Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Seeing Green

Because we built a LEED home – and because it’s a good idea – we made sure that we utilized environmentally sensitive landscaping. This includes things like drought tolerant plantings, reduced impervious cover and provisions for reduced water usage. We did look into a rainwater storage system, but in New England things get complex, expensive and require too much maintenance for the water saving potential.

Our first step was to hire a Landscape Architect. My Ornamental Horticulture class was from way back at the University of Florida so I was a little out of my league. We hired Andrew Garulay, who also works at Down Cape Engineering, the engineers who prepared our site plans. He had never designed a landscape for a LEED project, but had the knowledge to get us through the process.

His design primarily uses drought-tolerant native plant species. We have a limited area of lawn, which I kind of like, and the grass is a drought-tolerant fescue. The lawn is so small that I mow it with a newfangled Fiskars non-powered push mower in less than 15 minutes.

I figured I’d do the LEED calculations for the water-efficient irrigation system myself, but I have to laugh when I go back to the LEED Method for Calculating Reduction In Irrigation Demand formulas. I couldn’t even find some of the factors and rates they were looking for so I couldn’t complete the calculations if I wanted to. This method is so convoluted that I don’t think anyone ever uses it. Fortunately the USGBC has an easier alternate path for this credit.

Here’s what things looked like pre-landscape.

And, with the work of The Natural Landscape, here’s what it looked like the next day.
It was quite a transformation. I’m happy with the way it all turned out, but have to admit that at I did at times wonder if I would have been happier if we hadn’t restricted our choice of plantings. Maybe we could have created a more vibrant landscape. This is what it looked like at the end of April this year, just about one year after installation.

I was amazed, though, when I compared the photo above with this one from mid-June. In the span of a little more than a month, things really came to life.
Now we just need to get the weeds to take a break. The soil on Cape Cod is primarily sandy and well drained, and weeds seem to love the new loam and the drip irrigation. Just when we think they’re almost under control, new ones pop up to take their place.

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