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Lori Cochran in her meadow. Photo by Designport.

Featured Article

How Does Your Garden Grow?

A guide to a more sustainable, more beautiful garden.

Transitioning part or all of your yard to a sustainable garden can be, believe it or not, joyful, easy, and cost-saving. Sustainable gardens aim to minimize negative impacts on our ecosystem, conserve natural resources, and promote overall well-being for the human, animal, and insect populations in the area. As someone who “snoops” around in gardens doing stories for Designport, I’ve found that these are also some of the most beautiful gardens in town, replete with colorful wildflowers, willowy grasses, and organic compositions. Here’s a look at some gorgeous sustainable gardens we’ve seen, and a few ways you can green-ify your own garden, including tips from local experts.

Lose the Lawn, Make a Meadow
An easy and beautiful way to green-scape part of your property is to create a meadow in place of traditional turf grass. “Meadows not only promote biodiversity, prevent soil erosion, and improve water quality, but they also offer a visually appealing alternative to lawns throughout all four seasons," says landscape designer Allison Feuer. Additionally, meadows provide a habitat for beneficial insects and small animals during the winter, contributing to a healthier ecosystem.

Shop Local, Native, and Diverse

Whether you are making a meadow or creating a more sustainable garden bed, it's important to the health of our local ecosystems to use a diverse range of native plants that attract various pollinators, like birds, bees, and butterflies. Jay Petrow, the owner and principal designer of PetrowGardens Landscape Design and an instructor at the New York Botanical Garden School of Horticulture, says he won’t take on a new project “unless I can enhance our ecology through the establishment of a new pollinator garden.”  He uses many native, drought tolerant plants in his landscapes which, in addition to supporting the environment, are generally more resilient and low-maintenance—a win-win. Another bonus, he says, this approach goes hand in hand with designing for maximum beauty: “Our gardens are colorful, complex in their physical structure, and always changing from spring through fall and into winter.” 

Watch Your Water
According to Acquarion Water Company, the average suburban house uses at least 30 percent of its water for irrigation, even though more than 50 percent of landscape water is lost due to evaporation or over-watering.  Using water-efficient irrigation methods, like drip-lines, or using soaker hoses to deliver water directly to plant roots, can minimize some of this water waste.

You can also water your plants with gently-used grey water from your tub or washing machine.  Or consider buying a collection barrel to store rainwater running off your roof for irrigation. It’s a minimal investment: prices for the barrel system start at around $150.  Lori Cochran, the director of the Westport Farmers Market, has one at her home and uses the recaptured water to maintain her vegetable garden and planters.

While planning your landscape, also consider integrating bird feeders, bee hotels, and water features to let wildlife know they are welcome. Cochran’s tip? Save those non-recyclable take-out containers and use them to help hydrate small birds and animals in the hotter months. 

Because summer will be here before you know it— but with these tips, your garden will be ready.

For more beautiful local landscapes and garden tips, visit and follow on Instagram @my_designport

  • One of Jay Petrow's gardens. Photo by Jay Petrow.
  • One of Jay Petrow's gardens. Photo by Jay Petrow.
  • Garden by Allison Feuer Designs. Photo by Stacy Bass.
  • Lori Cochran in her meadow. Photo by Designport.
  • Lori Cochran demonstrates one of her small-animal water stations. Photo by Designport.
  • Garden meadows by Allison Feuer Designs. Photo by Allison Feuer.