Naturescaping

Naturescaping helps you create an attractive landscape that saves time, money, and water.
Front yard of a home designed using naturescaping principles

What is Naturescaping?

Naturescaping is using smart design and specific plants to reduce the environmental impact of your yard while still creating a beautiful, usable space.

Naturescaping is similar to xeriscaping, which is the term for yards designed to use little or no water. The term naturescaping includes other aspects like biodiversity into the design.

Why Naturescape?

Top view of a front yard designed using naturescaping principles

Plant key for naturescaping drawings (pdf)  

Save water

Red Deer’s residential water use rises significantly in the summer. A lot of that precious water runs down the sidewalk into the storm drain or evaporates before people or plants can use it. A naturescaped yard reduces your water bill while easing demand on the City’s water treatment and delivery systems.

Low maintenance

A thoughtfully naturescaped area will become very low-maintenance, usually within one or two seasons.

Maintain biodiversity

A naturescaped yard will invite a complex network of living things by providing valuable habitat for birds, bees, butterflies and more.

More resilient

A well maintained, healthy and diverse landscape is less likely to suffer from pest problems or to need pesticides or fertilizers.

One type of naturescaping is xeriscaping. Learn more about xeriscaping in Red Deer with this video.

Lots of plant options

There are lots of options for plants that are drought resistant, climate tolerant and adaptable to varying conditions in our area. See our list of recommended flowers, grasses, shrubs and trees for planting in Red Deer (pdf) For a list of edible plants in Red Deer, view the Edible trees, shrubs and vines leaflet (pdf)

Principles of Naturescaping 

1. Planning and Design

Consider conditions such as slopes, sun and wind exposure: how will they affect water on your land? Avoid building too many surfaces that do not allow rainfall or melting snow to penetrate. Start your planting with large features such as trees, raised beds, or stonework, then move on to shrubs, flowers and ground cover.

Group plants with similar watering requirements together so that only limited portions of the landscape need extra water, and grade the garden to collect moisture and help those plants get enough water.

Remember to call before you dig so you don’t sever any vital services or risk your personal safety.

2. Practical Turf Areas

Grass requires more maintenance and water. Consider replacing turf with planting beds, tiered gardens, raised beds, flowering trees, native shrubs or perennial ground cover that you won’t have to cut, especially in areas that are difficult to mow. 

If you need some grass, select a drought tolerant mix. Kentucky bluegrass isn’t your only choice, and Alberta isn’t Kentucky. The climate here is much drier, and the winters are much colder, which puts a lot of stress on lawn grasses (even if they are grown nearby).

Any monoculture lawn (only one variety of grass) is susceptible to drought, pests and disease. Shallow rooted grasses need a lot of water, all the time, to maintain that "golf course green" look. Often, a mix of fescue, ryegrass, and other local grasses would be a better choice.

3. Soil Improvement

Healthy soil is better at retaining moisture and nutrients. Local soils often need help from mulch, compost, conditioners (manure, sand, perlite, etc.) or aeration to grow plants more effectively. Sandy soils drain quickly. Clay soils may not.

4. Appropriate Tree Selection

Native trees are usually a good choice because they are used to the local conditions and resistant to diseases and insects. Many indigenous species of trees and shrubs will not need more water than nature provides once they have established an extensive root system (usually two growing seasons).

Be sure the selection suits the site. Leave ample room for growth. Talk to an experienced local landscaper or arborist for tree planting advice.

5. Appropriate Plant Selection

Choose flowers and shrubs that are adapted to Alberta’s dry climate. They can withstand periods of dryness and high temperatures with minimal irrigation.

Native plants are your best choice because they are adapted to local conditions. Group plants with similar light and water requirements together (some plants will need more water to get started than others).

6. Efficient Irrigation

Direct downspouts into your garden or rain barrel, not onto the street.

Use a drip hose rather than a sprinkler to reduce evaporation. If you’re building a new garden or improving your existing one, look carefully at drip irrigation systems. If you have an automatic irrigation system, check and adjust it at least once a month.

7. Much More Mulch

Mulch your planting beds to reduce evaporation, control weed growth, prevent erosion and moderate soil temperature.

Bark, wood chips or shredded mulch on the surface reduce evaporation and increase soil moisture retention while suppressing weeds. Try a mix of colours and textures to add interest.

8. Biodiversity

Use plants that attract birds, butterflies, bats and bees. Avoid synthetic chemicals as they kill worms and beneficial insects and can contribute to water pollution.

9. Appropriate Maintenance

Over-watering plants contributes to rapid, weak plant growth, fertilizer leaching, insect and disease problems and weed growth. Reduce your workload by applying only as much water as your plants need. Water early in the morning or in the evening to avoid waste through evaporation.

Let lawn grow 2.5 - 3 inches (6 - 8 cm) high to shade the roots and hold soil moisture. Cutting too short too often will damage what little lawn you have left. Remember, the more you water, the more you cut. If you use sprinklers, put a Frisbee or tuna can on the lawn – when it has been filled by the sprinkler, your lawn has enough water.