Create a Beautiful Organic Landscape
Laying the Foundation: Mulch & Irrigation
Before you consider making any changes to your landscape, it's critical to understand the type of area and environment you're working with, including soil conditions and climate. You should clearly identify the type of landscape you want, whether it's a functional space where you can spend time or, if you're a property owner, a visual screen that provides privacy for your tenants.
For inexperienced property managers, hiring a company to do an assessment of your landscapes can help identify the type of area with which you are working. If you plan to do some of your own landscaping, start small by adding mulch to your landscaped area.
Mulching is very effective for an organic landscape. A layer of four to six inches of mulch, using materials such as wood chips, gravel, leaves, or compost, helps retain moisture and reduce weeds, minimizing maintenance demand and the need for irrigation.
Adding compost is another important first step. You can make compost tea from organic matter, such as leaves and grass clippings soaked in water, to provide plants with essential nutrients. Compost tea also has a quality that actually defends the plant from pests, so it's even more effective at pushing away pest problems.
Regardless of the materials you use in your landscapes, irrigation is critical. However, you can implement water-conservation methods to align with your environmentally conscious landscaping goals. For example, the use of rain barrels is a low-cost system that avoids having to tap into the municipal water system for irrigation. You also can capture storm water by installing a vegetative roof. Lastly, a directed drip-irrigation system uses only the necessary amount of water when you irrigate your landscapes, eliminating waste.
Pick the Right Plants for Your Organic Landscape
Before choosing the types of plants and trees for your landscapes, determine which species are likely to survive in your planting zone. Homeowners and property managers with organic landscapes often consider native plants because they're acclimated to specific climates and can resist pests more effectively. But even non-natives can thrive in organic landscapes.
Consider the following plant types for the areas around your properties:
- Saskatoon: This shrub produces spring flowers and summer fruit, and their leaves change colors during the fall. The fruit attracts birds, which will forage the woody plants in the landscape and act as pest-control agents.
- Blue Grama: These grasses also attract birds and have a strong structure that helps them withstand weather changes throughout the year.
- Sheep Fescue: This shorter grass also will thrive in an organic landscape. The Sheep Fescue and Blue Grama are both low-maintenance and don't require much water once they're established.
- Coneflowers and Joe Pye Weed: Both are hardy plants that attract butterflies and birds during the summer.
- Hosta: This plant thrives in a shady, moist environment.
Including drought-tolerant plants in your landscapes is another option for drier climates. Lavender, Boxwoods and Yews are drought-tolerant and still provide aesthetic appeal. It typically takes three years for a plant to establish itself before its roots deepen and it becomes drought tolerant.
Focus on Maintenance
If you want organic landscapes around your property, you should have a system in place for the following:
- Checking for diseases or infections
- Pruning or fertilizing at the best times of the year
- Cutting grass with the mower set at a higher level, which helps keep the grass healthy and prevents weed growth.
One difference between maintaining an organic landscape versus an inorganic one is the type of products included in the maintenance program. For example, organic, vinegar-based solutions can cost more than synthetic pesticides, but they often last longer.
Creating a diverse landscape also is an important part of organic landscaping, so consider mixing the types of plants, shrubs and trees. For an organic landscape to thrive, make it as close to a natural habitat as possible. This natural approach will bring in many different species of wildlife and insects that are essential to a functional organic landscape, keeping pests and weeds from getting out of hand. The more that you can transition your landscaping site so that it takes on its own responsibility and its own functions, the less weight on your shoulders.
SHOP FERTILIZERS & SPREADERS
This fun DIY project uses white annuals and perennials to achieve a sophisticated and stunning look.
By Maria Killam