An eco-friendly landscape is more than just a tidy yard with minimal bare spots. It’s enticing to wildlife and thrifty with water.
Picturesque and inviting, I can’t help but stop by a landscape proclaimed “Yard of the Month” to admire its beautiful details, can you?
As Earth Day approaches, I’m reflecting on the positive impact homeowner associations can have on their communities. Encouraging sustainable landscapes is one of them.
Caught up in the whirlwind of life, I always appreciate the timely tips and local updates shared in our HOA newsletters, such as when to prune oaks to help prevent oak wilt or the city’s watering rules. And I love to daydream while admiring the artful landscapes recognized in the “Yard of the Month” feature.
Guidelines for a “Yard of the Month” often include maintaining tidy edges, a neat appearance, pruned shrubs and trees, and minimal bare spots and weeds in a garden bed or lawn. HOAs often have a separate recognition for holiday events.
If I might suggest guidelines for an Earth Day “Yard of the Month,” I would include these sustainable practices.
Is the landscape designed to attract wildlife? Look for plants that provide nectar and seeds, or act as host plants. Layers of trees, shrubs and perennials make good habitat. Avoiding pesticide use is best.
Are most plants drought-hardy? Landscape watering often adds up to 50 to 70 percent of a summer water bill. Selecting water-saving plants can minimize watering once they are established.
Does the yard minimize turf? Lawns are thirstier than drought-tolerant perennial plants. Less grass means less watering. If you like lawn, strive for the rule of thirds with one-third lawn, one-third landscaped beds and one-third outdoor living space like a patio. Frame your lawn with flower beds.
Are clippings mulched into the lawn or composted on site? San Antonio’s green bins are also a great option.
Are landscaped beds mulched? This helps conserve water and keep weeds down. Extra points for “green mulching,” or planting densely.
Are hardscapes porous? Pathways and patios should be permeable to allow water through.
Is landscape lighting dark-sky friendly? Lights should point downward and only on when needed.
Complementary colors and design choices should make it pop. Perennials typically need less water than seasonal annuals.
Extra points for hand watering! Turn the faucet’s handle to half-open and the average hose will use 300 gallons in 30 minutes. Compare this to the average automatic sprinkler system which uses 1,500-2,000 gallons per cycle.
Our HOAs are uniquely positioned to influence our neighborhoods to create a more sustainable, nature-rich San Antonio. Highlight your most eco-friendly yards in April for Earth Day! (Every month encouraged.)
By Sasha Kodet, a conservation planner whose large garden attracts a myriad of wildlife and curious neighbors with minimal water. At SAWS, Kodet develops outdoor programs to help people create their own beautiful, water-saving landscapes. She draws on her two decades of experience as a naturalist, botanical garden educator and event planner. Kodet enjoys (really) long walks in the woods and has thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail and the Long Trail.