17 March 2011

Green Day, Green Landscape

In honor of St. Patrick's Day, and because I realized I pretty much jumped into posts about our landscaping work without taking much time to explain the green building aspects of our plans, I thought today was a good day to talk about the greenery in the works at the Green House.

The big picture was heavily influenced by the green building program and the minimum we need to do to earn our five-star rating, so these three things pretty much define the parameters we're working with:

1. All new plants we put in must come from the city's Grow Green list, a fantastic resource for anyone doing any landscaping in Austin or in a similar climate. The city publishes a book (free at any local nursery, or available as a PDF on the Grow Green website) that lists hundreds of native or well-adapted plants and gives all the information you need about sun preferences, water requirements, basic maintenance, etc. There are even pictures of a lot of the species, which is perfect for someone like me who doesn't know what anything is. That said, having to choose only from this list is a bit restrictive...and our landscape designer, who claimed that she "pretty much designs to the Green Building requirements anyway" apparently wasn't aware of this requirement. (We had planned to have the checklist on hand to ensure compliance, but when she made that statement, we figured she was on it. Not so, we later realized, as our plan includes a handful of "illegal" plants.) So there will be some on-the-fly modifications.

2. New turfgrass areas cannot exceed 2,000 square feet. Another requirement that was a surprise to our landscape designer, which is why the first draft of the plan showed a lot more lawn. 2,000 square feet isn't much, as our lot has about 6,000 square feet to landscape. And there's even more if you count the right-of-way, which we don't, so we're planning for grass in the first 18' from the curb (which is technically city land and so, we reason, can't be held against us for the purposes of this requirement).

3. Any newly installed turfgrass areas must have at least 6" of soil containing 25% compost. We're bringing in a lot of good soil to work into the bad clay soil in this area, but the bottom line is that we need to spread enough compost to amount to 1.5" (25% of 6") everywhere we're going to put turfgrass. (We're overachievers, so we're actually planning to do that everywhere we're planting anything.)

The green building program also gives points for some other exterior/landscape considerations. We're getting two points (not that we need more points) for using a low-water grass -- a to-be-determined variety of zoysia, which is supposed to be the best compromise between drought-tolerance and lushness for this area.

So that's the scoop on the green aspects of the greenery at the Green House. Something to think about as you drink your green beer....

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