University of Connecticut Cooperative Extension System: Water Quality and the Home Landscape

Sustainable Landscaping: Healthy Environments

What is a healthy landscape environment and why are healthy environments important?

by: Carl Salsedo, Ph.D

Extension Educator, Horticulture

Most gardeners want to be good citizens of the earth but also want great looking gardens that don't take full time help or a fortune to maintain. A healthy landscape environment promotes landscape management techniques and philosophies that work with nature to reduce pollution, promote wildlife habitat (picture below) or utilize low maintenance drought tolerant plants that reduce water requirements (picture). It encourages yard care practices that include using less fertilizers and pesticides, reducing lawn areas, and utilizing native plants.

More than 90 million households in the United States are involved in some form of gardening. Every gardener is a landscape manager, even if they never knew it. On a cumulative basis, the landscaping practices of these home landscape managers can pose a huge threat to naturally functioning ecosystems. The excessive use of fertilizers and pesticides, and irrigation practices that wash these and other chemicals, as well as bacteria and viruses from animal waste and eroded soil from the home landscape to local waters, create polluted runoff or non-point source pollution.

Traditional landscaping and gardening practices, along with suburban land development in the United States, have increasingly impacted the remaining natural ecosystems. Creating healthy environments entails systems of gardening that use many of the same principles that that natural ecosystems follow. They reduce waste, energy use and materials. It is about observation of nature at work. Its purpose is to design and create systems that imitate nature and turn the problems into solutions.