Register for the fall rain garden + conservation landscaping class!

Register for the fall rain garden + conservation landscaping class!
The RainScapes program offers low-cost trainings to residents of Montgomery County, MD who are interested in using their property to improve water quality and provide habitat for wildlife.  These are extremely popular, so don’t miss out!


Stormwater Solutions: Conservation Landscapes and Rain Gardens Workshop

Workshop Dates and Times:
How to Sign Up: Register at activemontgomery.org.
Where: Brookside Gardens, Visitors Center Adult Classroom
Fee: $13 for Friends of Brookside Gardens or $15 for non-members

About this Workshop: It is possible to have a landscape that not only absorbs stormwater and uses native plants, but is also beautiful! The Department of Environmental Protection staff will show you how to evaluate your site, design and implement a conservation or rain garden landscape, and qualify to receive a RainScapes Reward rebate.

  Image of people at a RainScapes workshop Planting with friends

What is the RainScapes Program?

RainScapes is a program of Montgomery County, MD Department of Environmental Protection.

RainScapes promotes and implements projects which reduce stormwater runoff and improve water quality on properties within Montgomery County, MD. The County offers technical and financial assistance (in the form of RainScapes Rewards Rebates) to encourage property owners to implement eligible RainScapes techniques on their property.

Graphic of the RainScapes Logo

What Financial Incentives are Available?

The RainScapes Rewards Rebate Program offers rebates to property owners who install RainScapes techniques, such as those taught in these classes. This program is open to properties in Montgomery County outside the municipalities of Rockville, Gaithersburg, and Takoma Park. The RainScapes Program is funded by the County’s Water Quality Protection Charge.

Lands Green, Waters Clean: Butterfly and Bay Friendly Garden Tour

Lands Green, Waters Clean: Butterfly and Bay Friendly Garden Tour
This free self-guided tour is open to anyone interested in seeing what butterfly and Bay-friendly gardening looks like. The tour features the Woodland Hills Home Owners Association, The City of Gaithersburg Constitution Park, a private home, Epworth Church, and Pleasant View Historic Site. Each of these sites adds something unique to the tour and each will have a representative on site during the tour hours to answer questions about the gardens and how they were installed.

  • When:​ 9 AM – Noon, Saturday, October 6th, 2018
  • Where:​ Opening remarks will occur at 9 AM at Constitution Park, 112 Brookes Ave, Gaithersburg, MD 20877 followed by additional tour stops around the City of Gaithersburg.

Representatives from the City of Gaithersburg will be on hand at Constitution Park to provide information about rebate programs that are available for community members interested in adding stormwater management practices to their properties.

Constitution Park is the first stop on the tour although the order in which you visit the locations does not matter. Maps and site information will be provided at Constitution Park and available for download from the Muddy Branch Alliance website by October 5th and will be available following the event for those interested in taking the tour at another time.

The tour is centered in and around Gaithersburg and is intended to show the range of project types that support more butterflies and birds, beautify the landscape, and help to restore the watershed by managing stormwater runoff.

Native plants attract local wildlife Photo by MAEOE“We want to showcase these gardens across our community, so people can see what their neighbors are doing to help keep our local waters and the Chesapeake Bay clean, while making their backyards and public areas beautiful areas to live and play. Our goal is to see these conservation gardens in every neighborhood, which will make a real difference in the quality of the water we drink and play in.” says Tracy Rouleau, President of the Muddy Branch Alliance.

This tour is funded by the Chesapeake Bay Trust with support from the City of Gaithersburg and the Muddy Branch Alliance.

For more information email: info@muddybranch.org or call Project Manager, Lauren Hubbard at 631-764-6226.

Blue Spotlight On: The Muddy Branch Watershed

Blue Spotlight On: The Muddy Branch Watershed
DEP’s Blue Spotlight On series is a new feature for residents to learn about the County’s local watersheds.This is the second blog in the Blue Spotlight On series (check out our spotlight on the Anacostia River).  Today’s highlighted watershed: Muddy Branch!


About Muddy Branch

The Muddy Branch watershed is one of the smaller watersheds in Montgomery County, covering 20 square miles or approximately 4% of the County. It begins its meandering course in Gaithersburg and flows in a southwesterly direction to its confluence with the Potomac River near Pennyfield Lock on the C&O Canal.

Numerous unnamed tributaries extend into areas of the watershed around Quince Orchard, Kentlands, North Potomac and Darnestown, collecting water that either runs off quickly during storms or seeps slowly through soil, eventually flowing into tributaries to maintain baseflow during dry periods.

Muddy Branch Watershed Map

Muddy Branch Watershed Map



Development patterns play an important role in the quality and quantity of water flowing into Muddy Branch, and ultimately the Potomac River and Chesapeake Bay.

In the Muddy Branch Watershed, development is most dense in the Gaithersburg / I-270 area, and it becomes progressively less dense downstream to the Potomac River. Stream condition, as rated by the County’s biological monitoring program, is Fair to Poor in the upper portions of the watershed and Good in the lower portions of the watershed. This means that there is a greater diversity of wildlife downstream, and that the wildlife upstream can tolerate the impaired stream conditions.


Restoration Highlights

To help mitigate the impacts of development, the County is currently constructing 4 restoration projects in the Muddy Branch watershed, including:

Potomac Ridge Stormwater Pond Retrofit Project

Potomac Ridge Stormwater Pond Retrofit Project –  The first flush of stormwater runoff enters this recently completed facility and soaks into two linear stone filled infiltration cells (seen above).  During larger storm events water collects in the detention pond at the end of the infiltration cells.  

Potomac Ridge Stormwater Pond Retrofit Project

Potomac Ridge Stormwater Pond Retrofit Project – Detention pond and new riser structure is seen downstream of the infiltration cells.

Potomac Chase Stormwater Pond Retrofit Project

Potomac Chase Stormwater Pond Retrofit Project – the newly graded pond still needs grass cover planted on the side slopes, wetland plants around the pond edge and a total of 518 trees and shrubs will soon be planted around the pond, created a dense, healthy ecosystem.

Flints Grove Pond

Flints Grove Pond – Currently a dry pond, will become a wet pond with an average water depth of 5 feet when construction is completed in fall of 2019.  Wet ponds are more effective than dry ponds at removing pollution and sediment from stormwater runoff, leading to better water quality.  

Flints Grove Stream Restoration

Flints Grove Stream Restoration – A 1,200 foot long section of the stream immediately upstream of the Flints Grove Pond which is actively eroding, as shown in the photo above, will be stabilized to reduce the amount of sediment entering the pond.  The restoration will greatly reduce erosion and improve the stream health.  

Recreational Opportunities

There are many recreational opportunities in the Muddy Branch Watershed. Much of the Muddy Branch stream in Gaithersburg is in city parks, including Morris Park and Malcolm King Park.

At the point where Muddy Branch flows under Route 28, it leaves the City of Gaithersburg and enters parkland maintained by Montgomery County Parks. The Muddy Branch Greenway Trail, a 9- mile natural surface trail, begins at Route 28 and follows the Muddy Branch to its confluence with the Potomac River.

Muddy Branch Greenway Trail

Muddy Branch Greenway Trail – A 9-mile natural surface trail that traverses up and down the Muddy Branch stream valley walls from Route 28 in North Potomac to Pennyfield Lock on the C&O Canal.

  Other areas to access the Muddy Branch Watershed are Blockhouse Point Conservation Park and Pennyfield Lock Conservation Area.

If you would like to volunteer in the Muddy Branch Watershed, join the Muddy Branch Alliance or become a Montgomery County Stream Steward.

Muddy Branch

Muddy Branch makes its grand exit from Montgomery County through this aqueduct under the C&O Canal just before flowing into the Potomac River. Many canoe and kayak paddlers use the boat ramp at Pennyfield Lock to put-in the Muddy Branch and paddle through the aqueduct to access the Potomac River.

Yard care tips for the fall

Yard care tips for the fall
Fall is one of the best times to improve your lawn, trees, shrubs, and garden. The basic maintenance you do during this “second spring” will pay off in healthier growth and fewer problems next year.


Mulch Your Trees

Now is the time to add a layer of mulch around your trees. In the winter, mulch insulates the roots and provides nutrients. It helps the soil retain moisture, too. Even large and old trees benefit from adding a ring of mulch.

The mulch should not touch the base of the tree.

Mulch should not touch your tree.

  Apply mulch to a ring around the tree trunk. Remember the Rule of 3:
  • The mulch ring should extend 3 feet out from the trunk
  • The mulch should start 3 inches from the trunk so that no mulch touches the tree; and
  • The mulch should be 3 inches deep (but not more).

For a guide on how to apply mulch properly, visit mygreenmontgomery.org/mulch.


Start Organic Lawn Care

A beautiful lawn next spring starts with simple actions you can take this fall.

Learn from your soil. Whether it’s through weeds, or empty patches, the look of your lawn tells you about the health of the soil. The soil should be loose and teeming with life too small to see—if your lawn is suffering, start with aerating your lawn, adding compost, re-seeding, and leaving all your grass and leaf clippings as a source of nutrients.

Lawn Mower by Martin Cathrae, flickr

Sharpening your blades is good for your lawnmower and the grass. Leave grass clippings on your lawn to cycle nutrients. Photo by Martin Cathrae, flickr.

Replace your “weed and feed” chemicals with grass seed. Fall is the perfect time to restore bare patches of lawn with seed—do this every year to fill in your lawn, because a strong carpet of grass will keep weed seeds from germinating.

3 ways to prep your lawn for winter.
  1. Dethatch (remove thick mats of dead grass down at the ground level).
  2. Aerate the soil (add small holes) to allow water and nutrients to penetrate.
  3. Add compost.
Download our fall organic lawn care guide.
Visit our new organic lawn care website


Recycle Your Yard Trim

During the fall, your yard becomes covered with leaves. What should you do with these leaves and other types of yard trim?

Hands holding compost

Black gold

Compost It. Take leaves, grass clippings, and garden prunings, and recycle them into a nutrient-rich soil amendment, better known as “black gold” or compost.

The Montgomery County Department of Environmental Protection provides compost bins at no additional charge to residents of the County.  Simply add leaves, grass clippings, and garden prunings into the compost bin, add water, and mix the materials periodically. Then, let nature do its thing.  Over time, microorganisms will feed on the organic material, leaving you with compost you can add to your soil.

Recycle Yard Trim Properly. If you receive Montgomery County-provided recycling collection service, and you don’t have the space to compost, place your yard trim out for weekly curbside recycling collection.  The County collects yard trim year-round. Place yard trim in paper yard trim bags, in reusable containers labeled with a yard trim sticker, or bundle with twine.  Please note, yard trim cannot be placed in plastic bags.

For more information about the County’s yard trim recycling program or where to get a compost bin, visit montgomerycountymd.gov/yardtrim or call 3-1-1 or 240-777-0311.

Image of Recycling bins and yard trim

Place yard trim out for pickup


The Muddy Branch Alliance helps keep our waters clean – and wants to get you outside to enjoy them

The Muddy Branch Alliance helps keep our waters clean – and wants to get you outside to enjoy them
Did you know that the Muddy Branch stream runs for more than 12 miles, from Gaithersburg High School all the way to the Potomac – and that almost 11 of those miles have a natural surface trail for walking, hiking, or riding alongside?

The Muddy Branch Alliance, or MBA for short, is a local non-profit that protects and improves the water quality and natural habitat of the Muddy Branch stream for the benefit of the community. To achieve this goal, they bring neighbors and community groups together to maintain and improve the trail, and keep the stream clean. Most weekends you can find MBA members along the trail with local Scout groups, churches and other volunteers removing invasive plants, planting trees, doing trail work, or cleaning up trash.

  Muddy Branch Alliance

  The MBA knows that people care about what they know, and regularly hosts events along the stream and trail.  On October 13th, the MBA will be partnering with local organizations to host a volksmarch on the Muddy Branch Trail.  A volksmarch is an organized hike intended for everyone to enjoy at their own pace while also appreciating the scenic views around them. All are welcome and encouraged to come out and enjoy this family-friendly event.  The event is free and open to all with donations accepted at the start and finish.

Monarch butterflyTo help improve water quality in the stream the MBA recently launched the Lands Green Waters Clean program which helps homeowners reduce runoff from their yards, driveways, and houses. Homeowners can take simple steps reduce the amount of pesticides, fertilizers, and pet waste that enter our waterways. Conservation landscaping removes small areas of turf grass, which does not effectively absorb water during heavy rains, and replaces it with more permeable soil and native plants, shrubs, and trees. This protects water quality, improves habitat for birds and fish, and makes streams safer for families.

These projects make yards and common spaces beautiful, encourage native birds and butterflies, and can qualify homeowners for a rebate on their property taxes.  For homeowners interested in being a part of the initiative, a trained professional is sent to their homes to survey their yards to help design an eco-friendly oasis. The MBA will also help connect the property owner with resources and grants to help cover the costs.

Small actions within the community can have a significant impact on the Muddy Branch Watershed. By making small changes, our community can work together to keep our watershed healthy.

  Muddy Branch Alliance

  For more information on the Muddy Branch Alliance visit their website or visit their Facebook page. Interested in becoming a part of the Lands Green Waters Clean initiative to create your own backyard oasis? Click here for more info. Want to RSVP for the Volksmarch and secure a t-shirt? Click here.

DEP and Safeway want you to “Lighten Your Load”

DEP and Safeway want you to “Lighten Your Load”
This summer, the Montgomery County Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and Safeway stores are partnering to help save shoppers energy and money on their lighting with “Lighten Your Load” events.

On select days at Safeway locations, bring old incandescent and/or compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulbs and receive up to three free LED light bulbs and a new, reusable shopping bag. These “Lighten Your Load” events are a way to save on electric bills and ensure that plastics and dangerous substances, like mercury, do not enter the waste stream.

You can swap your old incandescent and/or CFL bulbs for energy-efficient LEDs on Mondays this summer from 4 to 6 p.m. at the following Safeway locations. Look for DEP staff in front of each store:

  • July 23: Germantown Safeway at 19718 Germantown Road, Germantown, 20874
  • July 30: Rockville Safeway at 5510 Norbeck Road, Rockville, 20853
  • August 6: Wheaton Safeway at 11201 Georgia Ave, Wheaton, 20902
  • August 13: Damascus Safeway at 9807 Main Street, Damascus, 20872
  • August 20: Olney Safeway at 3333 Spartan Road, Olney, 20832

Participants can bring as many bulbs as they have available, but during the swap, each family is limited to receiving three free LEDs. All bulbs collected during the swap will be properly recycled or disposed.

At the kick-off event on Monday, July 16, almost 100 LEDs and 180 bags were distributed to the public.

“We’re giving away replacement LEDs, because it’s a small change that makes a big impact for residents’ utility bills and the environment,” said Patty Bubar, acting director of the Montgomery County DEP. “About 80 percent of households still use incandescent bulbs, and the summer months also have some of the highest electricity bills. It’s the perfect time to make the switch.”

The ENERGY STAR®-certified LEDs offer a warm white light that’s equivalent to a 60-watt incandescent bulb. LED bulbs are more energy efficient, have a longer life span, non-toxic and greener than other alternatives, flexible in color and design, and by switching three bulbs, you could cut your utility bill by at least $25 per year.

“We take our commitment to energy efficiency and reducing waste seriously,” said Darcie Renn, director of sustainability at Safeway. “By partnering with Montgomery County Department of Environmental Protection, our customers have the opportunity to save energy and lower their utility bills while also reducing waste that goes to the landfill.”

At each “Lighten the Load” event, reusable shopping bags will be distributed to shoppers. Plastic bags are a significant source of litter in our community and pollute our neighborhoods, streams, and playgrounds.

“Lighten the Load” events are part of the Department of Environmental Protection’s efforts to educate residents and businesses about simple actions we can all take to save energy and money.

For more information, visit mygreenmontgomery.org/energy or contact Larissa Johnson by email or by telephone at 202-281-7173

The Montgomery County Watershed Restoration and Outreach Grant Program is now OPEN!

The Montgomery County Watershed Restoration and Outreach Grant Program is now OPEN!
The Montgomery County Watershed Restoration and Outreach Grant program, offered by the Montgomery County Government and the Chesapeake Bay Trust, is now accepting proposals to support watershed restoration and outreach throughout Montgomery County.

The Montgomery County Watershed Restoration and Outreach Grant Program encourages small-scale on-the-ground restoration practices like rain gardens and permeable pavement to reduce stormwater runoff and pollutants through community-based restoration. Equally, outreach and stewardship activities engaging Montgomery County residents in the restoration and protection of the local rivers and streams of Montgomery County are highly encouraged.

This funding opportunity is made possible through the County’s Water Quality Protection Charge and is available for projects throughout Montgomery County for grant awards of up to $100,000. The Trust welcomes applicants from 501©3 non-profit organizations such as community associations, faith-based organizations, youth, and civic groups, watershed organizations, and others. Nonprofits and communities with property in common ownership are strongly encouraged to apply. More information is available by visiting the Chesapeake Bay Trust website.

Deadline: September 27th, 2018 at 4pm

For questions contact Grant Manager: Jeffrey Popp, 410-974-2941, ext. 103

Please note that the municipalities of Gaithersburg, Rockville, and Takoma Park are not eligible for funding in this program; however they are eligible in a separate Outreach and Restoration Grant Program that is also open now with the Trust.

On-site ESD Stormwater Management

Montgomery County stormwater summit for homeowners

Montgomery County stormwater summit for homeowners
On June 6 the Environmental Finance Center (EFC) at the University of Maryland (UMD) hosted a Montgomery County Stormwater Summit for Homeowners at Brookside Gardens in Wheaton. This event, part of larger project funded by a Chesapeake Bay Trust grant and the Montgomery County Water Quality Charge, was attended by more than 70 folks from all across the County.

Staff from the EFC’s Sustainable Maryland program presented information about a variety of rebate and incentive programs offered by Montgomery County. A particular focus was on the RainScapes program, which offers rebates on best management practices such as rain gardens, rain barrels and cisterns, pervious pavers, and conservation landscaping.

  Brandy Espinola EFC Speaking

  Additional information was presented about the Tree Montgomery program (free trees), pet waste management, litter control programs, and organic lawn care.

Local government agencies and regional watershed associations that staffed exhibit tables at this event included the County Department of Environmental Protection, Rock Creek Conservancy, Little Falls Watershed Alliance, and the Muddy Branch Alliance, each of which explained the unique support and technical services that they provide to towns and neighborhoods in the County.

  DEP Literature Table

  Next steps in this project will include EFC staff working specifically with the Wheaton Hills Civic Association, Glenmont Forest Neighbors Civic Association, and McKenney Hills-Carroll Knolls Civic Association to provide residents with information about the County’s stormwater-related programs, as well as providing these communities with basic watershed assessments that will identify and prioritize issues and potential future projects.

For more information, please contact Mike Hunninghake, Program Manager, Environmental Finance Center-UMD, at mikeh75@umd.edu or 301-405-7956.

Sarah Morse Little Falls Watershed Speaking

Sarah Morse Little Falls Watershed Speaking

Know Your Blooms: Swamp Milkweed

Know Your Blooms: Swamp Milkweed
Have you noticed the blooms of swamp milkweed? Starting in June, swamp milkweeds flowers start opening in sunny habitats in the County, such as wet meadows and swales. This includes roadside rain gardens and bioswales where the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) have planted the species. Swamp milkweed’s flowering hits full force in July, and then peters out in August.  
Dennis Avenue Green Streets bioswale in July

Dennis Avenue Green Streets bioswale in July


About Swamp Milkweed

The pink flowers of Asclepias incarnata are known as an attractant for pollinators. In particular, the plant is a food source for the monarch butterfly, both as a nectar source for the adult butterflies and as forage for the larvae caterpillars. Adult monarchs can obtain nectar from a variety of plant species. However, the larvae are specialists, feeding on only milkweeds, including butterfly weed and common milkweed. Toxins in the milkweeds provide the monarchs with some protection against predators.  
Female monarch butterfly on swamp milkweed in a Forest Estates raingarden in July

Female monarch butterfly on swamp milkweed in a Forest Estates raingarden in July

  Swamp milkweed grows about 3 feet tall and prefers to grow in full sun and moist soil. It can tolerate some light shade and drought, but of all the milkweed species, it is the least tolerant of drought. Deer don’t seem to bother it much, possibly because of the toxins in its foliage. DEP plants swamp milkweed in rain gardens, other low-impact stormwater management practices, and along pond edges.  It is a preferred plant in stormwater management, because swamp milkweed tolerates more saturated soils, and provides beauty and pollinator habitat in the summer months.  
Swamp milkweed is very attractive to pollinators.

Swamp milkweed is very attractive to pollinators.

Planting Swamp Milkweed

There are some considerations that should be taken into account when using swamp milkweed. The plants tend to be fairly sparse when not in bloom and provide minimal interest or groundcover in the cold months. For this reason, they are best combined with under-plantings, such as golden groundsel (Packera aurea) or sedge species. Also, in many locations the species has not been very long-lived. The best use for the species may be in more naturalized settings where it can self-seed or where other species can spread to take its place as the plants die out.
Bare stemmed swamp milkweed in a Dennis  Avenue Green Streets bioswale in October

Bare stemmed swamp milkweed in a Dennis Avenue Green Streets bioswale in October

Swamp milkweed in June, underplanted with golden groundsel in a Franklin Knolls rain garden

Swamp milkweed in June, underplanted with golden groundsel in a Franklin Knolls rain garden

By Darian Copiz, Watershed Planner Have a question about a plant you found in a rain garden or other stormwater management practice? Email us at askdep@montgomerycountymd.gov