Creating an Earth-Kind Landscape involves the use of a variety of environmentally friendly practices ranging from design considerations to irrigation. This series of publications from Texas AgriLife Extension Service covers the essentials.
The following publications provide additional information on Earth-Kind principles and practices for the urban landscape.
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- Water Conservation: In urban areas of Texas about 25 percent of the water supply is used for landscape and garden irrigation. Much of this water is used to maintain traditionally high water-demanding landscapes, or it is simply applied inefficiently. In an attempt to reduce the excessive water use, Texas Cooperative Extension is educating Texans on the principles of Earth-Kind landscaping to help preserve and protect our most valuable natural resource.
- Low Volume Irrigation: Efficient irrigation is one of the key Earth-Kind practices for conserving water in the landscape. Low volume irrigation systems (sometimes referred to as drip or trickle irrigation) are among the most effective means of achieving significant water savings. Despite the tremendous potential for water conservation, these systems are not widely used in residential landscapes.
- Irrigation Systems Auditing: It is the responsibility of all Texans to ensure that water is used wisely. An irrigation system audit has been shown to be the most effective tool for maximizing water use efficiency in the landscape. Here are some Earth-Kind tips for system operation and management that will help promote water conservation.
- Mulch: One of the best methods of growing healthy plants and conserving water at the same time is to use mulch in the landscape. Experienced gardeners have long known the secret of mulching the garden and all its benefits. What is a mulch? Mulch is simply a protective ground covering that saves water, reduces evaporation, prevents erosion, controls weeds, and in the case of organic mulches, enriches the soil.
- Rainwater Harvesting: In many Texas communities between 30% – 50% of the total water supply is used for landscape irrigation. Even if you live where annual rainfall averages only 12 inches, you can save money by collecting and storing rainwater and using it to irrigate trees, shrubs and lawns.
- Raised Beds: Soil conditions throughout much of Texas are not well suited for landscape plant materials. Sandy soils tend to drain/dry out rapidly, while clay soils hold excessive amounts of moisture during periods of heavy rainfall. The key, in both situations, is to strike a balance between the aeration, drainage and water holding characteristics of the soil.
Landscaping for energy conservation
- Landscaping for Energy Conservation Part 1: Energy conservation and environmental quality are among the most critically important issues of our time. The use of these simple but effective Earth-Kind landscaping techniques can greatly assist in reducing energy consumption and costs.
- Landscaping for Energy Conservation Part 2: A well planned and installed windbreak can enhance home and community beautification and contribute to increased real estate values. In addition, these Earth-Kind landscaping practices offer one of the most practical methods of reducing energy consumption while preserving and protecting the environment in which we live.
- Landscape Design: Developing an Earth-Kind landscape for homes and businesses can pose unique challenges. Wise plant selection and careful attention to improving environmental conditions through soil preparation, proper after-planting care, and efficient irrigation practices are essential. There are no hard and fast rules, since conditions vary from location to location but by following some basic Earth-Kind principles your chances for success will be greatly increased.
- Plant Selection: Using well adapted plants is one of the most fundamental elements of an Earth-Kind landscape. offers a number of programs and tools for identifying plant materials that are specifically adapted to your area. These include the Aggie Horticulture Web site, the Urban Landscape Guide, Texas Superstar, Earth-Kind Roses, as well as local Extension recommendations.
- Soil Improvement: Given the time, effort and money required for most landscape projects, it’s important to get off to the best start possible. That begins with proper soil improvement.
Reduction of fertilizer and pesticide use
- Beneficials in the Garden: Did you know that 97% of the insects most commonly seen in homes and gardens are considered either beneficial or innocuous? Learning how to put these “beneficials” to work is an important Earth-Kind practice that can help reduce the use of chemical pesticides in the environment.
- Fertilization: Lawn and garden experts have long known that plants, especially turfgrass, benefit from the regular application of supplemental fertilizers. Recently, however, there are increasing concerns about ecosystem contamination (i.e. surface and groundwater) from runoff carrying these nutrients. Balancing the benefits of plant fertilizers with their environmental impacts has become an important issue for communities throughout Texas and the US.
- IPM: Integrated Pest Management (IPM) is a systematic, information-intensive approach to controlling insects, diseases and weeds which depends upon a thorough understanding of the entire landscape. It strives to use several complimentary tactics or control methods to manage pests which make the landscape more stable and subject to fewer problems. IPM focuses on tactics that will prevent or avoid anticipated pest problems rather than remediate problems once they occur.
- Pesticides: Although pesticides can be useful, they can also be dangerous if used carelessly or stored improperly. The most effective way to reduce risks posed by pesticides is to consider the use of non-chemical control methods to reduce or eliminate pest problems. Integrated Pest Management (IPM) is a systematic approach that includes non-chemical options. If you decide you must use pesticides, always read the label first and follow directions to the letter, including precautions and restrictions.
- Native Habitat: Creating ‘backyard habitat’ through the use of native and well adapted plant species not only provides habitat, but also assists in reducing water use, as well as the need for potentially harmful chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Texas Wildscapes, coordinated by Texas Parks and Wildlife, is one of the most popular and successful native habitat projects for commercial and residential landscapes.
- Natural Nutrients: To help reduce the potential contamination of surface and groundwater resources, many landscape gardeners are now utilizing “natural” nutrient sources for landscape/garden plant materials.
Reduction of yard wastes entering landfills
- Fall Practices: Fall is an excellent time of the year for a variety of Earth-Kind landscaping activities. Before beginning your fall projects, take a moment to review these suggestions to ensure that you are contributing to a healthy and sustainable landscape environment.
- Composting Leaves: Fall is a special time of year in Texas. Cooler temperatures seem to reinvigorate landscape gardeners and stimulate a variety of new projects. Maybe now is the time to take on that home-composting project you’ve been thinking about. Not a bad idea given the large quantity of leaves we will soon be dealing with. Here are some suggestions on how to get started.
- Composting: Each year nearly millions of tons of leaves, grass clippings, tree limbs, weeds, organic debris and other yard wastes end up in Texas landfills. This volume represents about 20 percent of all trash placed in landfills. It costs Texans over $250 million a year to collect and dispose of yard wastes. Putting these materials to use instead of throwing them away can save money and preserve and protect the environment for all Texans. Composting is an important Earth-Kind practice that can help address this critical issue.