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Friday, March 1, 2024
March 1, 2024

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Energy Adviser: To conserve resources, look at your landscaping

Lawns and other non-native plants demand fertilizer, water, tools, fuel, time


Efficiency-minded homeowners know that investing in the right products and services now will save dollars and improve personal comfort later. But once the insulation is piled thick, the heat pump is purring and the house is sealed up tight, homeowners are often left wondering what else can be done to make their homes more efficient.

It’s right about this point when they should take a good look at their landscaping. Most of the time, landscaping is installed with only aesthetics in mind. But when considered from a conservation approach, a landscaping refresh can reduce the time, money and resources needed to maintain its appeal, while also helping a homeowner guard against the forces of nature.

Lawns and many non-native plants that are common yard features can be pretty demanding. Think about all the fertilizers and water your yard needs, plus the tools and gas needed for weekly mowing and occasional trimming.

Conservation landscaping embraces a much more hands-off approach. It essentially means choosing plants that don’t require a lot of care or resources beyond what nature provides, while making the most of your property’s unique characteristics. But it doesn’t mean your yard has to resemble a nature preserve. You can maintain a clean aesthetic while reaping many of the rewards the practice offers. Even a couple of plants can make a difference.

“By shrinking the footprint of your lawn and replacing it with native plants or other plants adapted to the Pacific Northwest’s climate, you can really reduce the amount of water and even fertilizers you need to apply to keep your property looking good,” said Clark Public Utilities Environmental Sustainability Manager Michael O’Loughlin.

When installing ornamental plants, look for native or Mediterranean varieties. Typically, these plants don’t require water beyond what the sky provides. However, it’s also important to put the right plant or tree in the right place. A property’s unique soil and moisture characteristics will dictate which specific plants will do the best.

Additionally, you don’t want to plant too close to critical infrastructure like electric, water or sewer lines.

When planted in the right location, the right landscaping can shield your home from the elements and help lower your home’s energy consumption.

A deciduous tree on the sunny side of a yard will block the summer sun’s warming rays from beating down on the house and making it overheat. In winter, when its leaves fall off, it’ll allow the sunlight to shine through and warm your home up.

At best, wind is unpleasant. This region’s strong winter winds can sap the heat from your home and push energy bills higher. But a home guarded by a hedgerow or even a few hearty shrubs will suffer less from the worst of the elements.

People aren’t the only beneficiaries of more conservation landscaping. Diverse vegetation, especially varieties with varying bloom periods, also provides habitat and food resources for local wildlife, including pollinators.

Remember to think long-term with landscaping. A nice little tree can easily grow into a tall giant in just a few short years. Planting the wrong tree in the wrong spot can become a huge headache.

The Arbor Day Foundation’s website can help you identify the right tree and the right place. Visit www.arborday.org/trees/righttreeandplace/size.cfm to learn more.

The Clark Public Utilities website is a great resource to better understand the benefits of landscaping with native plants. Visit www.clarkpublicutilities.com/landscaping.

Energy Adviser is written by Clark Public Utilities. Send questions to ecod@clarkpud.com or to Energy Adviser, c/o Clark Public Utilities, P.O. Box 8900, Vancouver, WA 98668.