Landscaping and Gardening

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This page describes our beliefs and practices surrounding landscaping and gardening.

Our beliefs and practices flow from our core beliefs, especially those related to sustainability and consent. These practices have many goals and intentions, which include minimizing the resources spent on gardening and landscaping, protecting the environment, and helping gardens and landscaped areas to have as positive an effect on other people and on the community as possible.

Gardening and landscaping practices

  • Give preference to native plants, taking particular care to avoid non-native plants considered to be invasive in your area. This ensures that your garden or landscape will have a positive effect on the local ecology.
  • Plant edible plants, which can include both organized gardening as well as more casual planting of plants that happen to be edible. These choices can include planting fruit trees instead of strictly ornamental trees, or planting shrubbery or flowers with edible parts.
  • Make yourself available for contact and discussion with people who are impacted by your gardening and landscaping decisions, such as your immediate neighbors.
  • Minimize the use of resources that may negatively impact the environment. This can be done by choosing plants that don't require extra resources, and by not using certain maintenance practices unless they are necessary. These practices include:
  • The use of power tools, including mowers, edgers, trimmers, and other gas- or electric-powered tools used in maintaining lawns, gardens, and landscapes. Power tools are often used because of practical constraints, such as the impracticality or high cost of mowing a large lawn with a mechanical reel mower. The need for using power tools can be minimized by using more wild areas in landscaping, such as by minimizing care-intensive aspects of the landscape like lawns and carefully manicured gardens.
  • The use of irrigation in areas where water is scarce. Practice xeriscaping, the use of drought-adapted plants, and when irrigating, minimize evaporation and runoff by doing so at night, using drip irrigation, and using no more than the amount necessary to meet your needs. In areas where water is scarce, do not irrigate strictly for aesthetic reasons.
  • Herbicide and pesticide use. Do not use herbicides or pesticides for strictly aesthetic reasons, such as in lawns or to control pest infestations that some people find unsightly but do not have any other negative long-term consequences. When using herbicides or pesticides, use them only in such a way that is known to have no negative long-term impacts on the environment or human health.
  • Fertilizer use. Do not use fertilizers unless necessary. Favor fertilizer recycled from byproducts that would otherwise become waste, like household compost, manure, coffee grounds or mulch from municipal governments. Avoid applying so much fertilizer that you create a problem with nutrient pollution in runoff.
  • Maximize wild and semi-wild areas. Wild areas include intact ecosystems like forests, grasslands, wetlands, and others. Semi-wild areas can include a wild patch in an garden, or a mostly maintained landscape with some wild elements, like plants allowed to come up from seed, wild birds nesting in a cultivated garden, or an artificial wetland formed by a drainage pond or ditch. The easiest way to implement this practice is to avoid removing, destroying, or altering wild areas unless there is a compelling reason to do so, but this practice can also involve the creation of new wild areas and the inclusion of wild elements in maintained landscapes.

These principles are general guidelines and positive principles, not absolute rules. They can sometimes come into conflict with each other, and often need to be balanced against each other. Sometimes, it is only possible to satisfy more of them in the long-run. For example, many of the plants commonly used as food are non-native, such as cultivated apples and pears in North America, or tomatoes or potatoes in Europe.

Some of these principles, however, can synergize with each other. For example, the use of wild or semi-wild areas as buffer zones between plantings of food crops can reduce the impact of pests on the crops, reducing the demand for synthetic pesticides.

Why native plants?

Currently, nature preserves expend a large amount of effort removing non-native plants which are generally agreed upon to have a damaging effect on the ecosystems. This maintenance can be costly from a financial standpoint, and can also involve the use of volunteer labor.

Not only does avoiding non-native plantings avoid the risk of a plant either becoming invasive, or contributing to a population of already-invasive plants, but native plantings in maintained gardens can contribute to healthy populations of native plants in wild areas adjacent to or near the gardens.

The question of whether or not a plant is native is not the only question or even the most important question in determining whether or not it is a good choice to plant. For example, in cities, a native plant that is a prolific seeder might produce a problem with aggressive seedlings. And in many cases, such as with growing fruit trees for food, a non-native plant may be a more practical choice, and may have little or no negative impact on the local ecology.

Why edible plants?

Our practice of preferring edible plants relates to our beliefs and practices about food, and our fundamental belief about valuing sustainability. Locally-grown food has economic and health benefits, as it is freshest and requires fewer resources for transport and storage. Edible landscaping also helps promote more of our specific beliefs and practices about food, including making people aware of where their food comes from, and helping people to be involved in the production of their food.

Why make yourself available?

Our practice of making oneself available to others stems from the basic fact that the gardening and landscaping practices of each person or organization impacts others in a variety of ways. This practice is part of our beliefs about taking responsibility for one's actions.

Some examples of ways in which gardening and landscaping practices can influence others include:

  • A prolifically-seeding tree producing numerous seedlings in yards throughout a neighborhood, which can create additional work for people weeding their gardens. In the case that a non-native tree, shurb, or other plant which is a prolific seeder is planted near a wild area, such as a park or wildlife refuge, this may contribute to costly maintenance by people working on removing invasive or non-native plants from wild areas.
  • A tree shading neighbors properties, which may be either desirable or undesirable, depending on circumstances and people's wishes.
  • The appearance of landscaping, and the presence or absence of large trees, can influence land values, both directly, and indirectly through influencing crime rates.
  • The presence of large trees and dense vegetation can reduce heating and cooling costs for homes.
  • Using loud power equipment to maintain people's lawns, gardens, or landscapes, such as power mowers, power trimmers, or leaf blowers, can be noisy and can annoy neighbors as well as people walking through an area when these tools are in use.
  • Trees that drop messy fruit or large, heavy nuts, can be a problem when planted over parking lots.
  • Dead or diseased trees with heavy trunks or large, heavy limbs, located near buildings or areas with parked cars, can fall and damage others personal property, or in some cases, risk injuring a person.

Our practices involve making oneself available for contact and discussion to anyone impacted by your decisions. In most cases, this includes primarily one's immediate neighbors, but in some cases it may include others.

Why minimize the use of power tools?

Power tools, including gas and electric-powered tools, but particularly gas-powered tools, tend to be noisy, use energy resources, and contribute to pollution. The contribution to pollution per amount of fuel burned can be greater than it would be for a car or power plant, because these tools are not subject to the same standards of inspection and maintenance that cars and power plants are held to. The noise generated by these power tools can impose on neighbors without their consent, and besides being an annoyance, can impair people's ability to concentrate on certain types of mentally intensive work.

It may not seem practical for most people to abandon the use of power tools entirely. However, power tools can be minimized by following some of our other practices. For example, leaving more of a landscape as unmaintained wild areas can reduce the amount of space needing to be actively maintained, which can reduce or eliminate the use of power tools.

Why maximize wild areas?

Wild areas have numerous benefits, including:

  • Beauty. Wild areas are widely considered to be beautiful, and can be sources of calm and relaxation as well as sources of creativity and inspiration.
  • Contributing to clean air and water. Wetlands in particular are outstanding at filtering water, removing and breaking down pollutants from the water, and protecting ecosystems downstream. This can provide benefits not only to natural ecosystems, but to humans through protecting and restoring the fishing industry downstream.
  • Protecting against damage caused by flood and drought. Wild ecosystems serve as a natural buffer against extreme conditions. A dense, wild ecosystem can slow the absorption and runoff of water during heavy rains, protecting areas downstream, and also holding the soil to protect against soil loss. During drought or dry periods, the same ecosystem can serve as a buffer against the dry conditions by utilizing stored water, and casting shade and protecting the soil from becoming parched by hot, dry conditions.
  • Providing habitat for animal species. Although maintained landscapes can support wild animals, like birds, insects, and small mammals, wild ecosystems generally support a much greater biodiversity of plant and animal life. Wild habitats are also much more likely to be useful or beneficial to endangered species, since most species are endangered because of habitat destruction and human alterations to habitat.
  • Allowing plants to reproduce naturally and maintain healthy populations. Unlike maintained areas, which often consist primarily or exclusively of plants grown in nurseries and installed by people, wild areas consist mostly or exclusively of plants that have sprouted or seeded into the area naturally, usually from other wild populations. Allowing plants to reproduce naturally helps their populations to stay healthy, by maintaining genetic diversity and allowing them to adapt to changing conditions, in a way that maintained areas cannot and do not adapt.
  • Minimizing the need for maintenance. Although some wild areas are maintained, such as to control invasive species which threaten the ecosystem, or to provide controlled burns in some wild forests, as a general rule, leaving an area wild tends to greatly reduce the amount of effort and resources needed to be expended to maintain the area. Semi-wild areas bordering a controlled landscape may require maintenance around the edge, but in general require much less effort than maintaining a completely controlled landscape. This principle is even useful for allowing wild elements to enter into a mostly-controlled landscape...for example, allowing certain plants to grow naturally rather than treating them as "weeds" that need to be removed, can reduce the amount of effort needed to maintain an area.

Nearly all of these benefits can exist for even small wild areas or semi-wild areas. For example, allowing a single tree that grew from seed to grow in an otherwise maintained landscape, can contribute beauty, and can help that tree contribute to a healthy local population of its species.