Options for Low Maintenance, Sustainable Landscaping in Port Ludlow
If you have an interest in gardening or landscaping, moving to a new area can be a challenge. Having little time to devote to landscaping or a desire to remain eco-friendly to the new region creates additional demands. Plants that performed well in one place may not thrive in another, which means a well-designed, sustainable landscape may be the answer.
What is Sustainable Landscaping?
Sustainable landscaping utilizes native plantings to create an eco-friendly and natural setting. Because the plants are native to the Port Ludlow region, they have a greater opportunity to thrive for many years than do those transplanted from other regions. Using native plants means the need to augment soil with fertilizers and other chemicals is typically unnecessary, making a sustainable landscape easier to maintain. This type of landscaping also strives to conserve energy and water while preserving the integrity of the plant life it supports.
Lawns and Sustainable Landscaping
Many people long for lush green expanses of lawn to enhance their homes or businesses. Gas powered lawn mowers however, emit carbon dioxide and contribute to smog-based pollution and the gasoline used to run these mowers is a burden on the fossil fuel supplies of the planet. One way to improve the sustainability is to reduce the size of the lawn by planting other groundcovers and plants. For any of the remaining lawn, choose a push mower that does not rely on gas or electric power to operate it.
Some properties just seem to require a lawn. Nothing holds up to foot traffic like grass. So if a lawn is a must-have, there are some practices that will help keep it sustainable and eco-friendly such as cutting it high. Lawns maintained to a three-inch height require less frequent cuttings. It also allows them to develop deeper root systems which mean they need less fertilizing and watering to stimulate growth.
Synthetic lawn additives such as fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides produce carbon emissions. To reduce these types of emissions, consider using organic additives. Organic compost and fertilizers are much safer for the environment, your family and your pets.
Perform a soil test every three to five years to determine what nutrients the lawn needs. When indicated, use an organic, slow-release type of nitrogen fertilizer. Only add phosphorus when absolutely necessary as this mineral is easily runoff and pollutes the watershed. When phosphorus is called for, add it only in the spring as it has little effect in the fall. Avoid adding any fertilizer directly before expected rains as most of it will be washed away and end up in the Port Ludlow watershed.
Speaking of Runoff
Runoff is created by watering or rainfall. It is excess water that carries nutrients from the soil along with any chemicals that have been added. This runoff ends up in streams, lakes and even in the bay, where it may contaminate the water supply and wreak havoc with the eco-system. Given the often rainy climate in Port Ludlow, this can be a considerable problem.
Runoff can be combatted with a few simple strategies. Gutters and downspouts should be installed so that water is directed toward plant life rather than paved areas. Rain gardens and rain barrels are another way to collect rain water and prevent runoff. Rain barrels can be situated beneath downspouts to collect rainwater and then used to water gardens and lawns at a later date. Rain gardens are depressions in the soil that allow rainwater to collect and pool so it can be slowly absorbed by the surrounding soil over time. Both of these methods can help keep heavy runoff from causing erosion and carrying devastating pollutants to the watershed.
Soil Care Considerations
Port Ludlow is fortunate to have rich loamy soil, but the proportions of sand-silt-clay can vary greatly. Even loamy soil can be damaged by yearly applications of fertilizers and other synthetic chemicals which can strip it of its natural nutrients and damage its ability to retain or drain water properly. Adding organic materials to the soil can help restore or improve the soils composition. Ideally the organic material should come from yard and kitchen waste and contain plant materials that are local. This will deliver the best variety of biological matter to the soil and support the regrowth of other native plant species.
Add Edibles to the Landscape
It seems everyone is getting back to growing their own food, and with good reason. Benefits to health and finances play a big part in that. When designing a sustainable landscape, include edible plants in the plan. Diversity in plant selections means that different nutrients will be used from the soil whereas large groupings of the same kind of plant will strip that area of the nutrients that plant uses. The soil will be weaker for the next season and may require augmentation to restore it.
Growing food items adds interest to a garden. Depending on the plant selections, it can add floral color in the spring. The color and shapes of the developing fruit and vegetables add interest throughout summer and fall. It can also reduce the household grocery bill and reduce carbon emissions as fewer trips to go food shopping are required. Many crops that can be grown in Port Ludlow are perennial, meaning they need only be planted once and will return year after year. That’s the ideal, low-maintenance landscape.
No landscape or garden is complete without taking into consideration the local wildlife. Many plants provide food and shelter to insects, birds and mammals. A sustainable landscape provides features that foster coexistence between all the species living in the Port Ludlow community. Pollinators are needed for flower and vegetable gardens as well as for fruit trees and bushes. Select plantings based on your preference of pollinators such as bees or butterflies.
Various species of birds and mammals have their own food and shelter preferences, too. They can help keep unwanted insects and pests way, add interest and even entertainment to your landscape design. Be sure to include plants that will attract and support these creatures when planning your sustainable landscape. When natural pest control and pollinators can be utilized, less labor and fewer chemicals are needed.
One of the most important factors to consider when planning a low-maintenance, sustainable landscape in Port Ludlow is size. How large is the area to be landscaped? What types of plants are wanted and how much space is there for them to grow into?
Choosing the right size plant for the space can save endless hours of labor. For example, if fruit trees are used on a small lot, consider the mature size of the tree. Will it overhang a neighbor’s yard, a utility line or brush up against the house? All of these circumstances will necessitate frequent pruning. A dwarf tree or other planting may be more suitable for that location.
Another problem than can affect the sustainability of any landscape is the prevention and treatment of disease. Before purchasing plants, research whether or not the desired plant is susceptible to disease. Avoiding disease-prone varieties can minimize the labor expended if the plant becomes diseased. Disease resistant varieties may be a better choice.
If plants do become diseased, look for natural ways to correct the problem. Practicing organic methods helps protect the plant from disease and can help limit the need for chemical treatments.
Another way to keep your landscape low maintenance is group the planting by their needs. Plant sun-loving plants together and shade-loving plants together. Group those that need more water together and those that prefer drier beds together. By paying attention to the plants’ needs and sorting them accordingly, each bed or section of the landscape can receive similar care and avoid the need for specialized, high maintenance on a plant-by-plant basis.
The Mediterranean climate of the Port Ludlow area is home to wide range of plant life. For those unfamiliar with it, spend some time visiting habitats in the region such as the Kah Tai Prairie Preserve found inside the Port Townsend Golf Course. Diverse wildflowers and prairie plants converge in this natural wilderness. Visit at different times of the year to learn about the plants available, the peak times of year for each and the growing environment (sun, shade, water-based, etc.) that each needs.
If a firsthand visit is impractical, then some online research can help determine which native plants are best suited for a sustainable landscape in Port Ludlow. One such resource is the Pacific Northwest Natives website. Gardening clubs and extension centers can also be valuable resources in selecting native plants.
Some plants are beautiful and grow well in the Port Ludlow climate, but not all of them belong here. Some can be invasive. Invasive plant species are those not native to a region that can take over and choke out the native plant life and leave wildlife without food or shelter. Be careful when choosing an invasive variety. While it may appear easy to control at first, they often spread, even escaping the original planting site and spreading into other areas. Himalayan Blackberry bushes are a prime example. The thorny brambles bear delicious tasting fruit in August and September. For the remainder of the year, the plants meander along and fill in every open space they can find, making their removal a painful, difficult experience.
Port Ludlow falls into planting zone 8b. When choosing plants that will thrive here, make sure they are suited to this plant zone. There is some leeway when selecting plants. Those designated in a zone 1 level higher or lower will probably be okay but beyond that, the risk becomes too great. By choosing plants from the right planting zone, less time will be spent trying to coax an unwilling specimen along.
Drought Resistant Plants
Watering lawns and plants takes up resources, namely time and water. By choosing plants that are drought resistant, watering times can be spread farther apart. This saves time and money and still keeps the landscape sustainable and beautiful.
Evergreen plants and trees provide two specific benefits to any Port Ludlow sustainable landscape. First, they remain green and beautiful year round, providing a point of interest even during the bleakest and dreariest of weather. Second, since they do not shed their leaves, there is no time spent raking and disposing of leaves. Evergreens are an excellent choice for providing a shady element to the yard without the work involved with other types of large deciduous shade trees.
When trying to reduce the size of a lawn but still maintain some wide open spaces, ground covers can be the solution. There are four types of ground covers: herbaceous plants, mosses, vines and sub-shrubs which are low-growing, spreading shrubs. The type of ground cover to use depends on the space and preference.
Like all other plants, some ground covers prefer sun while others prefer shade. Some are deciduous, some are evergreen. Some bloom while others don’t. Some spread, others don’t. Some hold up to foot traffic, others do not.
With a little initial soil prep and some modest maintenance until the plants are established, ground covers are an excellent choice for the sustainable landscape. Once established, they require little maintenance, though some do require some fall trimming. They act like a living mulch, helping to suppress weeds. On rocky or sloped terrain, they help prevent soil erosion and in all situations, help soften soil and maintain moisture.
Hardscapes are the hard materials used in a landscape design. Most often these are made of gravel, stone or cement. They can be used for walkways, paths, statues and other non-horticultural design features that add functionality and interest. Gravel and stone can also be used in combination with weed barriers and in place of mulch to control weeds and give a more natural look to the landscape. Other hardscapes would be rock gardens or stone elements such as retaining walls, bed borders and fountains. These can be used to add color, form and texture to any Port Ludlow landscape, and, except for the fountain, require virtually no maintenance once installed.