Landscape your yard, neighborhood and business efficiently and economically to help conserve water, reduce pollution and increase habitat.
Landscaping for Water Quality
Water is an important resource for our health, economy, and ecosystem. Landscaping practices can impact the quality of our water systems and the quantity of water that we use. Creating a landscape that requires less fertilizing, watering and mowing is easier on the homeowner and benefits our local environment.
Landscaping for Water Quality: Concepts and Garden Designs for Homeowners, Adapted for Maryland created by the Howard County Master Gardeners is full of local information and specific techniques to make your yard beautiful and beneficial to the larger environment.
The use of native plants in landscaping, sometimes called “Bayscaping” or “xeriscaping”, helps minimize invasive species, the need for watering, and the use of fertilizers and pesticides.
Native plants require little or no additional watering or fertilizing, once established, and can aid in soil retention, erosion control, and water filtration. Also, native plants provide valuable habitat for many native insect, bird, and mammal species in the region, as well as migrating species. Consider creating a backyard habitat garden at home, school, or work using native plants to attract these species.
Here is a link to the Howard County Master Gardeners’ list of Maryland Native Plant Sources. Also check plantbutterflies.org for native plant pocket cards, lists, planting guidance and the Monarch Sister Schools Program for help in setting up a butterfly garden at your school.
Check out the “Native Plant Passport”, created by Sonia He, a River Hill High School senior. The goal of the project is to plant more native plants in Howard County. To participate, purchase and plant 10 out of the 14 listed native plants on the passport and check off the plant and the nursery you got it from on the back of the passport. Completed Passports can be emailed to Julie Costantino and you will receive a coupon sheet with discounts to local nurseries such as Lowe’s, Sun Nurseries, Lauren’s Garden Service, and Grandfather’s Garden Center. Obtain your passport.
How do you know how your soil is doing? Soil testing is easy and inexpensive. It makes sense to find out if there is anything needed, before applying remedies like fertilizers and lime. Especially when they are going to run off into our waterways. If you hire a lawn maintenance service, make sure that they provide a soil test.
Extension’s Home and Garden Information Center website is also loaded with great gardening information that is specific to our region.
Selecting native plants nearly eliminates the need for watering and is a great way to save resources and money. Another great watering option is installing a rain barrel to retain water for use during dry periods. Rain Barrels can also be connected to a soaker hose to water landscapes slowly. Rain Gardens are designed to catch water so that it has time to soak into the land rather than running off and creating erosion and other problems. Learn more at the rain barrels and rain gardens page or find out about Howard County’s Rain Gardens for Clean Water Program
Drip irrigation, also called trickle irrigation, directs a slow release of water to the soil surface or directly onto root systems. Spray irrigation, the most common alternative, wastes a substantial amount of water by evaporation and is not suitable for most perennial. If you’re going to irrigate, choose drip irrigation for a greener selection, but consider irrigating and watering only newly planted lawns and plants. Remember, the more you water your lawn, the more you’ll have to mow it.
Mulch is simply a blanket of organic matter placed on the soil to insulate and hold in moisture, and can include anything from wood chips to leaves to coffee grounds. Mulch is inexpensive and it may be the best investment you make in your green landscaping project because it keeps weeds at bay much longer than compost alone. The ideal mulch is a mixture of 50% compost and 50% woody material, often available at your local landscaping center.
Remember not to choke your trees and shrubs by building the mulch layer too high along the trunk or main stem. Instead, try to keep mulch level so the mulch can also absorb water into the tree root system at the base.