Approach to a Sustainable Landscape
Forty percent of American households are growing vegetables or herbs in their yards, and the interest in frontdoor food production continues to grow. Conventional landscapes demand high inputs (water, chemical fertilizers, and chemical insect control) and produce little or nothing for the homeowners and local wildlife. Limiting ideas of a "yard" stifle the Earth's giving, diverse nature. Bluegrass lawns gulp gluttonous amounts of water while gravel landscapes compound the heat-island effect. Neither provides homeowners a physical or spiritual connection to the land around them.
By expanding the idea of what a "yard" is and can do for homeowners, Living Edge Landscaping sees every yard as part of a sustainable future of food and wildlife. As we heal our disconnect from the Earth, we begin in our yards. The space around our homes can provide food, cooling micro-climates, wildlife habitats, environments for learning, and places of meditation. From soil to canopy, Living Edge Landscaping strives to increase biodiversity and the human-earth connection.
We begin by learning the homeowners' needs and goals for their yard. They may want only a simple garden to provide tomatoes and other vegetables for their table. Maybe they want a food forest that they can harvest fruit and berries from throughout the seasons. As Permaculture landscape designers, we assess homeowners needs, study the unique elements of a property and take that information to create a design that a.) achieves maximum growth potential, b.) is a sustainable landscape system, and c.) is beautiful. So we let the homeowners and land inspire our design and we use our creativity to make it please the eye.
Before we can begin designing the sustainable landscape we first must understand the homeowners wants and needs. During the initial visit we will ask the homewoner what their goals are and how they visualize the landscape. Next we decide how we can meet these goals using the resources we have. A design is almost never finalized the first visit. Through thoughtfull observation and stimulating the homeowners ideas we will create a skeleton of a design that we can fine tune into a landscape that provides its own needs.
Gardens begin with pathways, the skeletal system of a yard. They draw people into the landscape and lead them through the gardens to areas of interests (patios, storage sheds, play areas, etc.) thereby defining the growing beds. Living Edge Landscaping creates signature pathways of elegant curves and adventurous natural shapes. We raise and border all our pathways so they stay high and dry in the monsoons while shedding rainwater to the planted areas.
Designing with Nature
Nature does not typically work in straight lines, so neither do we. Designing with natural patterns maximizes space, reduces labor, and increases the abundantly living edge between growing areas and walking areas. If our gardens mimic nature, then we produce a more harmonious landscape. Some natural patterns include, spirals, keyholes, branches, honeycomb, and mushrooms.
Increase the Edge
Life thrives on the edge. In New Mexico, for example, most plant and animal life occurs where the rivers meet the desert, the bosque. Because the Earth's natural tendency is to maximize life, the river twists back and forth to increase the edge. When we increase edge in our gardens, we increase opportunity for life. We do this by meandering paths, making canopies and under-stories with plants, bringing people and animals into the garden, and having a biodiversity of plants.
Instead of planting on raised areas, we design our landscapes to harvest rainwater and direct it to shallow planting basins. We strive to harvest all the water that falls on the site and store it either in a cistern or in the soil. Rainwater provides clean, chlorine and salt free water to your plants and edibles. Rainwater havesting is essential to desert sustainability and our designs.
By the time we choose what plants to put into the landscape, we have already taken many steps towards sustainable life. Why stop now? Because we aim to increase human-earth connection, we plant plants that are appropriate for our ecosystem and that will provide organic food for the homeowner and desired wildlife. We install a number of native and non-native fruits and berry producing trees and shrubs. Imagine as you walk to your mailbox plucking a few fresh currants, sweet cherries or serviceberry for a healthy snack and harvesting spring greens for a dinner salad. We achieve this very "local market" by planting an edible, perennial polyculture.
Rock mulches reflect heat, which keeps soil temperatures low but air temperatures high. A gravel landscape creates an unpleasantly hot environment around your home, increasing cooling costs and water needs. Gravel does not break down and add organic matter to the soil, as in the natural, seasonal cycles of life, death, and regeneration. Because it is almost always used with a petroleum-based weed barrier, it sheds rainwater quickly, stifles the Earth of oxygen and increases the earth-human disconnect. Organic mulches do just the opposite. They reduce air temperature because they do not reflect or store heat; they break down, adding much needed organic matter to our soils; and they increase rainwater absorption and reduce evaporation. By increasing soil moisture, nutrients and oxygen supply, organic mulches grow healthier plants that, in turn, provide more shade for a cooler yard.
Living Edge Landscaping uses all of the above elements to create a living landscape that provides its own needs while providing you with food, shelter, and a calming connection with nature.