How to Create Sustainable Landscaping in Gated Societies

Going green is the responsibility of every individual on the planet. It may currently be a personal choice but could eventually become a national mandate in the future. 

In an American survey conducted in 2019, realtors reported that 36% of their clients showed a substantial preference for sustainable landscaping. CII’S Indian Green Building Council has declared that India has achieved a 5 billion sq feet green building footprint. 

Let’s understand how you can join this global phenomenon and more specifically, delve deep into how sustainable landscaping can be applied to your residential complex. We have jotted down a few cost-effective landscaping ideas but before that:

What is sustainable landscaping?

In simple terms, sustainable landscaping (also known as Green Landscaping or Eco- friendly Landscaping) means an organic, planted environment that takes care of itself over a long period of time without excessive care or expenditure. It takes into account local climate, temperature, resources, ecology and mimics the natural processes of Mother Nature, reducing the use of pesticides and negative environmental impact.

Features of sustainable landscaping

Green landscaping for residential buildings is characterised by the following:

  • Low maintenance and operational cost
  • Better air quality
  • Efficient energy and water usage
  • Reusing and recycling waste
  • Reduced soil and water pollution
  • Protection of local ecology
  • Attractive and aesthetic ambiance
  • Increased property value

Methods for Sustainable Landscaping

Ideally, a high-performance green building is designed strategically at the site planning stage from the developer’s end. However, there are several easy-to-adopt methods a gated society can consider to incorporate sustainable landscaping in their apartment buildings.

1. Xeriscaping 

Suited for all ecosystems and ideal for water-scarce areas, xeriscaping is one of the most sustainable ways to grow an eclectic and visually pleasing garden. This method uses the lowest water consuming plants, perennials, and shrubs (different texture, color, height) and reduces irrigation needs by 50% compared to a regular landscape. Mulching (a protective surface made of coconut, grass, stones, etc) goes a long way to retain water. Club together plants with similar water requirements and research drought resistant plants. Your best bets are native wildflowers, cacti, lavender, prairie grasses.

2. Composting

Decomposing organic waste to fertilize your garden is as green as one can go provided one gets over the cringe factor in the favor of the environment (as one should). Research shows that composting reduces irrigation needs by 60 to 70% and lowers soil erosion by 70 to 80%, boosting plant growth while being cost-effective.

Use a soil testing kit from your local nursery to determine compost use for balanced pH. Get started with a compost pile for your building if space and common consensus allows. If you prefer not to make your own compost, buy organic bulk compost from farmers or nurseries.

3. Native Plant Garden

It is common sense to invest in native species of plants, trees, and shrubs that are well adapted to the local climate and can bloom in all seasons. They have grown acclimated to rain levels in the region and developed resistance to commonly found pests and decay factors in the area. Check with your local specialists to eliminate aggressive or invasive plants that suck the life out of other plants. Exotic or common horticultural plants require heavy maintenance and pest control, unlike the self-sustainable natives.

4. Green Walls and Roofs

Mandated in a few European countries and adopted by most progressive urban builders across the world, also known as ‘living walls and roofs’, these create a synthesis of dramatic landscapes, sound insulation, rainwater absorption, and urban heat island reduction. For a vertical garden, select walls from every building, attach a layer of fabric frame with water retention property as a foundation and set up a drip irrigation and fertilization process. For an extensive or a light green roof that doesn’t require structural changes, use a thin growth foundation that shallow growing plants/grass can survive on and provide significant thermal insulation and shading.

5. Greywater Reuse

This is mildly used water collected from kitchen sinks, washbasins and laundry (excluding toilets). It simply means drained domestic water that contains soap residue, washing machine water, grease, cleaning agents, mild dirt, etc. A pipe connecting such drains to the garden landscapes can be easily installed so as to reduce fresh water consumption. Excess greywater should be disposed of or treated within 24 to 48 hours.

6. Bioswale/Bioretention Ponds

Along with building streets, parking lots and inside the garden, create an excavated path called a bioswale which is lined by grass, plants, perennials (yarrow, berry, sage, wild grass) and has mild slopes on the sides. During rainfall as the water rushes through, it eliminates pollutants in the water such as silt, metals, plastic, inorganic materials which are blocked by the plants and later decompose in the soil. Once the water moves through the slope, it can be retained in depressed formations on the ground known as bioretention ponds. This prevents rainwater run-off and reduces pressure on stormwater sewage while recharging groundwater.

7. Use Homemade/Natural Pesticides

The best pesticides/insecticides are safe and non-toxic for the plants and keep only the bugs away. But even those should be used as a last resort. We recommend using Neem oil spray, soap spray, oil spray, salt spray and onion, and garlic spray.

8. Go Green with the No-Mow Movement

Break up with your golf course grass lawn that is constantly thirsty for water, needs heavy pesticides and is stubbornly high maintenance. Instead blend together more eco-friendly and stunning styles like wildflower garden, Zen Rock Garden, English cottage garden, and butterfly garden.

As an added measure, you can aid green landscaping with solar-powered tools and gear instead of diesel or electric devices to conserve electricity. 

There are only benefits to going green. Your outdoor areas will look, feel and smell astonishingly fresh. Personalized landscaping will set your building apart from tailored traditional complexes. The beautiful groundcovers will attract birds, butterflies and help pollination while reducing toxins in the air naturally. Any gated community that gives back to nature and the society at large is at once perceived as a pioneering entity that creates meaningful change and leads by example.

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