Widespread Ecological Design

So this post doesn’t necessary apply to my normal audience, but the thoughts were up in my brain, so I’m writing them out anyway.

I’ve recently began studying permaculture, which has been very fascinating to me. Permaculture is ecological design, or fitting human needs into natural systems. In the garden, I like to focus on systems and problem solving. I’ve never quite been a plant enthusiast, as many gardeners are. Permaculture is a good fit for me. But a main problem with permaculture is it can get complicated, and hence will not be for an average landscape owner.

What we do see in average landscape is a bunch of lawn, hopefully some trees, and maybe a small mixed bed and vegetable garden patch. It works, but it isn’t particularly attractive, low maintenance or ecologically friendly.  I don’t see many people outside because, in addition to other reasons, of the boredom and lack of functionality of a normal landscape.

I think the layout of our landscapes has been greatly determined by what facets of the industry have been simplified effectively. Lawn care is not in actuality simple–I took an entire collage course about it. But the industry has simplified the process with readily available sod, four-step fertilizer programs, and an abundance of lawn care companies. Simplification has transformed lawn into the landscape solution of choice…if you’ve got empty ground you plant grass. One plant (not really, but that’s what people see), one set of maintenance tasks  embraced by big box stores, and a multitude of resources available. Lawn care isn’t necessarily simple, but by portraying at such, it has enabled the saturation of lawn care products, and maintenance and chemical companies that keep prices cheap, and help easy to find.

Lawn is useful, but the unworthy of the monopolistic  role it has in our landscapes. Other options exist, but now require a lot of effort for an average homeowner. It usually requires quite of bit of work and research, it costs more, and maintenance isn’t as clear cut. What often happens is a what could have been a beautiful mixed border ends up a weedy patch of unwanted plants and dead flowers.

I love ecological methods like permaculture, rain gardens, wildlife gardens, natives, edible landscaping, xeriscaping, and forest gardening. There are thousands of beautiful, durable and useful plants all ready to create amazing landscapes. But until the industry simplifies such methods, they will never catch on past the garden enthusiast.

One way where I have actually seen a garden method catch on is square foot gardening. It simplified the implementation and maintenance of a vegetable garden. I don’t agree with everything in square foot gardening, but it is an example to others wanting to push for new methods in landscaping. Simplify it, make it applicable to everyone, and perhaps even a product to be sold at big box stores.

Although it would be nice if people turned to landscape professionals and independent garden centers when they needed landscaping, it doesn’t happen. In my mind I should be very busy doing garden consultations, helping people understand the diverse and wonderful word of landscapes and gardening, but I’m not. Most people aren’t interested in horticulture, they just want cheap quick fixes so their landscapes aren’t weed patches.

If we want wide scaled changes in the landscape we have to simplify ecological design, and make it approachable for everyone including those that want cheap, quick fixes.

Endnote for average person: If you are someone who would like to get away from traditional lawn and move toward ecological design or simply something lower maintenance and beautiful, go for it and know that there are lots of resources out there if you look past the basic big box store. It isn’t higher maintenance or more expensive, just different. 


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