a rich bed of native plants with honeycomb limestone border

What is Ecological Landscape Maintenance?

We all know about “mow and blow.” The typical landscape maintenance model emphasizes periodic visits that look the same every time: Mow, trim, weed, then blow the debris into a pile and haul it off.

But this approach is costly, time-consuming, and does not positively engage with ecological processes. Maas Verde wanted a better, ecological landscape maintenance program, so we built our own.

Key Concepts:

    • Soil health

    • Balancing aesthetics and functionality

    • Conserving resources and saving clients money

Ecological landscape maintenance is an affordable and vital component of landscape restoration. The substance of ecological landscaping usually involves site remediation. Restoring soil health and building functioning plant communities that host beneficial wildlife — while satisfying the client’s goals and aesthetic preferences — are the objectives.

So, ongoing maintenance must serve these outcomes. Maintenance performed ecologically can save clients thousands of dollars over mow and blow services, produce healthier landscapes, and conserve resources.

“Maintenance tends to be undervalued. Although, for a restoration project, it’s probably the number one most critical piece,” Maas Verde president and founder Ted Maas said. “You’re trying to steward a system from its current, degraded state into a new, ecological direction. It’s a process-oriented approach, so it requires ongoing maintenance and monitoring.”

At Maas Verde, this takes shape as a low-impact model that focuses on creating healthy soil to propagate healthy plants. We arrive at every job site with all the tools we need — including mowers and blowers. But the most important tool in the kit for the ecological landscape maintenance technician is knowledge of soils and species.

two landscapers discussing a project

Take a south-facing turfgrass lawn that receives all-day sun exposure. Maas Verde will mow and trim this grass selectively, to help the grass survive its hot, dry location. Over-mown grass will refuse to root deeply, leaving it vulnerable to drought and death. Longer blades promote deeper roots, making the plant resilient and limiting dependency on artificial irrigation.

Roots naturally aerate and de-compact soil, encouraging nutrient cycling. Over time, this limits soil erosion (a significant pollutant) and fosters healthier plant communities.

Low-Impact Maintenance

The reality is, most urban and suburban soils are heavily depleted. Soil restoration requires long-term efforts and, in many cases, lab testing. Responsible plantings, well-informed composting, and programmed irrigation are big pieces of the puzzle.

It’s important to interpret each landscape as a system, and many systems involve non-native invasives as well as desired native species. The ecological approach entails an evaluation before you weed or prune a plant.

“Balancing the appearance and functionality of a landscape is important. Native plants, generally, do not want to get cut into boxes by hedge cutters,” Maas said. “So pruning is an art. Nature doesn’t make straight lines, and we consider that along with landscape aesthetics in all maintenance work.”

a maintained, manicured landscape
Ecologically-maintained landscapes can serve a function, like this planted dry creek, and look neat and tidy.

For all the desired outcomes of a landscape maintenance plan, there’s also one inherent hurdle: Plant survival. In any landscape that’s not artificial, plants will die. Maas Verde interprets these events not as failures, but opportunities.

“It’s actually good for your site, because it gives us information we can apply to our process-oriented landscaping overall,” project manager Marc Opperman said. “Instead of treating those plant deaths as failures, they’re points of data that allow us to refine and, in a sense, upgrade what we do.”

Plant death is not waste, and neither is leaf litter. There is no waste in nature. Maas Verde’s maintenance model mimics this wasteless system, conserving resources, money, and the environment at large.

That’s the reason we base our maintenance plans on seasons and weather patterns, instead of traditional bi-weekly or monthly visits.

“It’s temperature and rainfall. Plants you don’t want will sprout up after a rain. You’ll have dormancy during a hot, dry summer,” Maas explained. “We ultimately want these landscapes to be resilient — not dependent on maintenance.”

You can start a maintenance plan with Maas Verde here.

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