NGA Articles: Sustainable Landscaping and Gardening

Sustainable Landscaping and Gardening (cont)

By: Susan Littlefield

Plant Trees and Shrubs with Care

Trees and shrubs are the backbone of a landscape design. But besides contributing to the visual appeal of our gardens, these plants contribute to its sustainability as well by removing both pollutants, like smog, and carbon from the atmosphere. One recent study showed that the urban trees of the U.S. (excluding Alaska and Hawaii) sequestered nearly 23 million tons of carbon each year!

Placed thoughtfully in the landscape, trees and shrubs can also reduce a home's energy use. Deciduous trees planted to shade the south side of a building reduce the energy needed for summer cooling, but allow winter sunshine in to add warmth when it's needed. Evergreens planted as windbreaks help decrease the energy needed to heat a building in winter.

It's important to choose plants that are suited to their site. Healthy, long-lived plants provide the greatest benefits, both aesthetically and environmentally. Start by doing an assessment of your soil and climate. Choose suitable native species where possible; they are likely to be well-adapted and be the most useful to wildlife as habitat and as a food source. Be sure to avoid any species that are invasive in your area. Check out our website for information on a wide variety of landscape plants. Your local Cooperative Extension Service, Master Gardeners program, or experienced garden center staff can also help you select the most suitable plants for your particular situation.

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