Best Management Practices for Landscaping


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As we all go about our business, landscaping in one form or another we see everyday what is being done by quote “others who by common sense or basic understanding of plants, trees and their true requirements”, should never be doing the things we tend to see happening everyday. How many places have each of you seen in the course of traveling around, whether from job to job, or just going to the mall or a shopping plaza with the family where all you can to do is wonder “ what was “someone or they’ thinking when they designed, created the site, and then installed a bunch of trees and shrubs that we all know that in all likelihood will have no chance of survival or if they do, they will never be what was envisioned when designed and installed. It comes down to the basics of what are the plants requirements and are they being met? Is it realistic to think that a tree that in its’ natural habitat might mature to a size of 50 feet plus be able to grow in an area of 6’x10’ surrounded by an impervative surface of asphalt, with a base of gravel and crush stone and then compacted, which may be the Best Management Practices and materials for laying asphalt, but not for planting a tree as the landscape plan and/or zoning calls for. Does that tree have any hope of reaching maturity?

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How many times have you gone to a potential job site, whether an individuals’ home in the woods or a sub- division in a new development to find the site has been so altered with the removal of native soils and replaced with a layer of sand against the foundation and backfill with gravel or clay and then topped by an inch to 3 to 4 inches of quote “loam”. Maybe the whole building lot has been cleared of vegetation and native soils well beyond the buildings’ and its’ necessary features such as a driveway and a septic systems’ footprint. That house in the woods is now a cleared lot with an altered grade, substandard soils and we are being asked to return it to that natural landscape or now it is to becomes a large lawned area with some landscape beds to make the home look pretty. Is any thought given of how this impacts that larger surrounding natural landscape when this is being done over and over again? And if we are to consider doing the job, we must factor in the materials needed just to create an environment healthy enough for a landscape to grow and succeed Where grade changes have occurred retaining walls may have been installed with BMP for walls so that they may remain true over the years, but may not have taken in account that plants might be install on top of it to soften the look of that wall. Much of this has to do with communication or lack of; for someone (building contractor, planning board member, site worker and another trade) who isn’t landscaper or a plants’ person and isn’t considering what is required for plants and trees to survive after their job is done, that becomes the problem of the homeowner or someone else including us because we have to work with it, either to correct those problems or just work with those conditions and hope for the best that maybe plants might survive (at least a year).

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I may have only begun to scratch the surface or ‘soil’ as too the much larger subject of Best Management Practices for landscaping; for we all know of the importance of soils to all living things that are dependent on it for their survival, including ourselves. Yet many times soil is never considered, whether to protect it, nurture it for many who don’t understand it just figure stick a plant or tree in the ground it will grow. We work with everyday; so how do we communicate it and educate others, who might if they had the knowledge, might attempt to change some of their practices for the better? It is one thing to talk to someone on a one to one basis, a building contractor who wants to the best job he or she can beyond the bottom line, but they need to have the knowledge to know how best to work a site for their client and for the larger surrounding natural environment. This information would be important to local planning boards that are charge with the responsible of overseeing the development that adds rather than reduces a quality of life for their community and part of that is a healthy, growing landscape in a residential or commercial setting.

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There are many tools already out there we can use such as UNHCE’s publications ‘Landscaping at The Water’s Edge’ and ‘Integrated Landscaping: Following Natures Lead’. There is ‘Selecting trees For The Urban Landscape Ecosystems’ published by NH Division of Forest and Lands and New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services’ new ‘Innovative Land Use Planning Techniques Handbook for Sustainable Development’ which you can be view at http://des.nh.gov/organization/divisions/water/wmb/repp/innovative_land_use.htm this site can also be linked from NHLA’s web-site. At our joint Spring Educational Conference for Landscapers this coming March 18 2009 we hopefully will be having a panel discussion on the subject of land use and BMPs’ for landscaping which I am sure you all want to be involved in and offer comments to the discussion.
Having looked over the draft form of this handbook and other publications, I might even suggest that NHLA partnering with other organizations consider creating our own manual on the Best Management Practices for Landscaping manual to address issues not covered in other published documents or where they are, to combine that useful information into a one source manual that addresses the many issues involved in good landscaping. This could be given or sold to planning boards, building developers, contractors, and landscapers and offered to the general public as an educational book. We have friends and colleagues from other organizations who’s’ educational background can provide direction; offer suggestions and arm us with scientific research can support our findings for proper landscaping practices.
I know it might be a big task, but at least it might help address so many of the problems we see everyday. It doesn’t nor should it be a textbook, rather a manual that can be understood by the layperson, but can provides valuable information to help so that they can make informed decisions when it comes to landscaping from the very beginning of a project.. When it comes to landscaping. It isn’t only about just making money; it is about creating something and being to look back on it and feeling pride in what you did. It is also about not having all landscapers being place on the same level, unless it is to a higher level where knowledge, education and experience are the deciding factors.
So I’ll ask if any of you are tired of seeing bad work being performed and want to try and do something to improve what seems to be becoming the norm. I do hope you might consider becoming involved for it is about the standards we all want to work with and it will take many view points and ideas that are taken together that would make a BMP for Landscaping manual of any value
Snow Arbor

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