Sustainable Nebraska landscapes minimize high maintenance turfgrass areas, utilize plant material for shade, wind protection, erosion control and beauty, and use native/adapted plant species to save on maintenance costs.
Native and adapted plants include those which:
- Are hardy to USDA hardiness zone 4 or 5 (depending on where you are located in the state.)
- Resist disease and insect pests to minimize pesticide use.
- Have deep root systems for maximum drought tolerance.
- Use existing soil fertility with low-input fertilizer applications.
- Tolerate Nebraska winters with periods of minimal snow cover, desiccating winds, temperature extremes, and winter warm spells.
Consider using all of the following types of plants in your acreage landscape
- Annuals for quick color and as a filler
- Perennials for long-term color
- Vines for twining and clinging interest
- Shrubs for outdoor family living space definition and environmental benefits
- Trees for shade,wind and snow protection, wildlife habitat, fruit and nut production, visual screening, and sound barriers
- Choose the right plant for the right place; sun-loving plants for areas that receive at least six hours of direct sunlight per day, shade-loving species for areas that are in shade most of the day, and plants that prefer wet conditions for lowland or poorly drained sites.
- Mulch beds with coarse organic mulch to reduce weeds, conserve soil moisture, and reduce soil temperature. Good choices include ground corncobs, wood chips, pine cones, bark nuggets, and tree trimmings. Consider pine needles as well, but obtain them from a fallen tree. Do not rake fallen needles out from under living trees.
- Position plants with the mature height and width in mind. This minimizes overplanting and costly plant removal.
- Choose water-efficient plants to lessen the need for irrigation and decrease the chance of erosion, runoff, and nonpoint source pollution. The Nebraska Statewide Arboretum web site is a good source for this information.
- Incorporate organic matter such as compost or aged manure into the upper 6 inches of soil to loosen clay soil, increase water-holding capacity of sandy soils, make soil easier to till, and provide nutrients. In following years, topdress with 2 inches or so and simply fork it in. Creating your own compost is easy.