Sustainable Landscapes

April showers bring May flowers and we're off to a great start. Farmer's Almanac is supporting cool temperatures with rain for April and with more rain into May. Time to think about maintaining sustainable landscapes. This type of maintenance creates a healthier, longer term lawn by the simple use of native plants, water harvesting and compost.

Begin with native plants for the mid-west. Native plants are a great way to contribute to your soil and environment. Plus, they're just beautiful and if conditions are right, supply you with a beautiful landscape full of color. Native plants require little to no maintenance. Except when first planted, they require minimal watering. Because these plants are native to our area there is no need for fertilizers or pesticides. Your sustainable landscapes will conserve water and energy, reduce waste and aid in preventing soil erosion by decreasing runoff.

Orange Milkweed

Orange Milkweed

Black Eyed Susan

Black Eyed Susan

Maidenhair Fern

Maidenhair Fern

Purple Coneflower

Purple Coneflower

It takes approximately 500 years for 1 inch of soil to naturally develop,
while one good rain storm can wash away .04 inches of the soil -- on a site
with no plant cover, significantly more. Preserving topsoil helps to keep your
plants healthy and prevents the topsoil from drying out and blowing away.
By amending the soil you add nutrients back in the earth as well as volume and aeration. The surefire way to do this is through compost.
 

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Composting will improve soil structure so that soil can easily hold the correct
amount of moisture, nutrients and air ... very useful for recycling kitchen
wastes, leftover crop residues, weeds, and manures.  

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The last element for maintaining a sustainable landscape is water harvesting. There are many different methods and techniques to harvest water. Here are just a few ...

  • Capturing runoff from rooftops
  • Capturing runoff from local catchments
  • Capturing seasonal floodwaters from local streams
  • Conserving water through watershed management

Some of the advantages of harvesting rainwater include:

  • It's absolutely free to use and it's a clean source of water
  • It's free of chemicals found in tap water
  • Rain barrels are easy to install
  • The water can be used for many different purposes
  • It's environmentally friendly
  • It's excellent for irrigation
  • It reduces the use of ground water

In a nutshell, the basics ... native plants, composting and water harvesting. These are just three of the many ways to creating a healthier garden and preserving existing plant life, while also conserving resources. It's good for the environment and it's good for us. The basics. 

Pallet Gardening

Garden envy? You want one, you need one, but where? Maybe you live in an apartment or simply don't have the backyard space. Try pallet gardening. It's a great alternative to traditional gardening and a chance get creative in limited spaces.

Raised pallet garden

Raised pallet garden

With pallet gardening, you have options. Live in a balcony apartment? Try hanging your pallet vertically for a growing wall. Limited yard space? Place pallets horizontally on the ground as part of your landscaping. For raised beds, multiple pallets can be stacked, or as in the photo above, placed on sawhorses. 

Horizontal pallet garden

Horizontal pallet garden

Pallet gardening is easy and all you need are a few basic tools and supplies.

  • Shipping pallet
  • landscape cloth (3' X 50')
  • crowbar
  • hammer
  • utility knife
  • sandpaper
  • 4 mounting brackets (for vertical pallet)
  • potting soil
  • plants

To start, find your perfect pallet. Personally, I suggest using a new, clean, fresh pallet, but you can buy used. In either case make sure your pallet has been heat treated. There will be a (HT) stamp somewhere on the pallet. Also, if going with a used pallet, look for stains. You can never be sure of what chemicals were stored on an old pallet. You want your pallet to be as clean as possible and free from rusty nails and staples. It might be a good idea to scrub your pallet with a light bleach solution to get rid of any bacteria, especially if planting edibles.

Kansas City has several companies that offer new and used pallets. Here are just a few....

Look for HT stamp

Look for HT stamp

Kansas City Pallets
Specialty Lumber Solutions
1301 E. 31st Street
Kansas City, MO 64109
Phone: (816) 506-4131

Midwest Pallet
1161 S. 12th St.
Kansas City, KS 66105-1614
Phone: (913) 371-3555

Keep in mind that Craigslist is a great source for free pallets as well as businesses near your home. Remember, look for that (HT) stamp!

Here's a video that walks you through the process. There are several ways to make a pallet garden, but this is my favorite.

Mounted vertical pallet garden

Mounted vertical pallet garden

 If you've decided your pallet will be hung vertically, make sure to consider the weight of a fully planted pallet after watering. It can be quit heavy so choose the right mounting brackets and a solid location on which to hang. Attach the mounting brackets in place before you add the weight of the soil and plants. After you've added plants to your pallet, keep it horizontal for a few days and water thoroughly. Add more soil as it settles. Once the soil has settled, hang your pallet and monitor it closely. Water frequently, especially the bottom half of the pallet gets the driest.

Vertical pallet garden wall

Vertical pallet garden wall

There it is...easy peasy. 

For more ideas on pallet gardening and other pallet projects, check out Pinterest. You'll wonder why you didn't think of this sooner!