplace, are nonetheless harmful to the environment.

Why is planting native so important? Native plants and grasses are already adapted to the local climate and soil conditions, requiring less intervention to grow and thrive. Not only do they consume fewer resources, but they also protect the soil and wildlife around them. When planting native, the root systems spread deeper into the soil, helping to protect both the plant and the soil, which in turn helps prevent erosion.

Additionally, native plants are vital to the health of birds and insects. You may have seen “pollinator gardens” in your neighborhood. These are excellent uses of public land, and more homeowners could do their part to help promote the flourishing of the variety of species that call Minnesota home. Simple pollinator-friendly plants make great garden additions—viburnum, roses, certain hydrangeas, and spirea—to name a few. Further, planting native species will enable less maintenance in the long run. Plants that are well adapted to surviving in Minnesota’s climate will be able to weather a late April frost, whereas non-native species likely will not.

*For further details on the benefits of planting native, check out the Minnesota DNR’s handy guide here. 

Rain Gardens

Creating a rain garden is one of the simplest sustainable additions to your yard. A rain garden is “a shallow basin designed to absorb rainwater.” Rain gardens benefit your yard and the environment in several ways.

For one, it’s a great place to plant native species. Second, rain gardens collect runoff stormwater and clean it as it soaks deep into the earth, which in turn helps to protect our lakes and rivers. Third, many people use rain gardens to keep water out of their basement. If you have water intrusion in one area of your basement, planting a rain garden near the source of that water can draw the water away from your home’s foundation, in turn keeping your basement dry. Finally, rain gardens can be beautiful features in a sustainable garden—home to lush grasses and colorful wildflowers alike.

Cut Energy Use

Another benefit of sustainable landscaping is reducing your overall energy costs. For example, planting the right trees or shrubs can reduce exposure to wind and snow in the winter and provide shade in the summer. It requires planning, but making informed decisions now can save you money on your energy bills in the long run.

Invest in the Future

Finally, part of creating a sustainable and resilient yard is about playing the long game. Depending on the current state of your yard, some of what you decide to “sow” now may not be reaped for another generation or two. That’s part of the equation with environmentally-minded landscaping. Think of your kids (or grandkids) and choose to invest now in what they will enjoy later.

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