Landscape improvements? Consider these tips

Spending some winter downtime on what to plant, and improvements to make in the growing season, is time-honored.

The American Society of Landscape Architects is keen to understand past, present and future consumer demand for landscape improvements, and recently published its 2016 survey results.

If you are considering how to make your outdoor space more usable, or perhaps getting a home ready to sell, this is worth a look. Here are the top 10 project types with the expected highest consumer demand and a few comments on those improvements based on what I see in Columbus and Indiana.

Rainwater harvesting

My only regret about my personal rain barrel is that I didn’t hook one up to a downspout years ago. OK, except for that time when a chipmunk drowned by turning it all into a big waterslide.My rain barrel lets me save drinking water for drinking and avoid dosing my plants with chlorine. Spigots are great, but my rain barrel is located more conveniently, so it’s a win-win.

The Bartholomew Soil and Water Conservation District offers a rebate on rain barrels presently. Call 812-378-1280 for more information.

Native plants

You can help to make up for some lost songbird and pollinator habitat by choosing landscape plants that give back. Whether you’re providing cover or food or nectar, well-chosen natives can provide hospitality, interest and beauty.Drought-tolerant plantsSomeday, we may wonder why we ever used landscape plants that needed supplemental water after establishment. How great to enjoy a property populated with beautifully adapted plants that don’t need the expense or bother of extra water.

Low-maintenance landscapes

Avoiding unnecessary work has always been a hallmark of the low-maintenance approach. Choosing well, by matching plants with growing conditions as well as your own requirements, can make for a home run.There is little downside when you start with your USDA Hardiness Zone, and consider only plants resistant to disease and insects. You will find some great selections to meet your interest and requirements.

Permeable paving

As development leads to more paved surfaces, permeable paving can help to drain water and recharge an aquifer. In the 30 years that I have been observing on-purpose permeable surfaces, I’ve seen some epic failures, so it’s wise to do some research if you think you want to go with a greener surface.

Fire pits/fireplaces

A fire pit can be a fun landscape feature, but be aware that open burning is subject to municipal code. To find out more about the City of Columbus’ rules on fire pits, give the Columbus Fire Department’s administrative office a call at 812-376-2679.

Food/vegetable gardens

This includes orchards, vineyards, etc.America’s top hobby continues to grow, and I spend much of my working time answering questions from folks who are keen on homegrown produce. If you are brushing up or gearing up, consider the Landscape 101 Series that begins at Bartholomew County Public Library on March 29. We’ll cover organic vegetables, tree fruits and keyhole gardens. Check BCPL’s program guides for March and April.

Rain gardens

Another means of capturing and percolating rainfall before sending it downstream is rain gardening. Have a look at Purdue Extensions Rainscaping page at, and watch for our workshops.In 2015, one of our workshop classes built a rain garden at IUPUC, which works as a pollinator preserve as well a focus of some outdoor study.

Drip/water-efficient irrigation

The more we can water the soil, rather than the plant tissue or the air, the more effective and efficient our watering becomes. Drip irrigation, along with other methods, can help to accomplish this.

Reduced lawn area

Lawn is defined as a traffic-tolerant groundcover. A good test for whether you need lawn in a specific spot is whether you — or others — will need to walk on it. If there won’t be foot traffic, there are groundcover choices that are less expensive to maintain.There’s nothing like the restful green foil of a lawn to gaze upon, so some designers find ways to limit size, leaving room for those native plants and other landscape features that may be more desirable to the client.

If we can just keep the chipmunks off of the water features.