Spring has finally sprung and Earth Day (April 22nd) is just around the corner. Have you ever wondered how Earth Day came to be? It’s quite an interesting story. U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson came up with the idea of founding Earth Day in 1970 after witnessing a massive oil spill in California in 1969. He was inspired by the spirit of students’ anti-war movement at the time and thought he could recreate that level of energy and enthusiasm with people concerned about air and water. Senator Nelson proposed the idea of a “national teach-in on the environment,” assembled a group of 85 people to promote events on a national scale and chose the date of April 22nd. What followed was truly impressive – 20 million Americans came out across the country to demonstrate for a healthy, sustainable environment. It wasn’t about politics or economic class; these Americans all stood together to create a better Earth by fighting pollution, protecting wildlife and more. This massive movement led to the creation of the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Earth Day went global.
Fast forward nearly 50 years and we still celebrate Earth Day, with a focus more on fighting global warming and clean energy. It’s not just Earth Day, but it is our day, for each and every one of us – a day to take sustainable action and care for our one and only planet.
For us as landscapers, it’s a bit more personal. We work with and for the Earth every single day. The flourishing landscape you enjoy is the result of ongoing and (often) unseen work to make it happen. Professional landscapers continuously work with nature, so Earth Day offers a moment to pause and reflect on the importance to all of us. While some may think of landscaping as merely mowing grass and raking leaves, there are many different and eco-friendly aspects to the work we do. Ultimately, all of the actions we take and decisions we make have a direct impact on our environment.
1. Landscape Design
When it comes to landscape design, we strongly believe in the principle of “Right Plant, Right Place.” The principle is that by choosing plants that are well-suited your specific landscape environment, they will flourish and require less inputs to sustain them. Healthy plants, just like healthy people, are better equipped to withstand challenging environmental conditions that come their way throughout the year.
For a first-hand viewpoint, we talked with several of our local design experts about how this concept affects the valuable work they do. Stephanie Sisler of Keesen Landscape in Colorado describes the different micro-climates they have to consider in their “high desert” region: “A plant that can grow in the southwest corner of the property may not on the southeast corner. Soil types can be different even within the same property. There are so many variables - sun exposure, heat exposure, moisture, etc. What grows big and beautiful in your neighbor’s yard may not grow well in yours.”
In the case of Kansas City’s Signature Landscape, Leah Klooster explains the process of deciding if a plant is right for a specific place and outlines factors including “potential salt or snow damage, amount of water an area receives, possible wildlife interference with plant growth, along with obvious challenges for any area like sun/shade, soil type, and size considerations”.
In Columbia, Missouri, “light exposure overrides any other criteria used in selecting any plant material to be utilized in a landscape design. In addition to the light exposure, a designer has to match the plantings to moisture availability, the height of walls and windows, size of beds or available space”, explains Miguel Rios of Columbia Landcare.
There are many factors to consider when making design decisions and, when done professionally, benefits include reduced labor, diminished water use, and lower fertilizer & chemical inputs, all of which result in a more vibrant landscape that is matched to its environment.
2. Rejuvenation Pruning
Rejuvenation pruning has numerous benefits. (Winter Cutbacks Enhance Spring Growth!)
The main purpose is to remove older growth and stimulate vigorous new growth, without a need to replant. It makes sense from an economic point of view, but also from a horticultural one. You can increase your landscape’s health and longevity, plus more compact plants require less water and nutrients; it’s an eco-friendly approach. When done professionally at the right time of year, the plant will experience new, healthier, and more manageable growth for the season ahead.
3. Fertilization and Irrigation
Proper fertilization and irrigation go hand-in-hand. To benefit both your landscape and our environment, it is essential to match the fertilization materials and rate with the weather conditions. Fertilizer choices depend on the plant type, soil conditions, and turf area. Irrigation is important after the fertilizer has been applied, unless Mother Nature offers her help. On the other hand, if fertilization is done during a dry period, irrigation is essential to activate nutrients and prevent “volatilization”, which is the process of losing of nutrients into the atmosphere.
Think about your healthy lawn as a water filter. Well maintained lawns have a solid root system that will help reduce erosion and control runoff. Healthy turf decreases water loss by trapping and holding rainfall. This leads to the enhancement of soil microbes, which further filter the many types of pollutants, and keeps water clean. Healthy turf areas also cool the surroundings environment.
For professional landscapers, every day is Earth Day! We understand that we are stewards of the environment. Miguel Rios at Columbia Landcare explains it this way: “We believe we are securing a healthy environment for the future one landscape at a time!”
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