January 9th, 2012

5 Tips to Green Your Landscape from Roger Cook

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This Old House green landscaping

This is part two in a two part series of discussions with Roger Cook and Kevin O’Connor from This Old House. Part one focused on the host of This Old House- Kevin O’Connor. Part two focuses on green landscaping techniques from This Old House, Landscape Contractor, Roger Cook.

It’s January and recent weather has been far from the wintry weather we would expect this time of year. Given the lack of snow on the ground, it’s not that far-fetched to imagine a green, thriving lawn and the beautiful landscaping we normally see in the spring. A few more months of winter are in our forecast, but it’s never too early to start planning out your strategy for your landscaping in advance.

Roger Cook headshotI had the opportunity to chat with Roger Cook, Landscape Contractor for the Emmy Award-winning television series This Old House. Roger has served as the shows Landscape Contractor for over 20 seasons and is a wealth of information.

Gardening isn’t always synonymous with a green lifestyle. Roger was eager to share ways to create green landscaping that thrives without the use of pesticides and without wasting precious water. He emphasized that the trick is to work in harmony with nature, not against it.

Here are a few of his tricks:

Call Before You Dig

Even small, shallow excavation jobs can be a risk if you don’t know where underground lines are buried. Call your utility company to let them know you are planning to dig. They will generally send a representative out (free of charge) to verify that it’s safe to dig.

Prepare the Soil

Before you can plant, soil preparation is a must.  Soil requirements vary from region to region and a soil test will be needed to find out what it is lacking or not lacking. If the soil is properly prepared then the plants will grow and won’t need as much water and less pesticides to thrive.

Buy Native, Local and in Bulk

Using plants that are native to a region will:

  • Decrease the amount of water needed.
  • Require very little long-term maintenance if they are planted properly.

Try to buy locally grown plants. Buying local reduces the energy resources needed to get the plant or tree from the nursery to your home. Buy plants in bulk to reduce the need for excessive packaging.

Reuse and Recycle

Save yourself some money if you are thinking about changing around your landscaping-transplant existing trees, shrubs and plants to a new spot. Roger suggests reusing plants at least along the edges of the project.

Build a Raised Garden

Raised gardens have a number of benefits:

  • You can control they type of soil used by bringing in your own soil.
  • The walls of the garden act as a barrier to pests.
  • Less water will be required for the plants to thrive.
  • Raised beds will reduce the strain on your back when bending over to pull weeds or plant.
  • Raised beds heat up faster in the spring.

What are your tricks for a ‘greener’ landscape?

Thank you to Roger for taking the time to chat ‘green landscaping’ with me.

[Photo credit: Webb Chappell]

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6 Responses to “5 Tips to Green Your Landscape from Roger Cook”

  1. Thanks for these tips Lori! Our yard was completely trashed after our remodel so we’ll be starting over next spring. Hope to use some native plants and do a rain garden somewhere. Also – we’ll probably do some raised beds for veggies again.

  2. This is wonderful information! I can attest to how great raised beds and native plants are. I did a raised bed veggie garden and I think I can count on one hand the number of times I needed to weed! And we bought exclusively native plants for landscaping–it’s amazing how little maintenance (and water!) they needed. Working with nature is definitely the best way to tackle landscaping.

  3. I hope you post before and after photos Micaela. I’m curious to hear how you set up your rain garden. I’ve always wanted to try one.

  4. Thanks Kiersten! I haven’t tried a raised bed yet. Constantly weeding has been challenging in my current garden. Knowing that the number of weeds will be much smaller might be the inspiration I need to start gardening again. Nice to hear from someone who has put all of these tips into practice!

  5. Don’t forget to plant trees! The leaves clean the air you breathe each time you step out of your house, the canopy provides shade to reduce air conditioning costs over the summer, and raking leaves in the fall is great exercise. It’s win-win-win!!!

  6. Great additional tip Andrea. Thank you. Trees are wonderful-providing so many environmental benefits. They really are a win-win!

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About Lori

I’m Lori Popkewitz Alper, a recovering attorney and the Founder of Groovy Green Livin. I like to make noise and stir the pot especially when an issue hits home and effects the health of our families. Join me as I make some noise and share along the way tips for living a green and healthy life. Read more.

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