Sustainable Landscaping

intro to the basics
1   choose the right plant for the right spot
2   recycle your yard waste
3   use fertilizers and pesticides responsibly
4   water wisely
5   reduce runoff from your yard and increase groundwater recharge
6   reduce soil erosion. keep it planted and mulched
7   pick up after your pets
8   use and dispose of fuels and hazardous products properly


One key to having a landscape that thrives without intensive inputs, such as fertilizers, pesticides and frequent watering, is to choose plants that are best suited to your yard conditions.

Wickford Cove Demonstration Site

Many factors affect plant growth and maintenance including:

- Amount of sun or shade

- Soil conditions including texture, acidity, fertility, drainage, and moisture holding capacity

- Exposure to wind, salt, and traffic

- Land features such as steep slopes, irregular depressions, wet or dry spots, and stones, boulders, and ledge

Plants prefer or tolerate a certain set of conditions over others. When plants are forced to grow in areas that are not as suitable, they become stressed, fail to thrive and become more susceptible to disease and pests. Lawn grass, for example, can require a lot of inputs and maintenance compared to other plants such as certain groundcovers, shrubs and trees.

If your lawn has trouble spots or areas that are hard to mow,consider replacing them with other plants that are naturally disease and pest resistant and that are well-suited to those conditions that are problematic for a lawn. Always beware of introducing an invasive species and consider native plants.

Think of your yard as a unique environment with the opportunity to be creative. Where there are wet spots, a water garden may be an alternative. Where there are natural woodlands on your property, consider leaving them intact and incorporating wildflower gardens, shade gardens, and creative edge landscaping between your yard and the woodlands. Where there are steep slopes and/or surface stones or ledge, groundcovers, low-growing shrubs and rock gardens may be a nice solution.

The Glen Demonstration Site

Another important factor that adds to the success of your landscape is proper planting and establishment of the plants. Proper site preparation, handling and planting methods, fertilizing and watering are important in getting the plants off to a good start. With careful planning and selection, well-established plants will eventually require minimal maintenance and inputs in the way of fertilizers, pesticides and watering. Consider renovating or planting new areas in phases, to avoid having large areas that are in need of special attention.

For more information on sustainable plants and landscaping:

Sustainable Tree and Shrub Manual

URI CE Coastal Landscapes Program - includes a RI Coastal Plant Guide.

URI CE Home*A*Syst Program
Today's Forest Tomorrow's Legacy: A Guide for Small Acreage Woodland Owners

URI Master Gardener Hotline: 1-800-448-1011

URI Plant Protection Clinic (401) 874-2900
Assistance with identification of plant insects and disease

Healthy Landscapes Demonstration Sites

URI CE Home*A*Syst Program Factsheet
Shoreland Buffers and Water Quality Protection

The Rhode Island Wild Plant Society
The Rhode Island Natural History Survey
Information on native plants, native plant suppliers, and a list of invasive species to avoid.