Sustainable Landscaping For Dummies® provides hands-on, how-to instruction for realizing the benefits of a sustainable landscape, from selecting sustainable hardscape materials to installing a rainwater catchment system to choosing native plants.

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This acclaimed book will help you to learn about:

  • The essentials of sustainable garden care
  • Ways to minimize your lawn’s impact and keep it healthy
  • A step-by-step tutorial on designing a great landscape plan
  • How to grade, plant, and irrigate the sustainable way
  • Tips for fitting food into your landscape
  • Cheap (or free) planet-friendly projects
  • Nonsustainable gardening mistakes to avoid
  • When and why to call in the pros
  • How to create a beautiful, sustainable landscape that’s easy on your pocketbook.

Want to go green outside your home? This practical, hands-on guide shows you how to design, create, and live with sustainable lawn and garden spaces. You’ll see how to eliminate the use of chemicals, reduce energy use, and conserve natural resources, all while you craft an attractive and functional outdoor environment that increases the value and improves the appearance of your home.

Owen shares with the reader the routines he has developed as a professional for organizing landscape redesigns and makes them easy for a novice to follow. He offers down-to-earth advice not only on how to make your personal space more attractive and environmentally responsible but also on how to accomplish this at a price you can afford, and at a pace that suits your schedule. Sustainability is a new movement in gardening, and it has badly needed a manifesto. This book fills that niche. So get smart and get Sustainable Landscaping for Dummies®.”

PRICE: $21.99 ($28.99 including shipping and handling)



“Owen has broadened his focus to include the conservation of all our natural resources. And yet if his subject is serious (nothing less than the preservation of the planetary ecosystem), Owen’s tone in this volume is blessedly unsanctimonious. He assumes no previous knowledge of gardening on the reader’s part— this is Sustainable Landscaping for Dummies, after all—but there’s plenty of new information here for the expert gardener, too.

Above all, this is a practical book. Owen shares with the reader the routines he has developed as a professional for organizing landscape redesigns and makes them easy for a novice to follow. He offers down to earth advice not only on how to make your personal space more attractive and environmentally responsible but also on how to accomplish this at a price you can afford, and at a pace that suits your schedule. Sustainability is a new movement in gardening, and it has badly needed a manifesto. This book fills that niche. So get smart and get Sustainable Landscaping for Dummies.”

Thomas Christopher, Author, New York Botanic Garden

“The book is filled with sustainable insider’s how-tos, but more importantly, it’s filled with how-not-tos. Owen shows us how to avoid making expensive, resources consuming and possibly toxic mistakes. Because this book addresses the need for rethinking the lawn to grow gardens instead, it goes on my required reading list for all my Permaculture Design Courses. Sustainable Landscaping for Dummies is a beneficial resource for keeping up with the dynamic flows of environmental design.”

Larry Santoyo, Director, EarthFlow Design Works,

“Owen has just had a very important book published. It needs to be read, embraced and acted upon by many, many people. The book starts by making sure we know how the word ‘sustainable’ fits with landscaping. It’s patently simple—strive for a garden that acts as a natural system and needs little help from you once it’s up and running. By the time you’re done with this section of the book you’ll smack your forehead and mutter ‘of course’ because he makes it seem so obvious. Onward the author forges, discussing the virtues of good design, working safely, and tricks the pros use. There’s a strong emphasis on managing water, the most precious resource for us in southern California. Owen also tackles the complex subject of hardscape (all the stuff in a landscape that isn’t plants), showing how elegant spaces can be created with earth-friendly materials and old stuff we can put back to use.

Of course there’s lots of information about plants, starting with the idea that plants aren’t just for decoration—they can DO something, like provide habitat for birds, reduce energy consumption and feed you and your family. The greenery section even zooms in on ways to make container gardening more sustainable. I could go on, but I’m running out of space—just get the book.”

Billy Goodnick, Landscape Architect & Author, “Yards: Turn Any Outdoor Space Into the Garden of Your Dreams”

“Last night I surveyed, read and savored the content of your new book, Sustainable Landscaping for Dummies. Your friendly and humor-filled choice of words is truly unique in the field of horticultural reference works. Any future teaching by me about landscape gardening will use your book as it’s ‘Bible’ to present a new and urgently needed paradigm for stewardship of the earth. After reading your book, how can a person garden any other way?”

John Dotter, Horticulturist, Appropriate Horticulture

A Review in Pacific Horticulture Magazine:

Landscape architect Owen Dell long ago established himself as a maverick, promoting design solutions that actually enhanced the natural ecology of a site, while providing wonderful spaces for outdoor living and gardening. His seminal articles in Pacific Horticulture (Winter ’98) may have incorporated the first use of the term “sustainable” in reference to the garden, although the concept of a regionally appropriate definitions, chemical-free, wildlife-friendly, and resource-efficient approach to garden making has been a dominant theme of the magazine since its founding in 1976. Owen has spoken at two of the magazine’s Gardening Under Mediterranean Skies symposia, and he will be a bonus speaker on Friday nights at the two weekends of edition VII in Santa Barbara this fall. So it was with great enthusiasm that I learned of Owen’s new publication, Sustainable Landscaping for Dummies. And what a resource it is!While there may be many definitions of “sustainable,” Owen focuses on key ideas that make sustainable landscaping work: recognize the garden as a living system based on nature; aim for stability as the garden matures (particularly important to reduce pruning needs); recycle and repurpose materials; accept local conditions (especially climate and soils); and carefully consider the inputs and outputs of a garden to minimize impacts both within and outside of the garden (e.g., reducing the use of toxic materials and fossil fuels). By putting these ideas into place in creating our gardens, we can have a profound beneficial impact on the future of our world.

Owen has created a complete textbook on the process of garden making, from conceptual design to implementation to management of the finished product—all with the underlying theme of sustainability, which is what sets this book apart from the countless others on the subject of garden design. He begins by emphasizing the need to understand the site, its opportunities and limitations, and to realistically evaluate your own needs in the garden. The clear, simple style of the Dummies series shines here, making the entire process accessible for novices, although Owen is frank in acknowledging that some situations (e.g., retaining walls, irrigation, and water features) may need professional help.

Owen covers both hardscape and softscape, always emphasizing the use of materials—living or otherwise—that will not adversely impact the environment. He discusses the structural elements that make up a garden (flooring, pathways, walls, and ceilings) and evaluates the role of hardscape materials (paving, stepping stones, gravel, fencing, overhead arbors) versus softscape materials (walk-on ground covers, hedging, and trees) in creating those structural elements.

Several chapters are devoted to the issue of water in the landscape—from harvesting the natural rainfall, to the most efficient ways to design, use, and maintain irrigation systems. Though his professional work is primarily in Santa Barbara, where water is a constant concern, he writes for gardeners anywhere, emphasizing, as always, the need to understand the local situation. But he never never fails to remind his readers that the future remains a question mark because of global climate change; we all need to conserve water in every way we can.

Nearly one-third of the book is devoted to a discussion of the selection and care of plants in the garden. Given the national audience of the Dummies series, Owen wisely avoids any detail of specific plants, since he could not adequately serve the entire country. Rather, he focuses on the role that plants play in a sustainable garden (shade, screening, ground covering, wildlife habitat, and food production) and the practices that will ensure their healthy growth with minimal effort and expense to the garden owner. Again, adaptability to the regional climate is point one, along with the need to select plants suited to the space available—to avoid unnecessary pruning to control each plant’s growth.

Sustainable garden care fills several chapters, emphasizing alternatives to chemicals for fertilizing or pest and disease control, as well as alternatives to the fossil-fuel-burning power equipment that destroys the peace and quiet of most neighborhoods today. Lawns receive attention in their own chapter, geared primarily for those who simply cannot have a landscape without one and are blessed with natural rainfall during the warm growing season. Owen recommends exploring low-maintenance grasses that are now available for almost every region of the country, or walk-on ground covers, mulch, and, in the right situation, meadows. But no plastic lawns! They contribute nothing to the environment, increase the urban heat island effect, often involve fossil fuels or toxic chemicals in their manufacture, and merely add to the waste stream when they reach the end of their useful lives.

There is a substantial amount of reading in Sustainable Landscaping for Dummies, since there are no photographs and only a relatively few line drawings (plus the usual cartoons that begin each section of a Dummies). For those not up to that much reading, The Part of Tens provides a capsule summary of ten quick projects that will make a positive impact on the environment, along with ten totally nonsustainable mistakes to avoid. Finally, just inside the front cover is a tear-out Cheat Sheet that offers an even briefer rundown on the simplest ways to make your landscape sustainable, set up a water-thrifty landscape, select the right plants for the right place, and find sustainable alternatives to power equipment and chemicals.

Richard Turner, Pacific Horticulture Magazine

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