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Diggin' It

Sustainable landscaping from inspiration through construction

Four excellent books explain the ins and outs of sustainable landscaping, from philosophy to practical advice.

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After all, if our sustainable landscape looks messy or poorly planned, how will we effectively educate our neighbors and act as ambassadors for these important concepts?

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Lastly, "Sustainable Landscaping for Dummies," by Owen Dell (Wiley, $21.99) is the most thorough compendium of construction and maintenance techniques that I’ve found. Mr. Dell is a landscape architect and contractor, and has been a landscape professional since 1971, so his information is spot-on, and both practical and effective.

This gem of a book had me laughing out loud. Chapter headings such as “Breaking wind like the pros” and “Fancypants composting technology and the supplies you really need” were both fun and informative, and kept me reading even those sections I had no intention of implementing.

The best part is that because Dell’s been a landscaping professional for so many years, he’s seen trends come and go. His straight-shooting advice about which sustainable techniques are easy and give a lot back, and which projects are thankless and best avoided was much appreciated.

This is a solid read, and I’d recommend it even for experienced landscape professionals. I’d be surprised if this book isn’t used in at least a few college-level horticultural programs across the country -- it’s just that good.

While many well-known classics in the field such as "Gaia’s Garden," by Toby Hemenway (Chelsea Green) and "Bringing Nature Home," by Douglas Tallamy (Timber Press) certainly deserve a place on any bookshelf, this newer crop of books streamlines and focuses the information for specific types of projects and situations, and are accessible to both expert and beginning gardeners.

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Genevieve Schmidt is a landscape designer and garden writer in the redwoods of northern California. She shares her professional tips for gardening in the Pacific Northwest at North Coast Gardening and on Twitter. To read more by Genevieve here at Diggin' It, click here.

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