Sustainable Landscaping: Improve Curb Appeal and Divert Usable Items from a Landfill

I love to work in the yard. From planting vegetables and ornamentals to trimming shrubs and removing invasives, I love it. At one point, I did the lawn mowing/weed eating as well; however, injuries and lack of time persuaded me to hire the best lawn care service in the world. Knowing that those guys will show up every two weeks during growing season to cut the grass, trim, blow/bag leaves, etc. allows me time to do the fun stuff. This year, the fun stuff has extended past mere vegetable and flower planting and into larger landscaping projects.

With a little help from my friends, I was able to create an attractive island in the front yard. I persuaded a co-worker – who also happens to be a landscape architect – to take a look at my yard and recommend projects to give it more curb appeal; he suggested constructing an island around an existing Japanese Maple tree (a “volunteer” that sprouted from a mature tree in my parents’ yard that my mother gave me). Mom is a gifted gardener who has given me almost every non-vegetable plant in my yard.

I had the plan and the location, but I needed supplies that were environmentally friendly and cheap/free. I’d been eyeing some gorgeous bags of pine straw on the curb across the street, but I needed help schlepping them up the driveway and into my yard. I put out a call on our neighborhood Facebook page asking for strong arms/healthy backs. My wonderful neighbors, Wil and Mark, volunteered. Roughly 22 bags of straw later, I had half of the required supplies and Wil and Mark had my gratitude and a quart jar of home-made kimchi.

I put out another Facebook request: this time, I asked for cardboard. Specifically, I requested large boxes that had housed appliances and televisions. I made the request around Thanksgiving, so I took advantage of holiday gift-giving season. My  neighbors did not disappoint me, and I soon had a Subaru full of broken down cardboard boxes. For good measure, I also tapped the resources of my favorite growler store, Beer Girl in Hapeville, GA. Not only does Beer Girl carry delicious beer (and wine and cider), but they also have lots of sturdy boxes. If you find yourself thirsty and near the Atlanta Airport, consider a visit to Beer Girl. You will love it!

With a huge pile of boxes and several bags of pine straw, I had everything I needed to complete the island. Because I’ve yacked long enough, I’ll let the following photos tell the rest of the story.

Before.

Before

Layering the cardboard.

Layering the cardboard.

Cardboard layer is complete.

Cardboard layer is complete.

Straw layer applied.

Straw layer applied.

After.

After.

I’m looking forward to spring when the Japanese Maple is in leaf and the other ornamentals bloom in the island closer to the street.

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