Eco-Friendly Landscape Essentials

Organic matter is the most basic element that determines soil fertility, and compost is the best organic matter source that you can offer a landscape, so compost is an essential part of any green landscaping project—its job is to nourish your plants by infusing the soil with life and fertility. “Feed the soil, not the plants” is a common adage among landscapers and gardeners, and if this goal is met, plants will not require supplemental nutrients in the form of fertilizer. If the native soil on a project soil does not have adequate organic matter, compost will need to be added. And what exactly does compost do? Let’s take a ground-level look at the process:

  • It insulates the soil and helps it to retain moisture longer than usual.
  • It adds a complex web of microorganisms to the soil that can be thought of as nature’s “fertilizer factories.” Chemical fertilizer can prove to be fatal to many of these sensitive organisms, and overuse of non-natural products can kill all life in the soil.
  • Most of these little bugs eat organic matter in the soil and turn it into nutrients that plants need in order to thrive.
  • It provides a complete nutrient base that facilitates the symbiotic relationship between the microorganisms and the plant. Plants produce sugar (carbohydrates) through photosynthesis and send this energy down to the roots. Roots collect nutrients like nitrogen, calcium, and magnesium, and will often make a trade exchange with microorganisms—sugars for nutrients.

Bagged compost can be purchased at any hardware store or nursery, but the best quality compost is often found at your local compost facility (sometimes located near your local dump). This facility compost material is usually for large projects only—the minimum purchase is generally a truckload that will run an average of $20 per truckload and $100 per dumptruck load.

The green landscaping industry takes its cues from various horticultural viewpoints such as permaculture and organics. These methods emphasize emulating nature by creating a complex web of soil life to sustain plants, rather than constantly applying harsh petrochemical fertilizers to push growth. Compost is a great alternative to these harsh treatments because it contributes to the desired soil complexity and one application can sustain plants for at least a year, while the effects of harsh chemical fertilizers last a month at most.

There are many debates surrounding how to incorporate compost into the soil, most of them centered on rototilling, a process that creates some damaging effects by contributing to soil compaction and erosion. Unfortunately, rototilling happens to be the only economical way to thoroughly mix compost into soil. Most green landscaping companies aim to avert considerable soil damage by rototilling a substantial amount of compost into a site’s soil before planting, and thus, very littler fertilizer is needed.

The process of adding any beneficial material to the soil is called amending the soil. Once the soil is properly amended with organic matter, let the planting begin! Sustainable landscaping companies generally place very small plants in 4-inch pots. These small plants will grow faster than larger plants, and they usually prove to be masters at adapting to wherever they are planted by quickly spreading root systems deep into the soil. Smaller plants also require less energy for growth, further reducing the carbon footprint of a green landscape.

(original source)

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Heirloom Gardens, LLC

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