Creating Harmony: Is it possible to construct a gorgeous backyard that is both pleasing to the eye and kind to the environment? – By Tara MacIntosh

As Spring blossoms once again, sun-kissed days and relaxed evenings make their triumphant return. These welcome changes awaken a desire to unwind in inviting backyard spaces. Given the current state of the environment, the desire to create a safe green space is top of mind. Thus, the question becomes – is it possible to construct a gorgeous backyard that is both pleasing to the eye and kind to the environment?

Speaking with Sue Montgomery, the Landscaping Design Services Coordinator at Sheridan Nurseries, she advises there are 3 main considerations when designing an environmentally-friendly space ― water, soil and plant choice. On the topic of water consumption, Sue emphasized the fact that water conservation is crucial in creating an earth-friendly design. Sue explains, “An essential component to being environmentally savvy is implementing the right system for reduced water consumption”.

In the landscaping industry there are 3 recommended environmentally-friendly solutions when it comes to water conservation. The first is to incorporate the use of low water beds or rain barrels into the overall concept. The captured water will seep back into the soil rather than run off into a drain. Recycling water in this fashion keeps soil moist and, most importantly, reduces the need for artificial watering. The second design option that should be included is the use of permeable pavers. Using permeable pavers will allow water to naturally seep back into the ecosystem instead of pooling on top. This natural recycling will once again conserve water by reducing the need for inefficient sprinklers during very dry conditions. The third solution is to install a soaker hose for even and controlled water distribution. The best part is that these methods of water conservation are safe for children and pets to be around as the absorption process leaves behind little or no mess.

The next topic to consider in maintaining a green space is the treatment of the soil. Learning how to maintain soil naturally is the most effective way of keeping an area chemical free. Sue gives an inspired idea for creating natural fertilizer, “A great way to keep the soil nourished is to mow the lawn with the leaves still on top. Afterwards gather the clippings and spread the mixture onto the gardens as natural fertilizer.” The best part is that this natural fertilizer is completely safe for children and pets if they happen to be playing in the garden. The whole family can get involved in the process by helping spread the clippings.  The benefits of natural mulch are it looks great in an outdoor space and contributes to the overall health of the garden.     

The final step is deciding which plants to incorporate into the overall design. It is widely recommended to use drought-tolerant plants and native species as these options will attract birds and insects which offers both beauty and natural pollination. As well, where possible, it is encouraged to incorporate perennials as they reduce the need to replant new flowers year after year. Another popular pick for families are dwarf berry trees and tomato plants. Bringing edible plants into the mix adds to the natural beauty and will provide food that the family can enjoy. Simulating a natural environment in your backyard creates a harmony and a peacefulness that is perfect for relaxation and restoring your energy after a long day.    

Taking your design a step further, there are state-of-the-art applications designed to protect the environment and help simulate a natural state. Mike Flint, Landscape Designer and Consultant for International Landscaping, referenced one such application ― Dark Sky. Mike explains, “There is a technique called Dark Sky that focuses light downward. The purpose of this is to reduce light pollution in the sky and aid in the natural order of animal migration. Conserving light, water and energy are all part of green living solutions.”

Turning to the topic of recycling, there are ways to infuse recycled and re-purposed materials into the design of the backyard space. Composite Decking is one way to protect the environment and reduce the use of chemicals. Composite Decking refers to a deck that is built with product partially made from recycled material. Building a deck this way is beneficial as it cuts down on the chemicals required for annual maintenance in comparison to a deck made entirely from natural material such as wood. Another environmentally-friendly idea is to incorporate glass or cloth siding into a deck design as these materials can be maintained with one hundred percent chemical-free products. Staying true to the green theme, there are additional items that can be included in the overall design such as play structures for children and patio furniture made from recycled or natural substances.

A backyard is a space designed for the pleasure of the entire family. Therefore, dividing off an area specifically for the children to enjoy is an absolute must. Developing a dedicated space for children will encourage them to take an active role in building and maintaining the land. Mike comments, “A great way to keep the family in-the-know about green living is to create a vegetable garden.” Creating a garden will allow the family to take an active role in the natural growth cycle. Being responsible for the success of a garden will teach children respect and appreciation for the environment. On that same topic Sue remarks, “Creating a garden does not have to be in the traditional square in the corner of the yard. A space to grow and nurture a vegetable garden will become an intricate part of the overall design.” These interactive areas in the backyard are sure to serve as both fun and a vehicle to get children interested in the environment.

Creating an earth-friendly landscape will become a place of relaxation and discovery for the entire family. The natural beauty will take your breath away and provide the perfect place to enjoy those sun-soaked Spring days and star-filled dreamy nights.