A Conversation on Sustainable Landscaping

A Conversation on Sustainable Landscaping

Despite the recent downpours, we thought a conversation with our designer, Don Kansteiner, would be a terrific way to present our views on the topics of drought and design sustainability.

What is sustainable landscaping? 


As a Landscape Designer, it is exciting to establish the norms as far a sustainable landscapes go. Being open minded I think is the first step in the application, or transition to sustainable landscapes. It is a practice that has been in place pretty much forever, but lost in the throes of new, new, new and new… !  In terms of residential landscapes, using permeable materials, installing plants that are native and or adaptable to the region, improving soil conditions, capturing and reusing rain water, source material from local growers and suppliers, reuse and recycle materials, using native grasses as an option to synthetic turf, use small turf areas for kids, improve the irrigation systems to improve water absorption and lessen run off.
Did you know using native plants improves the native insect and bird cultures? Throw away your hedge trimmers. Design and allow plants to grow into their full cycles, which create a healthier plant and contributes to the other life cycles that depend on plants.  Just the tip of the iceberg…
How can elements be incorporated without an entire landscape overhaul?

The hot topics now are turf and irrigation. The irrigation can be improved to reduce water loss and increase water efficiency with better application and management. This can be done with sub surface and drip systems, or using matched precipitation nozzles on existing systems.  Using native grasses, or low water use ground covers can reduce maintenance and its related impact,(fuel and chemicals) and can provide a new look that actually changes with the seasons. Synthetic turf has its place, but I am struggling a bit with its long range impact. As a comparative, I am using less and less plastic bags and bottles every day.


With our state’s current water crises, how can outdoor water usage be trimmed immediately?
A quick example. I live in an older house. In my house it takes almost 3 gallons of water to get the hot water to the shower. I now put a bucket in the shower, capture that water, and use it in my courtyard planters and pots, herb pots, and our curbside planter. If we do this 2 times a day, I have saved 2100 gallons over a year and repurposed it to the garden.
In most cases, an irrigation audit and system review with recommended improvements by a landscape contractor is a great place to start finding the “leaks” in your garden.

Are there long-term measures that can be taken in the yard to lessen usage and conserve this natural resource?
There are too many to mentioned, and more are being discovered and created. I think it all starts with a design that included the practice of sustainable landscape right from the beginning. As I suggested, this takes an open mind and a new way of looking at the landscape for a lot of us.  We do live in a desert here in Southern California, and the yards are not all large, but the impact is huge by the sheer numbers of houses. I love the “Think Globally, Act Locally” slogan when it comes to sustainable landscapes, who knows, we might even help the bees and the butterflies.