Project Category: Lawn & Garden

Make Your Own Compost Tea

Healthy soil is critical to healthy lawns.

And the healthiest soil is one with natural bacteria and organisms. Soil should be alive, with trillions of living organisms right under our feet! Many lawns and garden soils have lost this life, and as a result, we see dead grass, yellow leaves, and pests. The best, natural solution to fix your soil is to add compost tea. Most of us have heard of compost – organic material used as fertilizer. Compost tea concentrates the healthy microorganisms and makes it easier for them to be added to soil. It’s the fast track to healthy soil! Compost tea helps plants fight off pests and maintains healthy bacteria balances in your soil. Compost tea applies microorganisms directly to the leaves of the plants, where it can attack pests and form a protective layer of life. In the soil, the microorganisms gobble up decaying matter, make nutrients available for use by the plant, aerate the soil, and fight off pests.

Plant a Tree

Plant a Tree

Trees work long and hard to benefit the environment.

Trees, especially large trees, offer a long list of benefits besides their natural beauty. They help clean air and water; take up stormwater; reduce erosion; provide wildlife habitat; filter carbon dioxide out of the air; serve as windbreaks; and provide shade for buildings, driveways, and outside air conditioners and air-source heat pumps, helping these systems operate more efficiently. Strategically sited shade trees can reduce home energy use by an average of 249 kilowatt-hours per year, or about 2%. Plant deciduous shade trees – those that lose their leaves in the winter – to shade the southern exposure of your home in the summer, but still allow winter sun to warm your home. Plant evergreens for windbreaks.  
Image of a girl planting a tree

Image credit: alexkatkov/Shutterstock

   

Create a Conservation Landscape

Go native for a beautiful, biodiverse, beneficial landscape.

Conservation landscaping can help protect air and water, manage stormwater, conserve energy, and provide a more beautiful, healthier human environment. By using native plants and low-input designs, you’ll reduce water, pesticide and fertilizer use, and save time compared to maintaining a lawn. Native plants are a vital element in your conservation landscape — they’ve adapted to the local climate, need little fertilizing, and are typically more drought-tolerant and pest-resistant than introduced varieties. Many are also important food and shelter sources for birds and beneficial insects including honeybees, ladybugs and butterflies.   Conservation landscape  

Keep Your Storm Drain Clean

Whatever you keep out of the storm drain, you keep out of our streams.

Water that washes off your property into the storm drain — stormwater runoff — doesn’t go to a treatment plant. It often times goes straight into our streams. Storm drains can become clogged with excess leaves, tree branches and trash, which can lead to storm drain back-ups that flood streets, your yard and possibly your basement! Trash and contaminants that flow from storm drains into our local streams eventually flow into rivers including the Potomac, which empties into the Chesapeake Bay. It may not seem like a big deal, but you can do a lot to keep our waterways clean just by being sure to tidy your yard, dispose of trash properly, and clean up after your dog, and by encouraging your neighbors to do the same. Here are some simple steps to keep your storm drain and your waterways clean:   Sweeping leaves away from storm drain    

Install a Rain Garden

A beautiful idea for protecting our streams.

Rain gardens are a beautiful way to use your landscape to soak up and filter excess rainwater and keep it from entering storm drains or directly into streams. Additionally, when you use native plants in your rain garden, you help create a diverse habitat with food sources for birds and beneficial insects likes honeybees and butterflies.   Residential rain garden    

Reduce Turf

Reduce Turf

Spend less time mowing, more time enjoying.

Grass is great to play on and nice to look at, but lawns are not the best thing for the environment or your pocketbook. Mowers and fertilizer are major sources of pollution, and lawns can drink shocking quantities of water. By reducing lawn to less than 40% of your landscape, you’ll save significant time and money on equipment, gas, fertilizer and maintenance. Replace that grass with native plants, which are adapted to the climate and maintain their appearance all summer, and your yard will look great and be a haven for butterflies, birds, and other wildlife.  
Mowing the grass with a pushmower

Image credit: marekuliasz/Shutterstock

 

Install Rain Barrels

Capture water for your garden and keep our streams clean.

In our temperate climate, we rarely experience drought. To the contrary, our rainfall is generous, and in our dense urban/suburban environment, it can carry harmful pollutants into our waterways. Harvesting rain water with rain barrels under one or more of your downspouts provides an abundant source of water for your landscape, can help reduce your water bill, and protects our streams, rivers, and bay. Let your rain barrel drain into a conservation landscape or rain garden throughout a rain event for additional storm water and pollutant reduction.  

Improve Your Landscape Performance

Do the natural thing!

The grounds and gardens around our home are our oasis and a personal reflection of our regard for our environment. How we use and care for them has a significant environmental impact. Proper, sustainable maintenance techniques and planting lower-maintenance plants can reduce inputs needed, and that’s always better for the environment. With low-maintenance, high-performance landscaping, you’ll save time, conserve our natural resources, and still get great looking results. Here are some general guidelines:
  • Use native plants: They’ve adapted to the local climate, need little organic input, are more pest-resistant, and often are more drought-tolerant than introduced varieties. Many are also important food and shelter sources for beneficial insects like butterflies and honeybees, as well as birds and other wildlife.
  • Compost your trimmings: Grass clippings, leaves, twigs, branches — along with kitchen scraps — yield nutrient-rich compost that’s highly beneficial for your lawn and garden.
  • Avoid pesticides: Many organic methods of pest control are effective; use pesticides only as a last resort.
  • Test before fertilizing: Too much can lead to contamination and cause harmful algal blooms in local waterways and the Chesapeake Bay. Use sparingly, and choose slow-release and/or organic products whenever possible.