Sustainable Landscaping Practices

It’s that time of year when landscapers are out in full force tending to many Evanston yards in preparation for the coming cold months. In fact, many are in the process of renegotiating contracts with their current landscapers or looking for new ones as 2015 comes to a close.

As you begin evaluating your current landscaping service check out these tips on how to reduce costs and encourage your landscaper to integrate more sustainable practices into their service. When talking with your landscaper here are a few questions you can ask to determine how sustainable the service they are offering you is:

  • Does my yard/property need to be serviced every week? Chances are your contractor is coming more frequently than is absolutely necessary. You can save money and reduce the noise and disturbance of having workers in your yard each week by reducing the number of times your landscaper visits your yard/property. Your neighbors will thank you and so will your pocket book!
  • What kind of chemicals are being used on my property? If your contractor uses chemical herbicides, pesticides or fertilizers on your property it is good to know exactly which ones are being applied and how frequently. In many cases these chemicals are not necessary to maintain a healthy yard and often times have organic counterparts that can be applied more safely. Remember that anything applied to your lawn has the potential to become run-off during storms which can contaminate local waterways and pose a risk to wildlife. Pollinators and other helpful creatures are much more susceptible to many chemicals than humans. Be sure to know what’s being applied to your property and if its absolutely necessary!
  • What types of plants are being planted and are they native and/or low maintenance? For most people aesthetics are the most important factor in deciding what to plant on your property BUT there are other important factors as well. For example, having plants that are native to the area can reduce your costs by increasing the likelihood that those plants will survive for longer and reduce potential maintenance costs as those plants should be better adapted to the historical climate conditions. Additionally, many native plants provide micro habitats for the native wildlife including butterflies and bees which are essential parts of the local ecosystem.
  • Why are you placing mulch against my tree trunks?! If your landscaper is practicing “volcano mulching” you should ask that they stop, immediately. “Volcano mulching” is the practice of piling mulch up against tree trunks which can cause lasting harm to the tree and lead to death. When mulch is placed right up against the tree trunk it collects and stores moisture which can lead to the rotting of a tree trunk which will kill that tree. Trees, especially younger trees, absolutely love mulch as it provides nutrients, protection, insulation and numerous health benefits, but only if it is properly applied. Mulching should be done in a doughnut shape around the tree without any mulch touching the trunk. Properly mulched trees are healthier, have more energy to grow and are therefore more effective at intercepting stormwater, acting as a wind barrier, sequestering carbon dioxide and providing numerous cooling benefits.

These are just a few questions you can ask you landscaper to make sure that the service you are receiving meets your needs and is health and sustainable for your yard/property and the wider community. 

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