Your own backyard has the potential to offer refuge to the many native plants, insects, birds and animals being displaced by development, increasing levels of pollution, introduction of invasive species and climate change. By helping to re-introduce native species to their local ecosystems and taking care not to plant potential invasive species, you will help preserve our unique regional biodiversity. Utilizing sufficient mulch (three inches) in your landscaping design helps retain stormwater so that nutrients are absorbed and utilized by plants. A carefully planned diverse backyard ecosystem can help provide fresh air, clean water and productive soils. Visit the RainScapes Rewards page to learn how to receive a reimbursement for employing conservation landscaping techniques on your property and for more information about workshops.
|Beardtongue, spiderwort, evening primrose.|
Visit the Rockville RainScapes page to learn how to receive reimbursement for utilizing specific conservation landscaping techniques on your residential property. Information on upcoming workshops can also be found on the RainScapes page.
Here are some conservation landscaping techniques you may wish to employ:
America's landscapes are dominated by lawn or turf. Unfortunately, there is little environmental value to having wide expanses of lawn because it is a monoculture and offers almost no biodiversity. Usually turf is not even native to the area. Turf does not provide good places for most wildlife to live nor is it a good food source. Finally, turf does very little to help onsite management of water after a rain.
While, trees, shrubs, ground covers, flowerbeds, and naturalized meadows are better environmental choices, sometimes homeowners must keep a lawn. If you have a lawn, there are eco-friendly ways to maintain it.
- Use species cultivated for the Maryland piedmont (our region), such as the red and tall Fescues. This will reduce the need for fertilizer and pesticide applications and will be more resilient during dry spells.
- Do not OVER water your lawn. Lawns naturally enter a dormant phase in the heat of summer, sometimes turning brown. They will green up on their own as the weather cools.
- Properly apply fertilizers:
- Have your soil tested for pH levels to best identify the need for additional nutrients. This will help determine which fertilizers and supplements are needed.
- Select lawn-grade fertilizers that include slow release nitrogen to prevent lawn burn, reduce runoff and leaching of nutrients into groundwater.
- Grass uses fertilizer best when it is actively growing. Once your lawn is established, it requires less fertilizer.
- To prevent runoff pollution, do not apply fertilizers to frozen ground or pavement. Try to avoid applying fertilizer when it is forecasted to rain within 48 hours.
- Grass-cycle. Leave the height of your grass long when mowing and leave clippings on your lawn to decompose. "Grass-cycling" provides your lawn with a great source of nitrogen and saves water and fertilizer.
- Be careful when using pesticides.
|Beardtongue (white—Pennstemon digitalis); spiderwort (pink—Tradescantia sp.); evening primrose (yellow—Oenothera biennis).|
Native plants are the species that have evolved in this area and are adapted to the growing season, local climate and soils. They often require less water, fertilizer, and pesticides than the exotics, or non-natives, and hybrids. More importantly, native plant species are critically linked to native wildlife. Our local insects, birds and small wildlife have evolved alongside native plants. These long-standing relationships allow our ecosystem to function at its best.
When planting trees, shrubs, ground covers and flowerbeds, try using lovely native plants instead of the more exotic types.
Check out the Maryland Department of Natural Resources Plant and Be Counted initiative for your $25 tree coupon.
Native alternatives to popular garden plants, shrubs and trees:
|Native Plant ||Exotic Plant|
|Red maple (Acer rubrum) ||Norway maple (Acer platanoides)|
|Bigtooth aspen (Populus grandiflora)||White poplar (P. alba)|
|Black willow (Salix nigra)||Weeping willow (S. x sepulcralis)|
|New Jersey tree (Ceanothus americanus) or Sweet pepperbush (Clethra alnifolia)||Butterfly bush (Buddleja spp.)|
|Black Haw (Viburnum prunifolium)||Privets (Ligustrum spp.)|
|Allegheny spurge (Pachysandra procumbens)||English ivy (Hedera helix)|
Additional information on native plants:
To have a healthy backyard, a gardener must first make his or her peace with insects. Remember, insects make up a large portion of songbird, amphibian and small mammal’s diets.
Without the insects and other invertebrates, our gardens are not only silent and less vibrant they are crippled as far as providing environmental benefits.
|Columbine (Aquilegia canadensis); Christmas fern (Polystichum acrostichoides); green & gold (Chrysogonum viginianum).|
Often our first reaction when we see an aphid or other ‘pest’ is to get out the pesticide. However, if we allow a certain amount of the pest population to build up, we are putting out a virtual welcome mat for their natural predators, such as ladybugs and lacewings. Once these ‘good’ insects are established, the need for pest control becomes non-existent. Most pesticides are indiscriminate—they may take care of your pest but they also kill all the good insects that help your garden function. For example, when general grub control in the form of pesticide is regularly used, anywhere from 60-90% of earthworms (and other decomposers) are exterminated. These often unseen ground dwellers are critical for good soil health. Instead of pesticides, try an Integrated Pest Management approach.
For more specific information on practicing eco-friendly pest control in your garden, contact the Montgomery County Cooperative Extension Office for the services of a Master Gardener.
Are you in interested in recreating your yard into a backyard habitat? Check out the following resources for information on creating a sanctuary and attracting native wildlife like butterflies, birds and frogs: