When the weather gets nice, people want to spend more times outdoors. The interesting thing is this means summer for those living in northern states, while those in Florida and Arizona spend more time outside any season except summer because it's too hot (it's going up to 115º F in Arizona this weekend). The question then is what do you want to do when you're in your backyard? And this article answers this question with the top 10 landscaping ideas identified by landscape architects (survey conducted in February 2016).
Many people brave the elements year round to grill a steak, and run right back inside. When the weather gets nice, you might sit down and read a book while the steak is cooking, and eat outdoors even when that means a little more work.
Do you find yourself dreaming about creating an outdoor kitchen, or getting a swingset for your kids? This article reviews popular landscaping ideas, and offers a set of questions to help you clarify which landscaping features fit your family's lifestyle best.
Prioritizing Your Landscaping Ideas
Spring is a great time to assess your home’s landscaping after dealing with damage from winter storms. If you live in a state where you spend summer indoors, then you'll want to do review your landscaping in the fall.
- Does your front yard have great curb appeal for friends, neighbors and future home buyers?
- Are your children encouraged to burn off that energy that makes you exhausted just watching them?
- Does your family enjoy cooking and eating outdoors?
- Do you spend some nights outdoors relaxing, and entertaining too?
Chances are you’ve already have ideas about how to improve your landscaping. Now you're looking for confirmation that your ideas are worth investing your time and money. That’s where the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) survey of top residential landscape trends is really helpful.
Their annual survey covers outdoor design elements, landscape/garden elements, recreation amenities, outdoor structures and sustainable elements. You might expect the focus to be on tangible things you use in your backyard, and you’d be wrong. Homeowner landscaping priorities are 1. environmentally sustainable; 2. reduce water costs (remember all the droughts); and 3. low maintenance.
Landscaping Tips for Sustainability
With droughts hitting so many parts of the US, it’s no surprise that water issues are a hot topic. California with their turf replacement rebate program, is leading the way in redefining outdoor landscaping that requires little or no irrigation. And there are books like The Water-Saving Garden, to help you save water too.
- Rainwater/graywater harvesting (88%) means reusing wastewater from your home for landscaping. It comes from kitchen sinks, dishwashers, bathroom sinks, tubs and showers … but not toilets (called blackwater).
- Native/adapted drought tolerant plants (85%) suggests the obvious, that we use native plants that thrive in your environment, with an emphasis on drought tolerant plants like cactus.
- Permeable paving (77%) focuses on allowing stormwater to seep into the ground below it, to reduce runoff.
- Drip/water-efficient irrigation (72%) is a great alternative to sprinkler systems. It uses emitter tubing above or below ground, to deliver a slow and precise amount of water directly to the plants (check it out on Amazon).
- Reduced lawn area (72%) speaks for itself, replacing water guzzling grass with gravel, wood chips, pavers or even artificial grass (article with pros and cons for top 10 options).
Landscaping Ideas that Use Less Water
As you make changes to your landscape and gardens, consider adding elements that require less water. The environment will thank you, and lower water bills are helpful too.
- Food/vegetable gardens (75%) are gaining popularity, and provide their own type of green in your backyard with the added benefit of fresh vegetables.
- Rain gardens (73%) are designed to handle the extremes of moisture and lots of nutrients that are found in stormwater runoff. For this reason, they’re most often found at the bottom of a hill (learn more).
- Native plants (86%) can be challenging when we’re not used to seeing them. You can learn about these plants at your local nursery, a nearby botanical garden or online at PlantNative.org or Wildflower.org.
Low Maintenance Landscapes (85%) similar to low maintenance decisions for your house, are all about saving you time so you can enjoy your home more. Even if you’re an avid gardener, you might prefer spending time in your flower or vegetable gardens versus mowing the lawn.
The only landscaping element to make the top 10 list, was fire pits/fireplaces at 75% (firepits cost less than you think). Maybe we’ve already established your outdoor cooking and eating routines, so now it’s time to sit down and relax by the fire!