University of Connecticut Cooperative Extension System: Water Quality and the Home Landscape

Landscape Construction: Design

Roy Jeffrey

Design your sustainable landscape to be functional and maintainable.

Creating a sustainable landscape necessitates taking full advantage of what you have on the site. Think about your entire property and locate areas that are wet and dry, sunny and shady, hilly and flat, and wooded and clear. Identify the types of uses that you wish to achieve on the site. During each step in the process, think about ways to incorporate sustainability into your design by selecting plants that are appropriate for the location.

Minimize the loss of pollutants in the water leaving the site by following a two-step minimize/maximize approach. Minimize the amount of water, fertilizers and pesticides you add to the landscape and maximize the opportunity for water, fertilizer and pesticides to be absorbed and retain within the landscape.

To maximize the absorption and retention of nutrients and pesticides on site, encourage the infiltration of water into the ground of using swales to slow the flow of runoff and using rain gardens to retain and infiltrate water into the ground. By designing the site to slow and store water on-site, nutrients and pesticides stand a greater chance of being transformed into other less harmful forms by microorganisms present in the soil or "held" by soil particles for later uptake by plant or animal organisms.