7 Ways to Soundscape Your Landscape

pondless waterfall surrounded by rocks and landscaping

Your landscape is a treat for the nose and eyes, but is it perking up your ears, too? Nature sounds signal that your landscape is a thriving ecosystem full of life, making it all the more inviting to explore. 

From tweeting birds to soaring winds, you can bring nature’s music right to your backyard.

Soundscaping allows you to further immerse yourself in your garden or outdoor living space –– and improves your well-being. 

What is a soundscape?

A soundscape is a combination of sounds that are formed by or emerge from a surrounding environment. For example, the combined sounds of chatting passerby, honking horns, and rumbling tires creates a city soundscape. 

What sounds come to mind when you think of the natural world in your backyard? Birdsongs, wind chimes, babbling brooks –– all these types of sounds create a landscape soundscape. 

What are the benefits of soundscaping your landscape?

Soundscaping is the process of combining different sounds to achieve a soundscape. By soundscaping your landscape with pleasant sounds, you can create an immersive environment that brings you closer to nature. 

There is growing evidence that natural sounds

  • Improve health
  • Lower stress
  • Decrease pain
  • Improve mood
  • Enhance cognitive performance

A natural soundscape also helps reduce exposure to noise –– a.k.a, human sounds. Speeding highways, construction sites, and large crowds don’t quite elicit a calming effect. Noise is often referred to as noise pollution and has potential negative effects, such as: 

  • Hearing loss
  • Hypertension 
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • High annoyance levels
  • Obscured natural sounds

Because noise often pollutes protected environments, such as national parks, natural soundscape conservation is becoming increasingly more important. Shouldn’t it be critical to conserve (or create) natural sounds in your landscape, too?

7 ways to soundscape your landscape

1. Invite birds

When songbirds twitter in the trees, relaxation, and concentration seem to increase. But why? 

One theory is that bird sounds calm us physically and stimulate us mentally. Over thousands of years, humans have learned that where there are singing birds, there is also safety. Bird songs are also nature’s alarm clock and signal the start of a new day, which stimulates our brains. 

So how can you invite these flyers to your landscape? Here are a few tips: 

  • Hang bird feeders. Birds won’t be able to resist the irresistible snack. Remember to store away the feeders at night –– otherwise, it might attract wild animals. 
  • Install birdhouses. Who can say no to a cozy dwelling?
  • Fill a birdbath with water. Birds love a safe place where they can take a bath and quench their thirst. 
  • Grow berry bushes. Birds love to swallow up berries. But if you want to eat the berries yourself, you’ll have some pretty strong competitors. 

2. Attract pollinators

The rhythm of beating wings from insects, bats, hummingbirds, and songbirds creates peaceful outdoor acoustics. While these pollinators are buzzing around for nectar, you can meditate to the encompassing vibrations. 

Here are some simple DIY tricks to attracting pollinators to your landscape: 

  • Grow a flower garden. Pollinators won’t stop by your landscape if there is nothing to pollinate. 
  • Say yes to native plants. Local pollinators are more likely to respond to native plants than non-native plants. 
  • Plant various colors and species. Different pollinators are attracted to different colors and plant species. ​​For example, hummingbirds enjoy flowers with bright colors and a tubular shape perfect for their long beak, such as cardinal flowers. 
  • Stagger blooming times. Stretching your garden’s blooming period between spring and fall will ensure a more extended visit from pollinators. 
  • Provide shelter. Shrubs are an excellent source of refuge for pollinators. You also can grow specific plants that certain pollinators use for shelter and raising young.
  • Provide water. A birdbath, basin, or fountain can provide pollinators with a refreshing sip. Just remember to keep it clean.
  • Avoid synthetic pesticides. Your garden becomes unwelcoming to insect pollinators after a pesticide treatment. Some organic pesticides are safe for pollinators, but you must apply them with care.
  • Hang hummingbird feeders. These little flyers adore sugar water. Mix one part sugar with four parts water until the sugar dissolves. 

3. Crush it with river rock

There’s something oddly satisfying about those crunch sounds when walking on river rock or gravel. Give your landscape that extra dose of gratification with river rock walkways, driveways, or other outdoor surfaces.

4. Listen to the wind

Fun fact: Wind doesn’t make a sound until it passes through or comes in contact with an object. As the wind whooshes through your landscape, find a clever way to capture its presence. 

  • Hang wind chimes. As the wind breezes by, your chimes will sing a charming melody. 
  • Plant trees and shrubs. Not only does the sound of rustling leaves signal wind is passing through, but it’s soothing to the ears, too. For example, quaking aspen leaves make a ‘quacking’ or ‘crackling’ sound when they blow in the wind. The Onondaga people are said to have called the tree “nut-kie-e,” meaning “noisy leaf.” 
  • Grow ornamental grasses. Similar to rustling trees and shrubs, rustling grass enhances an outdoor soundscape. 

5. Welcome the sound of water

Our worries quickly wash away to the sounds of babbling brooks, splashing ponds, and dripping rain. Turn your outdoor soundscape into a realm of relaxation with water features, including:

  • Traditional water fountains
  • Water gardens
  • Pondless waterfalls
  • Bubbling rock fountains
  • Water spouts
  • Waterwalls
  • Rain curtains

6. Install outdoor speakers

If you don’t live in an area with much wildlife or your yard is too small to support significant landscape features, you can achieve a natural soundscape by installing an outdoor sound system. 

Grab the remote and play your favorite recorded nature soundscape as background sound. There are plenty of free soundscapes available online. And who knows, you might find yourself relaxing to your favorite music playlist or podcast while lounging outdoors. 

7. Block noise pollution

The key to soundscaping your outdoor space is to landscape for noise reduction also. A serene soundscape shouldn’t be interrupted by noise pollution. Help block out passing cars and the neighbor’s garage band with:

  • Solid fencing
  • Hedges 
  • Ivy
  • Tall and dense trees or shrubs

Soundscape with a lawn care pro

Did you know a healthy, dense lawn can help buffer noise from the street? Hire a local lawn care professional to mow, edge, and aerate the lawn. While you rest in your soothing soundscape, don’t let the stress of yard work enter your thoughts –– leave it to the pros. 

Main Photo Credit: PondGuy | Pixabay

Jane Purnell

Jane Purnell is a freelance writer and actor in New York City. She earned her B.A. from the University of Virginia and enjoys a warm cup of French press coffee.