3 Ways to Build a Sustainable Landscape

Creating sustainable grounds and gardens has never been simpler — or more important, landscape designer Ted Carter says.

When Ted Carter began landscaping in the ’70s, vast carpets of lawn, formal hedges, and rigid styles of planting were very much in vogue. Over the last decade, he’s seen the pendulum swing in the other direction, as clients become increasingly aware of the effects of chemical weed killers on human and animal health and other impacts of their landscape plans. “The idea of the perfect lawn and garden is waning,” says Carter, founder of Ted Carter Inspired Landscapes in Buxton and co-author of Earth Calling: A Climate Change Handbook for the 21st Century. “There’s a growing consciousness of how we fit into the natural world and help foster a healthy ecosystem instead of forcing our way onto the landscape.” Here, he offers tips on shrinking your footprint.

Bring on the pollinators.

Nearly 80 percent of food-producing plants depend on bees, butterflies, hummingbirds, and moths to reproduce. And these pollinators depend on certain plants to provide places to forage, build nests, and rear their young safe from predators. To create your own refuge, Carter suggests planting clusters of three to five pollinator-friendly flowers with different bloom times, such as sage, lavender, and catmint, as well as summer-long bloomers, like daisies, sunflowers, and milkweed. They’ll look beautiful, keep the food web humming, and keep your yard buzzing with life for months.

Ted Carter Inspired Landscape
Behind Carter’s own Buxton veggie garden, milkweed attracts monarch butterflies.

Get water wise.

Conserving water is increasingly important as development reduces the quality and reliability of the supply, and climate change spurs extreme flooding and droughts. Nearly half of Maine suffered from drought in late June and, at press time, forecasters were warning of more of the same in late summer. To slash your water use, install an irrigation system with a timer set to water plants early in the morning, when the spray is less likely to evaporate in the heat, and incorporate plants, like succulents, that thrive in dry conditions. Surround them with organic mulch, such as wood chips, straw, leaves, or grass clippings, which helps the soil retain moisture and suppress water-hogging weeds.

Consider composting.

Sparing your kitchen scraps from the trash can is an easy way to reduce your household waste. Simply install a compost bin or tumbler outside and toss in produce, breads, grains, coffee grounds, and filters. (Leave out meat, bones, and dairy products, which attract pests.) Add dead leaves and grass clippings and turn the pile every few weeks. (Bin owners can use a shovel.) The mound will decompose on its own, and transform into “this bounty of rich soil” that can be used in flower and vegetable gardens, Carter says.

To learn more, visit tedcarterlandscapes.com or call 207-761-1823.