Arboretum Paths: Sustainable landscaping program and nature walk this Saturday

Published 7:00 am Wednesday, August 16, 2017

By Pat Drackett
Director of the Crosby Arboretum and assistant extension professor of landscape architecture with the Mississippi State University Extension Service

Is your landscape truly “sustainable”? How much energy and resources do you actually invest to manage your landscape beds and lawn?
Learn simple ways to conserve resources and reduce your property’s maintenance needs, such as reusing yard waste and rainwater, in a program at Crosby Arboretum this Saturday at 11:00 AM with Pearl River County Extension Agent Dr. Eddie Smith.
Sustainable home landscape methods are simply those practices, when installing and maintaining your landscape, that aim to reduce the need for items such as chemicals, water, and energy. For example, methods that reduce the use of gasoline for mowing or string trimming, or your own labor. By applying these practices, your time can be spent doing more enjoyable things, and ultimately it will cost less to manage your landscape.
Perhaps you have large areas of turf that require constant mowing, fertilizing, and chemical treatments for insects and diseases that can threaten to destroy your lawn. Chemicals can be costly, and require labor to obtain and apply. The use of pesticides and fertilizers may also result in the contamination of groundwater and nearby water bodies.
Another expensive and common practice employed by home gardeners is the use of bagged bark mulches. Not only is bagged mulch expensive, but it can also rob nitrogen from your soil, as this is needed to break down the wood chips.
If you have trees in your yard, you already have a source of one of the best types of mulch – they are called leaves! But many of us rake leaves from our lawn in the fall, bag them up, and leave them by the curb, instead of adding them to a compost pile where they can break down and be used later to mulch garden beds or amend the soil. However, you can be assured that local savvy gardeners will lie in wait for you to discard your leaves, because they will pick them up for their own compost piles!
Reducing the size of turf areas can have a positive impact by reducing a landscape’s labor needs and maintenance costs. Start small, and allow some portions of your property to develop a natural appearance, such as along property lines, or in your backyard.
Perhaps there are areas of your property where trees have matured and the dense canopies are shading the lawn below, causing the grass to become sparse and unproductive. Begin building up a bed under the trees, smothering the thin grass, by depositing the fallen leaves you rake. Over time, these leaves will break down into rich humus.
If these areas are highly visible, you might choose to add low-maintenance species to the new beds, for instance, groundcovers. However, if these areas are located near informal, woodsy sites, allow them to develop naturally. You can also incorporate some native plants that will catch the eye in different seasons.
The Crosby Arboretum provides visitors an excellent example of sustainable landscaping. Plants installed here are well-suited to the site’s soil, water, and light conditions, and consequently have prospered. Contrary to a typical public garden, we do not irrigate, as the plant communities in our exhibits are adapted to the local rainfall.
Visit the MSU Extension Service website at for detailed, research-based information and lists of plants suited to your property. Search by keyword to read or download articles and comprehensive publications on landscape design, trees, shrubs, perennials and annuals, and more.
Attend a summer native plant field walk this Saturday, August 19 from 9 to 10:30 AM with Pat Drackett to learn about the low-maintenance native plants in the Arboretum’s exhibits. The Sustainable Landscaping program with Pearl River County Extension Agent Dr. Eddie Smith follows from 11 AM to noon.
Each of these programs are only $5 for non-members. This is a small investment for the valuable information you will receive! Call the Arboretum office at 601-799-2311 to sign up and guarantee your space. If classes have filled, walk-ins will not be accepted, to avoid overcrowding.
As it is halfway through the year, Arboretum memberships are half price! Join at the reduced rate of $15 for an individual and $20 for a family membership. Call the office to purchase your membership by phone. For more information, see The Arboretum is located in Picayune, I-59 Exit 4, at 370 Ridge Road (south of Walmart and adjacent to I-59).

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