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10 Easy Ways To Go Greener With Your Landscaping

go greener

By Steven Randel, Houzz

In the previous Building Green story, we looked at plant materials and how you can make healthier choices by selecting species that are native, easier to maintain or both. The other part of your yard that needs equal attention for environmental health is your hardscape. These are the walkways, decks, paths, planter borders and retaining walls that define the architecture of your plot of land. Lighting and water are also important elements of this part of your project. Below are examples where conscientious planning promotes a healthy existence for these homes. Go greener with your landscaping. 

go greener with your landscaping

Tate Studio Architects, original photo on Houzz


“Less is more” is a good theme to keep in mind. Letting the natural terrain and plant life take the spotlight can have a dramatic effect. As seen in the Arizona residence above, the natural landscape has been saved for most of the yard of this large parcel of land. The driveway to the house has a minimized width at the street and shares the route with the walk to the entrance of the house.

go greener with your landscaping

Hanselman Landscape and Gardens, original photo on Houzz


This Philadelphia landscape uses ironstone obtained from nearby Hershey, Pennsylvania, for this beautiful garden path. Local natural materials such as this stone can be a better choice compared with engineered materials, which come with all of the downsides of manufacturing. They are also a better choice than natural materials that come from a distant location, as those require more energy and time to be shipped. Check into local sources whenever possible; you may make some unexpected finds.

When using wood in outdoor applications, you will want to consider its durability as well as its renewability. Stick with wood species that are easily replenished and commonly used in your area.

go greener with your landscaping

D-CRAIN Design and Construction, original photo on Houzz

Planting borders and steps.

You might want to consider simple materials used in a minimalist fashion, as has been done for this home near Austin, Texas. Cor-Ten steel plates can create planter beds as well as steps. The gravel paving in this example allows the landscape to absorb rainfall rather than shedding it off into stormwater drains. Note the succulents growing on the steps, which is a charming result of this design.


When you want a patio, consider using stone paving, as has been done in the Northern California yard below. Space between the stones can be left for gravel when laid over a bed of sand, which allows for rainwater to be absorbed into the soil. Solutions like this are often far more attractive than a large pouring of concrete.

go greener with your landscaping

450 Architects Inc, original photo on Houzz

go greener with your landscaping

Cali Bamboo, original photo on Houzz


All-wood decks once were common, but wood has become more expensive. It can be wise to employ other materials for deck surfaces and reduce consumption of natural resources that can be more difficult to replenish. Various composite materials have been invented in recent years — research which brands suit your circumstances best and are the most environmentally conscious. This deck is laid with a product called Cali Bamboo. The company has a line of composite decking planks and other materials that replace traditional wood deck surfaces. The use of bamboo in the composite material makes it a good choice, since bamboo is a fast-growing, plentiful resource.

go greener with your landscaping

Bianchi Design, original photo on Houzz


The juxtaposition of the gravel driveway with the sculptural elements of this Arizona house enhances the design scheme. Driveways like this are a better solution than black asphalt paving, which is simple and cheap but environmentally unfriendly. Gravel for driveways is an option in wetter climates as well, but its composition will be different. Arid climates are good for decomposed granite, but wetter zones require larger gravel with a deeper gravel bed over sand than the former.

Rainwater collection.

Rainwater retention cisterns will probably become more and more common. The solution is elemental to some of the water issues that modern development faces. Imagine you have 100 acres of suburban development. The houses, paving, gutters and streets of that area will shed rainwater that was once absorbed into the water table of that land. The watershed of many developments placed together causes tremendous storm runoff that can cause flooding downstream.

When you can capture the rainwater on your site, you can slowly release it back into your parcel of land by using it to water your landscape. At the same time, you’ll avoid using water from the municipal system. This lessens the burden on water supplies, replenishes water tables and helps to stop sudden stormwater runoff that can cause flooding.


Redwood, cedar and pine, among other woods, have traditionally been used for fencing. Foresting has environmental consequences, however, and as it is becoming more limited, these wood species are becoming more expensive. Alternatives are block walls and metal panels, which also can be expensive. Bamboo, once again, provides a relatively inexpensive solution and is a quickly replenished material. Bamboo fencing can create a striking and unique effect for your landscape. Cali Bamboo sells bamboo fencing in several colors and sizes. Consider these or other bamboo fencing options and see if they could be a healthy choice for you.

As mentioned, steel fencing is more expensive. However, design simplicity may solve part of the cost issue.


Light pollution occurs whenever artificial light illuminates the night sky unnecessarily. Security issues often contribute to this situation, but motion sensors are one solution. Even when you use motion sensors, it is best to downlight areas and surfaces.

Consider that when someone shines a flashlight directly at you, you will feel a slight pain in your eyes. This is a bad sign. If this happens to you often, it can degenerate your eyesight over your lifetime. You may scare away a crook here and there with a floodlight that illuminates your driveway; however, every time you pull into your driveway at night, that light will have a negative impact on your eyesight.

Light that washes a wall is far more effective than light that is directed outward or toward a person. You will see a shadowy figure more clearly when the person is softly backlit than when the glare of a direct source obscures your sight, as our eyes have a much harder time readjusting in the glare of direct lighting.

Using smart devices.

One last trick you might want to implement is using a smart device. Many household systems, especially irrigation, now have ways to manage consumption. Devices are even available that will shut off the sprinklers if it is raining or the soil is already wet. This will avoid wasting water when it is not needed in your landscape.

Related Links:

Entertain Outdoors With a New Patio Bar Set

Consult Local, Highly-Rated Fencing Professionals

Subtle Outdoor Lighting Options for Your Home

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The She Shed Wish List

By Sarah Fogle

Do you ever wish there was a retreat where you could enjoy your hobbies without leaving the backyard? Somewhere to get a little “me time” around your home that isn’t covered with laundry, family obligations or toys? Move over, man cave– today’s new home trend is the “she shed,” a well-maintained outdoor oasis for the woman of the house to keep all of her tools or put her feet up. While a shed might not sound like a glamorous place at first, you can create a lot out of a structure that normally houses dusty rakes and rusty paint cans. Not sure where to start? Follow this guide to reimagine your shed into a bright and comfortable space of your own.

1. Write Down Your Goals

The size of your shed will be determined by both the amount of outdoor space you have and what you plan to use it for. If you can never seem to resist a decorative terracotta pot or need elbow room for a tabletop, you might want to go for as big of a shed as your backyard will allow. You can make your shed a true workspace equipped with a full potting bench, a quiet sanctuary with a tidy desk for creative writing or a relaxing hideaway more ideal for a cozy reading chair—anything goes! Write down your favorite tasks to get an idea of your expectations for the space. You’ll want ample room to fit your needs.

2. Choose Your Style

Image courtesy of At Home With the Barkers

Today’s trends include a classic barn roof, mini cottage styles, stable doors and modern angles. Plain, square boxes are certainly a thing of the past. Whether you want your she shed to coordinate with the exterior of your home or take on a fantasy quality, your personalization options are wide open. Pro tip: hang flower boxes and bring greenery inside to soften edges and add a little polish. The extra color looks great, too!

3. Pick Your Paint

Don’t let the exterior outshine the interior by leaving the walls au naturale. Set the mood of your oasis with an inspiring color scheme. Channeling your inner earth goddess? Go for a sage green or sky blue. Want to feel a surge of good vibes each time you open the door? Seek out vibrant shades of citrus or coral. Even just whitewashing the walls will give your space a clean, fresh energy, and you can warm it up with accessories.

4. Stock the Basics

Fill up your she shed with the things you need to do what you love. Gardeners may want a cute matching set of tools, several terracottas or ceramic pots of various sizes, a few packs of seeds, some potting soil, and a watering can. You may want to invest in a few plant anthologies and gardening how-to/coffee table books for reference and inspiration. For writers, a small but sturdy desk will do the trick. A classic metal bistro table can handle the elements with ease. For the lady who just wants a place to relax, a sturdy bench or chair with comfortable pillows makes a great place to kick back.

5. Have Fun with the Details

Image courtesy of Design Dazzle

The difference between a regular old garden shed and a bona fide she shed lies in the decor. Make sure your storage is visually interesting: a wooden mail organizer for your seed packets, decorative hooks to hang tools, glass canisters for birdseed and soil, and industrial metal bins for muddy goulashes and kneeling pads give a small workspace a stylish, clever purpose without overwhelming. For a cozy environment, add a lamp for soft lighting, an outdoor rug for your bare feet and some soft curtains for the windows. Give your walls interest beyond paint with artwork or reclaimed pieces from the thrift store—whatever lets your personality shine!

With just a little elbow grease and some thoughtful decorating, you can have a fully outfitted she shed set up over the span of a weekend. No matter the size of the shed or extent of your green thumb, you can carve out a special space for you to enjoy.


Sarah Fogle is a self-professed DIYer who believes that anyone can learn how to update their home.  From bigger projects like creating a “she shed” to smaller projects like organizing a space, she offers some great ideas. To see a large selection of shed organization products, visit The Home Depot.


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Mailbox Makeovers for Instant Curb Appeal 

by Cat Queen

When visitors or potential buyers see your home for the first time, make sure your tired old mailbox doesn’t leave them with the wrong impression. These quick and easy mailbox makeovers will help you instantly improve your home’s curb appeal.


Perhaps the best way to give your mailbox a more charming presence is by creating a lovely space for it. Plant brightly colored flowers or low-maintenance shrubbery in a small garden around your mailbox. Then, use an edge trimmer to create a neat perimeter around your new flower bed. If other areas of your yard are trimmed-in with brick or concrete blocks, keep the look consistent by using the same material around your mailbox.

For a quicker fix, try sprucing up your mailbox’s post. Metal or wrought iron can be easily spray painted. If you have a traditional wooden post, first check the post for any rotten or chipped away areas. (In most cases, you can fill these cracks with wood putty; if the post is too far gone, it might be better to replace it.) Then, paint or stain the wood to give it an instant face-lift.

Large, stacked rock mailbox enclosures are beautiful but can be pretty expensive. You can achieve a similar look by adhering faux stacked rock to your existing wooden post.

Next, consider painting your mailbox with weather-proof spray paint. Try to coordinate your mailbox colors with your home’s exterior. White, green, and blue are great for catching the eye without being overwhelming. Red is also a popular and bold choice.

Tip: Steer clear of loud or neon colors like hot pink, orange, or bright yellow, which may be too bold for potential buyers. Hobby or sports themed mailboxes can also negatively affect a buyer’s first impression of the home.

If bright colors aren’t really your thing, use white or ivory paint with stencils instead. Quickly rejuvenate your mailbox by stenciling the number of your address in a fancy script against a plain black background. For a more personalized touch, add the first letter of your last name above the address in a larger font. You can also add embellishments like ivy or flowers.

Remember, when showing your home, try to appeal to all potential home buyers. Plain, classic stylings give your house a sense of character and charm without offending the personal taste of visitors. It is equally important to ensure that your home appears as well maintained as possible. A bright, clean mailbox in a well-manicured flower bed will always give the right impression.

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