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Best Practices for Landscape Professionals

California natives and other climate-appropriate plants provide habitat for bees and other pollinators and beneficial insects.

New to sustainable landscape practices? Start with the Bay-Friendly Basics checklist

Ready to go beyond the basics? Learn about the whole-systems approach to sustainability

Bay-Friendly Basics: Nine Simple Steps to Sustainability

If you're new to sustainable landscape practices, a good place to start is with the Bay-Friendly Basics. These nine fundamental practices should be part of every landscape construction or renovation project:

  1. Apply a 3 inch layer of mulch to all soil.
  2. Amend the soil with 1 inch of compost, or bring soil organic matter content to 3.5%.
  3. Divert 50% of landscape construction and demolition debris from the waste stream.
  4. Choose and locate plants to grow to their natural size.
  5. Don't plant invasive species.
  6. Grow climate-adapted plants that require little or no summer water for 75% of all non-turf plants.
  7. Keep the turf area to no more than 25% of total irrigated area.
  8. Use weather-based irrigation controllers that include a moisture or rain sensor shutoff.
  9. Don't use sprinkler and spray heads for areas less than 8 feet wide.

​Find out more about the Bay-Friendly Basics Checklist.

Whole-Systems Approach to Sustainability

As you grow more familiar with high performance landscapes, you can incorporate additional practices into your projects. To grow your expertise in designing, installing or maintaining high performance landscapes, consider enrolling in a training program to become a Bay-Friendly Qualified Landscape Professional.

Here's a short list of best practices for creating sustainable landscapes. For more details, download the Bay-Friendly Landscape Guidelines: Sustainable Practices for the Landscape Professional.

Site Planning

  • Select and evaluate the site carefully
  • Consider the potential for fire
  • Keep plant debris on- site by producing mulch and compost from plant debris
  • Reduce and recycle waste by creating an accessible area for collecting recyclables
  • Minimize site disturbance
  • Provide water and/or shelter for wildlife, such as bird houses, bat houses, boulders, logs, wood piles, large native shrubs and trees
  • Conserve or restore natural areas and wildlife corridors

Stormwater and Site Drainage

  • Minimize impervious surfaces
  • Design a system to capture and filter stormwater, such as vegetated swales, infiltration planters, detention basins, or stormwater wetlands

Earthwork and Soil Health

  • Assess the soil and test drainage
  • Remove and store topsoil before grading
  • Protect soil from compaction
  • Aerate compacted soils
  • Feed soils naturally and avoid synthetic fertilizers
  • Protect all soil with a minimum of three inches of recycled organic mulch
  • Amend the soil with quality compost before planting
  • Use integrated pest management (IPM) design and construction practices to prevent pest problems
  • Keep soil and organic matter where it belongs

Materials

  • Use salvaged items and recycled content materials
  • Reduce and recycle landscape construction waste
  • Reduce the heat island effect with cool site techniques
  • Design lighting carefully to minimize energy use, use solar power and reduce light pollution
  • Choose and maintain equipment for fuel conservation
  • Specify low embodied energy products
  • Use integrated pest management (IPM)
  • Use organic pest management—avoid pesticides prohibited by the Organic Materials Research Institute

Planting

  • Choose and locate plants to grow to natural size and avoid shearing
  • Do not plant invasive species
  • Grow drought-tolerant California native, Mediterranean or climate-adapted plants
  • Minimize lawns
  • Implement hydrozoning—group plants by water needs

Irrigation

  • Design for on-site rainwater collection, recycled water and/or graywater use
  • Design and install high efficiency irrigation systems, including weather-based irrigation controllers
  • Install a dedicated meter or submeter to monitor landscape water use

Maintenance

  • Provide shade to moderate building temperatures
  • Plant trees
  • Diversify the plant species
  • Choose California natives first
  • Design for on-site rainwater collection, recycled water and/or graywater use
  • Design and install high efficiency irrigation systems, including weather-based irrigation controllers
  • Install a dedicated meter or submeter to monitor landscape water use
  • Keep plant debris on site by grasscycling and producing mulch and compost from plant debris
  • Separate plant debris for clean green discounts
  • Protect soil from compaction
  • Feed soil naturally and avoid synthetic fertilizers
  • Mulch regularly to a minimum depth of three inches
  • Manage and maintain the irrigation system so every drop counts
  • Use integrated pest management (IPM) as part of maintenance practices
  • Choose and maintain your materials, equipment and vehicles carefully to minimize pollution and fuel consumption
  • Use organic pest management—avoid pesticides prohibited by the Organic Materials Research Institute

Innovation

  • Define and reference the Bay-Friendly Landscape Guidelines and Bay-Friendly principles in the construction bid documents
  • Design and install educational signage that describes the site's Bay-Friendly features
  • Create a detailed Bay-Friendly Maintenance task list or use the Bay-Friendly Maintenance Specification Guidelines as an official reference document in the landscape maintenance contract
  • Employ a holistic approach to the landscape design, construction and management (see the Scorecard for details)
  • Design your own Bay-Friendly innovation

Commercial Landscape Spotlight

VF Outdoor's Bay-Friendly Rated office campus in Alameda
At VF Outdoor, Sustainable Landscaping Is a Good Fit

The office campus of VF Outdoor in Alameda features a sustainable landscape design that reflects the company's global environmental goals. The landscape includes a water-conserving and climate-responsive plant palette suited to the environmentally sensitive coastal setting, an edible garden that provides healthy food to the campus cafeteria, and a variety of outdoor spaces for meetings, relaxation and recreation.

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