Hardscaping: A Sustainable Alternative for Landscapes

Can’t get a patch or blade of grass to grow in your yard or place of business? Don’t stress. There’s another way to obtain that gorgeous curb appeal that could end up being the talk of the town: hardscaping. Not only can it make the property gorgeous, but sustainable hardscaping can be achieved with eco-friendly materials and a layout that supports local wildlife and reduces pollution.

Grass is the most irrigated crop in the United States, requiring an estimated 9 billion gallons of water per day. By hardscaping, you avoid the use of fertilizer, herbicides, and pesticides which end up running into the local water system and harming wildlife. Due to the high cost of shipping heavy materials, hardscape is almost always sourced from local quarries. Hardscaping is usually integrated into xeriscaping (landscaping with minimal or no use of water other than what nature provides), which saves hundreds of gallons of water annually. This can be beneficial, especially in a region where there are water restrictions. So, instead of allowing the lawn to die due to drought or water restrictions, hardscaping may be your best solution.

Unlike softscape, which uses living and organic elements such as trees, flowers, and grass, hardscape elements define the use of a space, such as with a driveway or gravel path. Think bricks, concrete, and stone. Some of the ways to enhance your property by hardscaping include:

-Stone retaining walls that define planting areas and convert a slope to flat yard space. Concrete patios are the classic low-maintenance and versatile patio option. Brick patios offer a more upscale and natural look than concrete while flagstone patios are the low-cost option for natural stone outdoor flooring. Tile patios are a nice way to dress up a concrete patio slab. Stone walkways are ideal for garden paths. Believe it or not, wooden decks are also hardscaping, just like patios. Arbors and gazebos enhance a landscape while providing shade. Pergolas are another fine choice.

-Permeable hardscape makes the soil below conducive to subterranean life. Life forms like earthworms, ground-nesting bees and other insects, important microorganisms, and plant roots, all of which are essential to any healthy ecosystem. When it comes to selecting pavers, permeable pavers are easier to repair because each paver is separate. They also require little or no salt applications to de-ice the surface because ice build-up occurs less frequently. The cost of concrete is cheaper than permeable pavers, but the maintenance costs may be higher. Pavers can last for a hundred years while concrete lasts 25 to 30 years.

You may also want to consider using materials that are recycled from reclaimed concrete, glass aggregates, and other construction materials that might otherwise end up in a landfill. Some landscaping suppliers sell recycled hardscaping materials, but your local landfill might sell other usable materials as well. Recycling materials can also be used to create fire pits, garden walls, raised beds, walkways, and other structures.

-Sharon Oliver

Photo by Ellen Tanner on Unsplash


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2 comments on “Hardscaping: A Sustainable Alternative for Landscapes

  1. Cathy J Colby-Grauer

    Hardscaping has been very successful in my experience. Thirty years ago we put in 4foot wide curving brick walkways and some brick patios. Although I love the look of the curves, but they are more maintenance than the tightly lain brick. I try to promote moss growth between the bricks, but sometimes the weeds take over. Stone patios similar to the one in your photo have proved to be the least maintenance of all!
    We also have a soft scape area that is solid moss, so no fertilizing!!

  2. Avatar photo

    That sounds ingenious. Thanks for sharing!

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