How can hardscaping benefit my lawn and landscape?
Hardscaping is the use of hard materials such as rock, stone, concrete and pavers. These hard materials are what bring value to your landscape design. Hard materials like these are the things that require no replacement. As great as this seems to be, to have a Florida friendly garden, you still need other elements.
Is hardscaping the remedy?
If you are having trouble growing grass or plants due to poor soil composition, or if an area stays wet for long periods of time, a hardscape may be a good remedy to that problem. Hard materials such as stone and rock absorb heat from the sun and can dry soil near and under it. Concrete can do the same thing.
If you look at how fast a wet driveway can dry after a rain, you will notice that once the sun is back out, it doesn’t take much time. Next time it rains, pay attention to the street. As the rain hits the hot pavement, it quickly turns to vapor and goes right back into the atmosphere. This is good for standing water, but to have a good balance, you still need plants.
Knowing where to plant
Planting live materials inside of rock areas is not a good practice and the results are generally not positive. As mentioned above, rocks can absorb heat and dry the soil, so placing a live plant in that situation and expecting it to do well is a recipe for disappointment.
Plants should be in an area that can hold moisture yet drain well (so the roots don’t rot). Wood mulch is best for ground cover around most plants, but there are some that can do well inside of a shell bed. Seashell is another form of hardscape material, and some plants can actually do well in this environment.
How much is too much?
The purpose of hardscaping in a Florida-friendly landscape design is to provide good drainage and minimize run off. Run off should be routed to planting areas (not storm drains) so drainage can occur there.
This is the ideal way to utilize a hardscape within a Florida-friendly landscape design. There should always be a balance of hard and soft materials such as mulch or bark, live plants and maybe a little turf (if you have to have grass in your yard).
Too much hardscape can lead to a “heat island effect,” which is when surfaces that were once permeable and moist are now impermeable and dry, creating an island of higher temperature around the building. Shade trees are a great way to reduce this risk. Proper planning is also a great way to reduce the chances of causing this effect. Like any other improvement project, if you fail to plan, plan to fail.