Sustainable Landscaping On Cape Cod

June 12, 2023

Practical Landscape Sustainability


Joyce Landscaping


Sustainability. We’ve all heard the word, but how do we apply that to our own lives, and more specifically, our landscapes? Being residents of the Cape, we should all remember to appreciate the natural beauty of the place we call home. Whether you are starting a new landscape project, or perhaps revitalizing your existing landscape, take steps to integrate sustainable elements into your property. Believe it or not, you don’t have to sacrifice to make a difference on not only your wallet, but on your community. Henry Ford once said, “Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success.” Now that the need has been established, here are a couple ways that we can all work towards a more sustainable landscape, as well as the preservation of the Cape Cod we know and love.


Opportunities for Implementation

Just a few ways we can create sustainable landscapes:


•      Intelligent Irrigation/Watering Habits – With demand for more intricate landscapes, also comes demand for larger, more complex irrigation systems. Many factors play a role in the amount of water necessary to sustain your landscape. These could be anything from soil composition, plant selection, temperature, and size of the areas, just to name a few. Sandy soils could be the bane of your landscape, as they require more water to keep plant roots well supplied, due to the force of gravitational water movement. Consider things such as; rain sensors (to disable your irrigation during periods of rain), prevention of overspray, and irrigation runoff (regular maintenance/adjustment of spray heads and controllers), and capturing rainwater (to be recycled through your landscape).


•       Rain Gardens – A topic that goes hand in hand with intelligent watering/irrigation. A rain garden is a small planting bed that collects stormwater, and is designed to drain approximately 1″ of water in anywhere from 2-4 hours. This could take many forms, from more complex formal beds to simple native planting utilizations. Consider integrating a rain garden somewhere in your landscape, it can be a very aesthetically pleasing approach to drainage solutions. Bear in mind, plants will need to have a tolerance for a wide range of hydration extremes, as well as nutrient compositions, since they are subjected to runoff water from your landscape. This can be a great way to reduce erosion as well, as the stormwater is slowed by the fibrous roots of the plantings. These gardens also serve to filter the water, before infiltration back into the soil. Most plantings include any number of herbaceous perennials, woody shrubs, or trees. Remember that plant choice, soil structure/composition, and careful planning in these applications are of paramount importance.


•       Integrated Pest Management (IPM) – This has been a very common concept in the landscape industry in recent years. IPM is a more educated and environmentally sensitive approach to pest management in the landscape. Rather than a blanket approach to managing pests, IPM uses a more judicious path to achieving the same results, but with less harm to the landscape and our community.


There 4 main steps to any IPM program:

•      Action Thresholds: Rather than insisting on control after a single showing of a pest, consider setting a threshold before taking action.

•       Pest Identification: Not all organisms are pests, some are helpful in maintaining a healthy landscape and keeping harmful pests at bay. You could be opening yourself to more problems if action is taken against these helpful organisms.

•      Prevention: Plant selection, again, is of the utmost importance. Do yourself a favor and avoid problems before plants even go into the ground.

•      Control: Once all other steps have been taken, move to control the pest. Keep in mind, the spraying of broadcast, non-specific pesticides is a last resort. Start small, continue monitoring, and escalate countermeasures as needed.

•       Proper Lawn Installation/Care – The ever-elusive lawn… people devote quite a lot of resources and time to perfecting their lush, green turf. If you boil it all down, it is not as complicated as it may seem. A healthy lawn decreases the ability of weeds to grow, and can ultimately be more self-sufficient. With the right ingredients, you could enjoy years of a low-maintenance lawn.


Some key factors to consider:

Soil Makeup: Start with a strong base. Naturally, this is very important as it enhances the ability to supply water, nutrients, and air.

•      Seed/Seed Mix: There are a plethora of choices when it comes to grass seed. Pick the seed/mix best suited to your property’s conditions. There is an array of drought-tolerant species that will help decrease the amount of irrigation needed, especially in those warm summer months.

•       Irrigation: Water less frequently, for longer periods of time. For optimal root expansion, and to also help prevent stress from drought.

•      Proper Mowing: Make sure to cut the grass correctly, as a shortcut only encourages weed and pest infestation. Depending on the type of grass you have, cut lengths vary, generally

2.5in is a safe length. Also, try not to cut more than 1/3 of the grass’s height at once, as this can strain the lawn. Mowing your grass when wet is to be avoided, for best results.

Fertilization: A helpful tool in maintaining a lush and healthy lawn. When applied correctly, fertilizers will strengthen root systems, and help prevent weeds and pests. Incorporating organic fertilizers into your plan will aid the effort in reducing nitrogen infiltration into coastal bodies of water. This can be integrated with synthetic fertilization, as they are delivered in different manners.

• Energy-Efficient Plantings – One of the major ways we can help to create a sustainable landscape is through energy-efficient plantings. Something as simple as a well-placed shade tree can reduce cooling costs during the unyielding heat of a Cape Cod summer day. Another way you could reduce energy use is by using evergreen trees to protect your buildings from cold winter winds that may carry heat away from exterior surfaces. Be mindful when planting screens around existing utilities as they could potentially have an adverse effect on the efficiency of air conditioning units. Establish a goal, then select the appropriate plant for the end result. Keep in mind that some trees need more room than others, and should be given adequate space to flourish. These small steps could not only reduce energy consumption, and the strain that puts on our community, but also the strain it places on your wallet.



Joyce Landscaping Awarded "Best Places to Work" 2022 by Cape & Plymouth Business Media:
Awarded Best Places to Work by Cape & Plymouth Business Media
Planet Landcare Network Massachusetts Nursery and Landscape Association Better Business Bureau Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce Massachusetts Association of Landscape Professionals Interlocking Concrete Pavement Institute
Plymouth Area Chamber of Commerce Hyannis Chamber of Commerce National Concrete Masonry Association Massachusetts Arborists Association Massacusetts Association of Lawn care Professionals Cape Cod Landscape Association