First published on Quorum.com.
We are all becoming increasingly concerned about the over-use of toxic landscaping chemicals on common areas in our neighborhoods, community buildings, and parks. As a property or community manager, perhaps you’ve explored more earth-friendly solutions, but sometimes it’s not clear what that really means.
Sustainable landscapes are designed to fit seamlessly into the environment, regenerate with minimal maintenance, and be part of the overall health of a community.
By investing in a sustainable landscaping solution, your community will reap multiple benefits: the air is cleaner, water is used more efficiently, natural habitats and animal species return, and fossil fuel emissions are captured by the soil, protecting people and pets from inhaling them.
But beyond the natural environment, sustainable landscaping creates a healthier place for social interaction, increases the perceived value of your neighborhood, and gives you a good feeling about ‘doing the right thing.’
Just as a steady diet of fast foods jeopardizes an individual’s health, synthetic fertilizers can make your soil sick. Soils are made up mostly of minerals, with space for air and water. How you care for and feed your soil affects soil structure, plant performance, and resident microbes.
A bit about microbes. Astoundingly, when these little organisms are happily multiplying, they self- manufacture plant fertilizers, natural insecticides, and biological fungicides. And if that’s not enough, they also suppress weeds!
The high salt content of chemical fertilizers attacks and destroys microbes, which in turn compromises a plant’s ability to develop a functional immune system. Then, because your plants are no longer healthy, they need yet another application of toxic chemicals to prop them up, a cycle that continues year after year.
So how do we encourage microbes to grow? Yes, with a robust diet of oxygen, carbon, and nutrient-rich minerals your soil can improve and you will watch plants flourish. Once we’ve established a thriving culture of microbes, we quickly see plant growth flourish and a natural tendency to conserve resources.
One major benefit of sustainable landscaping is a significant reduction in water usage. A synthetic program makes the soil tight, doesn’t allow for water storage, and reduces root size. Remember those microbes we talked about earlier? They help maintain spaciousness in the soil so water can move about freely, reaching all the plant parts below ground and yielding a much larger, healthier root system.
An irrigation system is not required for an organic program, but it helps. Take it one step further and consider installing a ‘smart’ water system. A smart water system allows an operator to set parameters for multiple zones so the entire system can manage—and balance—the workload much more efficiently. A smart water system can also be set to respond to changes in weather patterns and send alerts when the system needs attention.
Battery-operated lawncare equipment has come a long way, recently becoming a viable solution for commercial landscaping companies. New on the scene, many companies have not yet invested in battery-operated equipment, but we have. Simply put, this eco-friendly technology reduces noise pollution and cuts down on carbons emitted into the atmosphere.
As far as the noise is concerned, if you imagine a gas-powered lawnmower with a decibel level similar to that of a muffler with a hole in it, a battery-operated lawnmower is more comparable to a finely tuned engine.
When a biological system is naturally healthy, fewer resources are needed to maintain the system. Sustainable landscaping offers many boosts to your maintenance programs that conventional chemicals do not:
- Less water is used and doesn’t get polluted as it seeps back into the water tables.
- Plants are fed with the type of nutrition they were meant to have, which means optimizing health, beauty, and yields.
- Plants grow more symmetrically, requiring less mowing and pruning.
- Healthy plants require fewer pesticides.
- No human or animal health issues are caused by organic exposure.
- Fewer plants get sick, thereby reducing replacements.
By using organic products, we’re able to take a system approach to treating properties, which creates a healthy, interdependent relationship between plants, trees, pollinators, and human management.