Sustainable landscaping from inspiration through construction
Four excellent books explain the ins and outs of sustainable landscaping, from philosophy to practical advice.
Sustainability has become such a popular buzzword in landscaping that new books on the topic come out every week. Knowing which ones best suit your needs can be a challenge, but these four recent titles will give you a grounding in the philosophies and how-to involved in landscaping and gardening more sustainably.Skip to next paragraph
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Philosophies and debates
My first recommendation is "The New American Landscape: Leading Voices on the Future of Sustainable Landscaping," edited by Thomas Christopher (Timber Press, $34.95). Thirteen powerhouse authors contribute to chapters on balancing natives and exotics in the garden, waterwise landscaping, sustainable edible gardening, green roofs, meadow gardens, and more.
This is some of the most balanced and thorough writing about sustainability issues in the landscape that I’ve seen. Part manifesto and part how-to, each chapter delves deeply into a topic in sustainable landscaping and shares the philosophies and debates surrounding it, as well as the expert author’s best advice for how to move forward in a practical and helpful way.
The new and exciting thinking on these topics made for fascinating reading, and even though I’ve read at least eight books on sustainable landscaping in the last year, this is the book I returned to most often to find fresh ways of approaching these topics and to re-examine my beliefs.
Urban landscaping projects
While "The New American Landscape" provides inspiration and a worldview shift, "Urban Homesteading: Heirloom Skills for Sustainable Living," by Rachel Kaplan and K. Ruby Blume (Skyhorse Publishing, $16.95) provides a wealth of information about actual projects you may like to take on, to green your footprint and increase your self-reliance.
While none of the chapters will make you an expert, they give just enough information so you can figure out which projects will be most likely to be a good fit for you. They cover an incredible range of how-tos, including how to make and plant a seed ball, create a composting toilet, grow potatoes in a barrel or trash can, ferment your own sauerkraut and make your own naturally bubbly sodas, keep rabbits or goats, harvest edible weeds, and build a solar drying rack.
Even apartment dwellers can do the majority of these projects, and many would be fun to do with children. The entire book is packed full of diagrams and dense information that will help you live closer to the land.
Importance of good design
Alice Bowe’s "High Impact, Low-Carbon Landscaping" (Timber Press, $24.95) focuses more on the nuts and bolts of designing a stylish yet sustainable landscape. She has suggestions for how to design with plants (even in challenging conditions), which types of building materials are the most sustainable, and how to plan your landscape to leave as small a carbon footprint as possible.
My favorite aspect of this book is the emphasis on blending good design principles with sustainable techniques. So many authors get caught up in being eco-friendly that they forget how important beauty is as well.