Everyday Design Tips to Transform Your Home

Monday, 27 July 2015

On 21:59 by Alex Mungai   No comments
A previous post outlined some of the ways in which we can embrace sustainable developments on our landscapes and this piece will discuss more techniques as we gear towards sustainable landscapes.

Reduced lawn areas/lawnless landscapes
In recent developments,the lawn is a prominent feature of most homes.The healthy green grass defines space that we use for holding events,children play area as well as for visual appeal.However, there is so much that goes into the maintenance just to make the lawn stand out and remain vibrant.For instance pest control,watering,weeding,feeding etc which has an impact on factors of time and money;mostly negative.
What if there was a way to create a beautiful front yard without necessarily featuring a lawn?.Current trends have made this possible by providing alternatives that advocate for sustainability.Reducing lawn area or lawnless landscapes save on water that is used for irrigation.The use of chemicals is also avoided hence soil remains uncontaminated as well as promoting microbial soil activities.Time that would have otherwise been spent on maintaining the lawn is spent on other activities.
Lawnless landscaping techniques include xeriscaping.Zen gardening etc.This mostly uses low maintenance landscape plants integrated with for instance rocks, stones and marbles which gives a visually appealing lawnless front yard/landscape.
Colourful desert landscape design
Zen Garden front yard design

Rain gardening
A rain garden is simply a shallow depression with plants that can withstand high moisture content.The main aim for creating a rain garden is to be able to trap runoff water either from the roof,driveway or any other landscape element.In some other terms it is actually a tool for harvesting water hence preventing the erosive power of runoffs which damage the soil.
Include colourful plants in the rain garden
Most rain gardens occur near the water source or even at the end of a bioswale.Including a few colourful plants in the garden makes it both visually appealing and a tool for sustainability.Rain gardens

Low maintenance landscapes
Landscapes have the tendency to require regular maintenance practises i.e watering,applying fertilisers,pruning,pest control among others.Lawns for instance require frequent watering to remain green and healthy.As a homeowner,this impacts negatively on time and especially money.
To avoid all these,it is very advisable to plan for landscape elements that require less maintenance.For instance,placing plants at the right places with regards to their sizes is a good initiative.Why so?Take for example a tall tree planted just outside a window.This means that if the house requires lighting,the tree will have to be pruned on regular occasions to allow light.That is not a low maintenance plant.
Mulching,when used on the landscape eliminates the need for regular maintenance such as watering since the mulch reduces the rate of evapotranspiration.The mulch as controls pest infestation eliminating the need for using chemicals,Another advantage of  mulching(organic) is that it releases nutrients to the soil and hence the plants grow well.

Using plants on the landscape is actually a great tool towards sustainable landscaping.The trick is learning how to use them effectively to achieve limitless architectural functions beyond aesthetics.A
deciduous trees planted outside a window for instance provides shade from the scorching sun during summer and allows warming of the interiors during winter.
For any home owner,this is a win-win situation since no energy is used to either cool the house during summer or warm it during winter.The best way is to consult/involve a landscape designer in the process of plant selection in order to maximise on the benefits.
Dead foliage from plants is also good for use as mulch and providing compost for use as manure on your garden.

-photos courtesy of Bing.com

Saturday, 25 July 2015

On 15:36 by Alex Mungai   No comments
Achieving sustainable landscapes is based on careful planning and attained through various strategies and techniques that are eco-friendly.Some landscape architectural practices have been proven beyond doubt that to embrace a certain level of sustainability while maintaining the visual appeal as well as functionality.

One of the best ways to create sustainable landscapes is embracing recycling as well as reusing in the landscape.Previous posts have illustrated how well we can reuse materials such as plastic bottles and tyres as planters saving on the cost of either buying or purchasing.
How to use recycled materials for your landscape
As it is with many residential homes,there is the aspect of the greywater which is water from sinks,bathrooms and bathtubs that does not contain human waste.In that regard,it is important to point out that this water can be recycled and used for irrigation on the landscape hence conserving clean water further enhancing sustainability.

Permeable paving
The use of hardscape materials on the landscape is inevitable in the provision of elements such as pavements,parking lots and outdoor entertainment spaces.However,the idea of integrating softscapes and hardscapes is a great stride towards sustainability.
Permeable pavements allow water infiltration to the ground
Permeable paving for instance entails using material that will help in infiltrating water to the ground maintaining the aquifer balance as well as reduce stormwater runoff and flooding.On your lawn,you can encourage alternating pavers with grass and encourage natural processes of the ground.Porous paving blocks can also play this role effectively.

Solar energy
For as long as we can remember,the world is pushing for the embracing of green energy sources that do not harm the environment.Designing with this in mind is a sure way of creating sustainable landscapes.Embracing this source of energy not only saves the earth,but also saves your pocket in a long term perspective.Adopting ways of solar harvesting such as using solar panels ensure that we harness the solar energy and convert it to energy that can be used to run different activities in the home.For achieving long term goals of sustainability,this is a sure way to go.

Rainwater harvesting
One of the principles of sustainability advocates for the treatment of water as a resource.It insists on placing value on this commodity that is so crucial for life.Nature has a way of rewarding mankind through rains.The best way to receive this gift is by creating mechanisms to harvest rainwater and use it effectively on the landscape.
Using tanks to harvest rainwater.
Various ways of harvesting water include the use of tanks and basins.This water can then be used to irrigate plants on the landscape hence saving on the costs of billed water.As a rule of the thumb ensuring that you are well prepared for the rains in terms of having the right water harvesting equipment.

Native plants
A native plant is one which occurs naturally at a given ecological place and time without direct or indirect human actions.In other terms,the plant is well adapted to the said environment.In most constructions,the first step is to clear the site which by default involves getting rid of the existing plants.However,as a good practise,the best approach involves getting rid of invasive plant species while avoiding interfering with the native species.
Why is this important?The fact that the plants are native,implies that less maintenance will be required,less pests and diseases among others.Therefore,such plants will live longer and healthy without 'asking' for a lot of maintenance.
A good planting plan will always incorporate varieties of native species for any landscape,

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

On 00:55 by Alex Mungai   2 comments
"Going Green" has been a Global slogan meant to enhance livelihoods by advocating for the creation of environments that are sustainable in terms of conservation while still maintaining efficiency.Current landscape trends are a reflection of how well sustainability can be achieved while still creating a functional landscape.The aim is to create a functional,cost efficient,visually appealing, attractive and environmentally friendly landscapes while cutting on inputs such as fertiliser,time and water as well as reduction in waste outputs.

Landscape sustainability is based on principles that entail the basic understanding of conservation as well as preservation.Understanding your landscape is a big part of attaining sustainability.Study and create a report of the inputs needed by the landscape elements and find possible ways to conserve more.

Of considerable importance are the principles of conservation and preservation.For most homeowners,clearing a site prior to design seems as the best alternative.However,a better approach would actually involve retaining the native plants while riding off the non-native invasive species.Natives are easier to maintain since they are adapted to the local environment;therefore cutting down on the costs.

The 10 Best Houseplants to Improve Indoor Air Quality

Other approaches aimed at conservation include the use of local materials to save on transport costs,adopting solar radiation as a means to supply energy as well as using plants to enhance cooling/warming of the house.

The principle of value is also an aspect of sustainable landscaping.Current global occurrences such as drought and famine have taught us to value earth elements such as water,As it is,water is an important aspect of the landscape.The more we value it,the better we use it efficiently.Approaches to conserving water include adopting better irrigation(if need be) techniques such as drip irrigation as well as using xeriscapes/drought resistant plants in the landscape.Rainwater and grey water harvesting also come in handy especially for residential properties.Treat water as an important resource!

The soil is also an element that ought be valued if sustainability is to be achieved.For instance,during rainy seasons,loose soils are carried by runoff water stripping your garden the top layer of soil.To prevent this,it is advisable to use groundcovers such as grass to hold soil firmly.

Benefits of Sustainable Landscaping
In embracing techniques of sustainability,one hopes to achieve either short or long term goals or both.Short term goals are such as saving water or using compost heap manure.Long term goals on the other hand can be more fulfilling in the long run.For example,planting trees to cut down on the costs of warming the house during winter and cooling during summer.

An even more fulfilling goal is the creation of an environmental friendly landscape that is able to sustain itself through the cycling of materials such as the use of dead leaves as mulch.All these while still maintaining the appeal and attractiveness.

Learn more about sustainable landscaping for your home.

Tuesday, 14 July 2015

On 12:50 by Alex Mungai   1 comment
Designing your landscape is a sure way of transforming your home into a serene environment ideal for human enjoyment and experience.  Creating the ideal environment goes beyond the use of plants, placing statues or the use of water features in your landscape. Rather, it involves careful using of the landscape elements to create spaces by considering the activities expected to take place in the home.
Engaging a professional in designing the landscape comes at a cost, but the result is always fulfilling provided the design procedures were well followed. However, as a homeowner, there are tips that you may use to create a beautiful landscape.

 Reusing basically involves using an item for another purpose other than its initial one. In homes
 today, there are numerous materials that can be reused for landscaping purposes. These range from plastic bottles, old vehicle tyres, old shoes, broken doors etc. How about putting these old items into some use.
Old tires, plastic bottles and shoes can form the basis for very good planters which can be placed on
your front yard, patio or any other outdoor space. To make it more interesting, you may add different colours on the tyres/bottles to complement your overall landscape.
Purchasing new furniture to use in your garden can be quite costly especially if the material is wood. Well, how about the old door in your backyard/garage/store? Old doors can be easily transformed into outdoor furniture. To make them more appealing, add some colour or varnish to make them last longer.
Well, there you have it. Convert your old items into superb landscape tips and save yourself some cash.

Create a focal point
Do you have a particular spot in your landscape that you want people to appreciate as they walk around your compound? It may be a pond, an outdoor structure such as a pergola or even a statue. Well, that is the essence of creating a point of focus.
Including a focal point is part of the design process. The element used will basically draw people’s attention to the spot of interest. The focal point may be as a result of natural occurrences or it may be artificial. They range from rocky sites to shrubs or trees.
A tree for instance can be a great focal point. Select trees depending on their outstanding characteristics. Including their shape, fragrance, size or foliage colour. A Japan Red Maple tree for instance stands out for the foliage colour and can be effectively used to lead people to your desired location.
A focal point does not necessarily have to be visual. It can also be auditory, in what case you may decide to use as the sound of a cascade or fountain to attract people.
However, as a rule of the thumb, avoid using to many focal points as it serves a distraction rather than serving the intended purpose.

Use colour
Colour is an important aspect of landscape design. To make your landscape more appealing, play
with a variety of colours that complement each other as well as the building. This ensures that your landscape is not dull looking especially to guests.
The plants provide a contrasting background to the fountain

You may also decide to choose from a collection of contrasting colours. For instance combining
plants with dark foliage with light coloured ones. Another technique is placing plants with dark foliage behind a fountain or cascade. This way, contrast is easily achieved