Home Landscaping
Development & Maintenance Guide

Developed For:
Habitat For Humanity St. Louis' New Landscape Designs

Developing and maintaining a sustainable home landscape will not only increase the value of the property, it will also have a positive impact on the surrounding environment. Urbanization has decreased the natural habitat of our native flora and fauna, by re-introducing some of these species to our home landscapes, we will increase the bio-diversity of our community. Bio-diversity is important for the overall health of our local eco-systems. Other critical components to a sustainable home landscape include: soil management, water conservation, use of native plant species and reduced use of lawn and garden chemicals.

This landscape development and maintenance guide will increase the effectiveness of the home landscape. It also addresses the goal of earning LEED certification points for the project.

Three Main Components for Successful Landscaping
1. Creating a Good Soil Foundation
2. Planting the Right Plant for the Right Spot
3. Addressing the Water Needs of the Plants

All of these components will be incorporated into the plan which will help to earn LEED certification points.


1. Soil management & composting
-retain as much of the original topsoil as possible
-incorporate organic matter & soil amendments
-install a compost bin

2. Water management
-water-efficient plants (xeriscaping)
- efficient irrigation (soaker hoses, drip irrigation, timers)
-rain barrels
-water guide (morning watering, low frequency)
-rain gardens

3. Use of native plants

4. Other potential elements for consideration

Soil Management & Composting

A critical component in the development of a sustainable landscape plan is the soil foundation. During the construction process, it is critical for the top layers of soil (known as the O and A horizons) to be protected from damage and compaction. The use of heavy equipment and machinery will increase the bulk density of the soil, making it more difficult for plants to thrive. Protecting the structure of the soil will increase the survivability of the plant material and help decrease water needs.

Here is the plan for soil management:

1. If topsoil must be removed, it shall be relocated until construction is complete
2. Limit the usage of heavy equipment on the soil and do not allow equipment on wet soil. Saturated soils are more likely to be damaged than drier soils.
3. If heavy equipment must be used, protect the soil with plywood to help decrease the impact of tires.
4. Conduct a soil test to determine the pH of the soil and to detect any nutrient deficiencies. Many problems can be solved by simply adjusting the pH of the soil (adding lime to raise the pH or sulphur to lower it).
4. Incorporate organic matter (i.e. compost) into the soil. Leaf and stick mold compost is a native material that will increase the effectiveness of the soil.
5. Incorporate AXIS into the soil. This soil amendment will decrease water usage and help control run-off water (see detail sheet for more information).
6. Begin usage of a simple composting system. This will enable the homeowner to reduce yard waste and save money by producing compost for their garden.

Water Management

A goal for the development of a sustainable landscape is to limit or eliminate the use of potable water for landscape irrigation. There are several ways to achieve this goal:

-Plant selection
-Rain water collection
-Efficient irrigation methods (for initial watering to establish plants)
-Watering Schedule

Plant Selection:
The plant materials chosen for this project are mostly indigenous to the lower Midwest. These plants can tolerate our climate and soil types (more information in the native plants section). After the plants are established, water usage will be reduced by over 50% because of the incorporation of drought-tolerant species.

Rain Water Collection:
To further decrease the usage of potable water in the landscape, a minimum of one rain barrel will be placed in a strategic location. The design of the roof gutters will play a role in the placement of the rain barrels because the downspouts must be located in a area somewhat close to the garden. Ideal placement of the rain barrels would be: one towards the front of the house off to the side, and one on the opposite backside of the house (for potential usage for a vegetable/herb garden). Rain barrels are the most simple method of rain water collection, other methods are possible, but more intensive to construct, such as cisterns and rain gardens.

Efficient Irrigation Methods:
No permanent irrigation system is being installed on the property because after the initial establishment period, supplemental watering will not be necessary. During the plant establishment period, however, efficient irrigation methods can be implemented. One such method is the usage of soaker hoses under the mulch in the landscape bed. The soaker hose can be attached to the rain barrel so that the rainwater will slowly be dispersed throughout the landscape, rather than simply pouring out of the gutter. The intention of rain barrels and soaker hoses is to help limit the amount of run-off and allow the water to percolate into the soil, rather than wash away. Water is to be treated as a valuable resource, not as a waste product. Other options for aiding in the establishment of the plant material include: using timers, development of a drip-method of irrigation, using “Tree Gators” to efficiently water new trees, and decreasing the area of turf grass (more information in the native plant section).

Watering Schedule:
The time of the day greatly impacts the effectiveness of irrigation. The most productive time to water both turf and plants is early morning for several reasons. First, due to cooler morning temperatures, less water evaporates, giving the water more time to soak into the soil. Second, less stress is incurred by the plant if it receives morning water because it will not face a water shortage later in the day. Third, watering in the morning decreases the potential for fungal spore activity, therefore, requiring less usage of fungicides on turf and plants.

Use of Native Plant Species
“Habitat Gardening”

Biodiversity is a critical element in the development of a sustainable landscape. Introduction of native plant species will increase the food supply for beneficial animals and insects, like birds and butterflies. Proper plant selection is, above all else, the most important aspect to consider when using native plants. Just because a plant is indigenous to our area, doesn’t mean it will grow anywhere, so sun, soil and water limitations have been taken into consideration in the landscape plan.

(A potential program within Habitat for Humanity could be a Habitat Gardening initiative. This would raise awareness of the importance of our native animals and insects and give them a place of refuge. The community garden could incorporate a butterfly or bird garden to help fulfill the needs of these species.)

Other considerations include: xeriscaping (low water-usage plants), eradication of invasive species (i.e. honeysuckle, wintercreeper), and plant procurement. The current supply of many native plant species is relatively low because, until recently, the demand for these plants was low. Increased interest in this market has encouraged growers to start putting these plants into production, so supply should increase tremendously in 2009 (especially in the production of native Buffalo Grass- a native turf grass). After researching the supply from local growers, the plants used in the designs should be relatively easy to procure and will hopefully be available from local sources. The design is made so that each property can vary somewhat (which will help create more diversity in the landscapes. Use of cultivars is acceptable because oftentimes the cultivar may be better suited for usage in an urban setting because it will have characteristics that will make it more desirable (‘Brandywine’ Maple is a cultivar of Red Maple that is much smaller than the native species, making it a more suitable selection for a street tree). Here is a listing of plants that can potentially be used in the design, keeping in mind that this is a guideline.

Native Plants for Home Landscaping

Turf- decrease lawn area, install native grasses
-2008 Fescue turf installed, deeper rooted than bluegrass
-2009 Possibly install a Buffalo grass lawn (install before Aug. 1)

-Red maple (Acer rubrum)*
-Sugar Maple (Acer saccharum)*
-Red Buckeye (Aesculus pavia)
-Serviceberry (Amelanchier arborea)*,
-American Hornbeam (Carpinus caroliniana)
-Eastern Redbud (Cercis canadensis)
-White Fringetree (Chionanthus virginicus)
-Yellowwood (Cladrastis kentukea)
-Pagoda Dogwood (Cornus alternifolia)
-White Dogwood (Cornus florida)
-Kentucky Coffeetree (Gymnocladus dioidus)
-American Holly (Ilex opaca)
-Black Gum (Nyssa sylvatica)*
-Willow Oak (Quercus phellos)*
-Bald Cypress (Taxodium distichum)

Shrubs for Sun
-Black Chokeberry (Aronia melanocarpa)
-Beautyberry (Callicarpa Americana)
-Vernal Witchhazel (Hamamelis vernalis)
-Winterberry Holly (Ilex verticillata)
-Sweetspire (Itea virginica)
-Ninebark (Physocarpus opulifolius)*
-Fragrant Sumac (Rhus aromatica)* Drought tolerant

Shrubs for Shade
-Wild Hydrangea (Hydrangea arborescens)
-Sweetspire (Itea virginica)
-Viburnum prunifolium (Black Haw Viburnum)

Perennials for Sun
-Butterfly Weed (Asclepias tuberosa)
-Aromatic Aster (Aster oblongifolius)
-Lanceleaf Coreopsis (Coreopsis lanceolata)
-Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea)
-Wild Geranium (Geranium maculatum)
-Missouri Black-Eyed Susan (Rudbeckia missouriensis)
-Little Bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium)
-Sedum (Sedum ternatum)
-Prairie Dropseed (Sporobolus heterolepsis)
-Switchgrass (Panicum virgatum)

Perennials for Shade
-Lady Fern (Athyrium felix-femina)
-Ostrich Fern (Matteucia struthiopteris)
-Cinnamon Fern (Osmunda cinnamomea)
-Christmas Fern (Polystichum acrostichoides)

Other Potential Design Elements:

-Usage of native boulders

-Habitat gardening components (bird feeds, bird baths)

-Recycled “Yard Art” (old wheelbarrow, half whiskey barrel, obilesk)

-Family Heirlooms (Grandma’s watering can, statuary, fountain)

-Something that is unique to the family

-Green/vegetative roofs
-Decreases temperatures in summer, helps insulate in winter (sedum)

-Placement of shade trees
-Site trees in areas that shade pavement in the afternoon

-Pervious pavers

-Erosion/sedimentation control

-Organic/Natural landscape maintenance practices
-Usage of natural gardening solutions, holistic approach to land care
-Guidelines for lawn care (not bagging clippings, composting)

-Recycling of Horticultural plastics

-Encourage vegetable/herb gardening- community garden

In conclusion, an earth-friendly landscape will benefit the homeowners, the Earth, and the animals that call your yard home.
For more information, you can contact me by email at
Posted By:
Jennifer Schamber
Greenscape Gardens