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Sustainability in Landscaping Part 3
by Dan Clost
by Dan Clost


First serious garden earned 25 cents from the Kemptville Horticultural Society when I was 12. Have been poor in horticulture ever since but rich in spirit.

Went to work writing the Good Earth column (over 500 articles published in newspaper, magazine, website and journal.) and learned that what was printed wasn't what I wanted to say and certainly not what Gentle Reader understood me to say. Subsequently have developed a certain clarity and economy of words.

Day job- nursery and production manager for a large nursery/garden centre
Side job- Garden restoration and renovations, design consultations, remedial pruning.
Night job- garden writer and communicator (overnight success in another 20 years)

Dan gardens in Canadian Zone 5b

April 18, 2010

Gentle Reader, this is the third column in a continuing series on sustainability in landscaping. These excerpts are from a presentation to a group of landscape professionals: you'll note the perspective is slightly different from that of a gardener's. Costs and profitability are more important to these folks than they are to us. We don't have to pay for our labour; in fact, we consider our work time to be physical recreation. And, unless we've done something really silly, what isn't done today can be done tomorrow. There are no performance clauses to worry about.

Sustainability in Landscaping Part 3 One other aspect of the sustainable landscape is the amount of resources needed to maintain it. Once you’ve driven away, can this philosophy be continued by the residents? If you’ve installed an irrigation system, is it set for 1” a week or 1/16”, 2x a day, every day? Are they low flow/ drip type systems? Speaking of lawns, did your design include mowing strips to eliminate the need for a weed trimmer/edger and soft curves that allow a mower to easily take care of cutting? If you’ve designed extensive gardens did you create an appropriate sized composting area? What about water reclamation systems ( think rain barrel, water collection areas) in which you can have a bog garden, recirculating water features that makes use of rain water to top it up, shading by hardscape and plants to prevent evaporation and reduce algae growth)How about a green roof? Did you make it easy? Have you thought about developing a small booklet to give to your customers? “The Gardens and Grounds of Mr. and Mrs. Smith” containing a “bio” of the plants used, including their care and when to do it. An added sheet on how to compost, one on pruning. You can even include a list of associates who will do work that you don’t- i.e. pruning, so that the property is maintained true to the original collaboration. Is the pond or water feature easily accessible for care and maintenance? You have most of this material to hand in your office- whether it’s a formal dedicated space or the dashboard of your 4 by 4. (Btw, an added bonus of this is that your customer is now accepting ownership for the care of the landscape.)

The second exciting part is the actual creation of your creation. >From the 2-D drawings on vellum or computer screen to 3-D reality on site. Sustainability is now in the hands of your crew and your operations manager. Not wasting resources- don’t idle machinery, especially the 1-ton in the Timmy’s parking lot. Keep everything in good repair- properly tuned engines use less fuel, do the job faster, break down less often. Plan the work and arrival of materials in timely fashion- time is a resource, time is money, time can not be recaptured. All good business practices, all part of sustainability. You didn’t know it, but most of you are already on board with this.

A third part, less exciting usually and sometimes intimidating, is the social and political side of our business. Are you involved in the planning process in your community or do you show up at a town council meeting only as a knee-jerk reaction? There is an opportunity to shape your operating environment with considered application of knowledge and responsibility to sustainability. It might seem odd to talk about this but you have already taken the first step towards politics- you’re a part of this trade organisation. A quote from the L.O. website: Through the efforts of members, volunteers and staff, Landscape Ontario provides a unified voice for the horticulture industry in Ontario.

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