Landscaping and Gardening Without Polluting the Bay

Landscaping with the Bay in Mind

The way we manage our gardens and yards impacts our Chesapeake Bay watershed and its inhabitants. The excess nutrients many people use to develop their land wash into storm drains that go into the Bay, reducing its water quality and hurting the local wildlife. Urban and suburban runoff is responsible for 30 percent of the Bay’s phosphorus load and 10 percent of its nitrogen. It’s crucial that each of us reduce our contribution to this polluted runoff to sustain our watershed. Follow these tips to create something you can be proud of without harming our waterways.

1. Don’t over-fertilize.

If you’re going to fertilize, do it at the right times. Restrict fertilize use to the fall season and don’t fertilize if heavy rain is predicted. Remember that just because there’s an upper limit on how much to fertilize, doesn’t mean you have to reach it. The less you use, the less nutrients potentially end up in our waterways.

2. Avoid pesticide use by planting native plants.

Native plants require less care and are less susceptible to pests, insects and disease, so choosing these plants for your garden can eliminate the need for pesticides. Bonus: You’ll be creating a natural habitat for local wildlife, such as songbirds and butterflies.

3. Don’t water your grass.

Resisting the urge to water your lawn in the summer is a great way to reduce your contribution to polluted runoff that ends up in our Bay. It won’t die. Worst case scenario: It turns brown but will turn green again in the fall. If you do water, water once and deeply rather than frequently. Giving your grass half an inch of water is suffice. Find out how long it takes for your lawn sprinkler to provide half an inch of water by putting a container, such as a tuna or yogurt container, outside with the sprinklers on and noting how long it takes to accumulate half an inch.

4. Add some other greenery to your lawn.

By planting more trees and plants among the grass on your lawn, you create more opportunities for the water to sink into the ground rather than run off into the Bay.

5. Become a Watershed Steward

Planting native grasses, shrubs, trees and other plants is a critical step in protecting the watershed from erosion and stormwater pollution. This is one of many lessons taught to future watershed stewards at the Watershed Stewards Academy in Anne Arundel County, Maryland. Through this organization, residents are educated on the risks that threaten our Bay and preventive strategies to protect it. Once trained, Master Watershed Stewards work with their communities to assess watersheds, educate communities, reduce pollutants and take action. Learn more about how you can join the initiative and become an environmental leader for your community!


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