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Green Speak

Horticulture topics from gardens to lawns and then some.

Sustainability for the Home Landscape


As gardeners, we seek to connect with the world and ourselves through the cultivation of plants. Gardening is an act of emphasizing nature's beauty and bounty within our landscapes. In the past century, our quality of interactions with the outdoors has diminished.

Introducing the Contemporary American Landscape

Packed schedules gave rise to the demand for low-maintenance landscapes where foundation plantings of daylilies, boxwood, and yews surrounded by bark mulch dominate communities from Maine to California.

Sprawling carpets of weed-free, tightly clipped lawns reflect a homeowner's commitment (or perhaps budget) to maintaining the perfect lawn, so green the turfgrass practically glows in the dark.

Yards are typically dotted with ornamental pear trees erupting from mulch volcanoes. With the pear tree's ease of propagation and spectacular show of white spring flowers, it is no wonder this tree has been planted everywhere.

Understandably, a majority of Americans cannot become expert gardeners; we just don't have the time. Our modern lifestyle keeps us inside for 90% or more of our lives. For so many of us, our only task of gardening, landscaping, or getting outdoors is our weekly commune with the lawn mower. However, in the past few decades, our views toward the landscape have begun to shift yet again.

Change on the Horizon

Both younger and older generations of Americans are starting to seek higher quality interactions with nature in their gardens and landscape. For some it may even seem necessary as we face:

  • Mounting evidence of global climate change
  • Higher energy, material, and food prices
  • Crumbling infrastructure
  • Loss of species to extinction
  • Food deserts and low access to healthy food
  • Diminished quality of life for future generations
  • Epidemics of obesity and heart disease and the list goes on.

Faced with these issues, many feel an urge to do something to offset these massive dilemmas. People may not be sure where to start, or if they can help at all. The good news is, you can help, and it starts in your own yard.

A Sustainable Approach

Sustainable landscaping is an emerging field in the green industry. It bucks our contemporary landscape trends of constant inputs with little gain. Sustainable landscaping takes a systems approach to address plant health and nutrient needs, which feedback into creating healthy soils, conserving water, using fewer fertilizers, fossil fuels, and pesticides, improving human health, and much more.

Join me for a six-part series as we discuss the concepts of sustainable landscaping. During these six sessions, you will also learn the core techniques for creating landscape plans to incorporate sustainable practices in your yard. By the end of the course, you will leave with a fundamental knowledge of sustainable landscaping practices and a plan for your property.

For your convenience, we will be holding class in Macomb on Fridays 3 to 5 PM and Galesburg on Saturdays 10 AM to noon. Classes begin on January 27 (Macomb) and January 28 (Galesburg). Additional details can be found at our online registration, http://go.illinois.edu/SL, or contact Amanda Christenson at 309-342-5108, achriste@illinois.edu.




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