Landscaping isn’t just for looks. Landscaping is very important for creating an inviting, appealing home. A nice yard will greatly moderate extremes in temperature and create a much more pleasant environment. I thought I’d share my experience of how my girlfriend and I have transformed our rather ordinary ranch style house by focusing on our yard. The house itself is now less noticeable than the landscaping and outbuildings – earthbag roundhouse, dome and pantry, and outdoor kitchen. Five years and lots of work later, things are really looking good. It hasn’t been easy by any means. Our soil is quite poor and has required truckloads of topsoil and manure to get the yard in shape. Almost every plant has a different type of insect that’s determined to eat as much as possible. Weeds grow 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Our dogs have killed countless plants as they race around and wrestle. It’s also very hot here. Our dry season lasts about six or seven months. And by dry season, I mean almost no rain at all. And did I say it was hot?
It’s much easier starting out with property that has a least a few trees, otherwise you’ll be in for a very long and possibly discouraging project unless you have excellent soil and lots of water or rainfall. Land like that is harder and harder to find, and so it helps to use some strategies like those listed below to boost your chances of success. Here’s a brief summary of our experience.
– We started by planting fast growth plants around the perimeter to create some privacy. Native, hardy plants are a good choice. These plants will make it easier to grow smaller plants below, because they partially block the harsh sun.
– We gradually added lots of plants, many in terracotta pots so they can be moved around, under existing trees. So the big trees served as a nursery of sorts. Some potted plants were re-planted elsewhere around the yard when they got bigger.
– We put extra effort into key areas – the front of the house, under our two big trees, a kitchen garden and an area outside our bedroom window that we’ve turned into a quiet sitting area.
– Over time we added lots of fruit trees and other edible plants, compressed earth block planters, urbanite pathway, and an earthbag bench and wood arbor.
– Bit by bit we bought plants at agricultural fairs, plant sales and as gifts for each other. A little here and there eventually adds up.
– Drought resistant plants will save a lot of water and countless hours watering.
– Use seedbank management to eliminate weeds. Exhaust the weed seedbank so desirable plants will take over. Pull out noxious plants by the roots before they go to seed.
– Vary the landscape a bit with berms/mounds.
– Add a lot of different plants because many won’t make it.
– Add loads of mulch and manure.
– Put fragrant plants near doors and windows, and include plants to attract wildlife.
– Leave some open space so dogs and kids (big kids, too) can play. A small lawn is a nice contrast to lots of plants.
We’re now in the final stage of filling in a few last places. It already looks great. From our porch I can see 15 or so different shades of red flowers at one time. The view is constantly changing as different flowers bloom each week. A few more years at this rate and our yard will look like a park.