An effective way to help the environment is to evaluate and reconsider your landscaping. How does your yard help the environment? Does it simply look pretty and do nothing else? Is there a lot of lawn, more than you really need or want to take care of? Too many yards in and around Wheaton provide few ecosystem services, and this has an overall negative impact on the Sligo Creek, Rock Creek and the Northwest Branch watersheds.
What do we mean by “ecosystem services”? This term describes the resources provided by healthy ecosystems – the pollination of crops by bees, bats or birds, for example; or the flood protection services provided by wetlands; or the filtration of air and water, silt, runoff and pollutants by vegetation and soils (from 1997 Nature article “The Value of the World’s Ecosystem Services and Natural Capital”).
By using conservation landscaping techniques, you can pack a lot of “ecosystem services” into your landscape. Conservation landscaping uses soil improvements and native plants to help retain and soak in rainwater, provide pollinator habitat and create beauty in your yard. It’s particularly helpful to redirect the relatively hot and polluted water from your driveway and roof top into your conservation
landscaping areas. You can also work with the county when it implements its “green streets” projects. Native plants - especially plants with deep roots – more easily absorb stormwater runoff, which will help keep the water in our local streams cool and clean.
The most recent demonstration conservation landscaping project was installed at Viers Mill Baptist Church near the corner of Randolph Road and Viers Mill Road in early June. The conservation landscaping is on the Havard Avenue side of the church property. The gardens are designed to slow down, spread out and soak in rain water. The gardens are part of a larger effort to restore Turkey Branch Creek, which has been a high priority for the county over the past few years. The
gardens are also intended to beautify the grounds.
In your own yard, you can start small and expand your landscaping over time. If you are willing to convert over 250 square feet of your lawn into conservation landscaping, you may be eligible to a rebate of up to $250. Some tips for planning your conservation landscape areas:
1. Pick locations which can trap stormwater runoff from your roof or yard.
2. Provide a diversity of plants to attract a variety of animals.
3. Think of your landscape design as an ongoing process which will change over time.
4. Look to our nearby parks for inspiration for your landscape. Though much of nearby parkland has been degraded by erosion and invasive plants, you can still find parkland in good condition in a few parts of Sligo Creek, Northwest Branch, Rock Creek and other nearby parks.
Conservation landscaping can greatly vary from yard to yard, but all should be designed to benefit the environment while providing for human use and enjoyment. Conservation Landscaping Guidelines can be found here. Montgomery County conservation guidelines for rebates can be found here.
On June 16 (Saturday), the County’s Dept. of Environmental Protection will be hosting RainScapes tour. Gardens that protect the environment are highlighted in this self-guided tour. From 9 a.m. to noon, volunteers will be on site to talk about the projects and answer questions.
For more information about the tour, click here and go down to the RainScapes/LID Self Guided Tour.