Friday, April 29, 2011

Plant More Plants and Help Mother Earth

The Chesapeake Bay Program's "Plant More Plants" encourages consumers to celebrate Mother Earth in addition to Mom by giving the gift of a tree, shrub or perennial in lieu of cut flowers. These gifts keep growing, beautify Mom's yard, improve stormwater absorption, and contribute to cleaner waterways. A list of bay-friendly plants can be found at www.plantmoreplants.com, a helpful resource for those living within the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

The canopies and root systems of plants and trees help filter stormwater runoff and minimize erosion, keeping our waterways cleaner. Flowering perennials native to the Chesapeake Bay watershed include wild bleeding heart, wild geranium, black-eyed susans, wild columbine, and mistflower. The Plant More Plants website has a comprehensive list of plants, trees and shrubs native to our area.

Natural landscaping and native plants reduce the the need for excessive yard maintenance and fertilizer use, conserves water and minimizes erosion and stormwater runoff. They grow well together and are adapted to local conditions such as weather and insects.

Select a grass that is well-adapted to our region. Cool season grasses such as bentgrass, Kentucky bluegrass, rough bluegrass, red fescue and perennial ryegrass are ideal for homes across Richmond.

Test your soil. You may need less fertilizer than you think. Less fertilizing means less phosphorus washed into storm drains. Homeowners can get an inexpensive and easy-to-use soil test kit by contacting their local Cooperative Extension agent.

Don't bag your clippings. It's less work and provides a natural source of nitrogen fertilizer, a double bonus! Spread them across your lawn away from the storm drain for optimum benefit. Use extra as compost.

If you must fertilize, late spring through summer is best for warm-season grasses. Fall is optimal for cool-season grass. Fertilizing at the proper time promotes root growth and results in a healthier, drought-resistant lawn. Use a phosphorus-free formula as most lawns have sufficient phosphorus for their needs. Check for "slow-release" fertilizers, which are less likely to wash off. Sweep and pick up excess fertilizer from the sidewalk, driveway, and other hard surfaces. Don't fertilize when rain is in the forecast or the ground is frozen.

Pick up after your pets. Nutrients in pet waste infiltrate stormwater runoff and make their way into creeks, rivers, and ultimately, the Chesapeake Bay. This nutrient loading threatens the aquatic ecosystem and poses a threat for potential fecal bacteria contamination.

Landscape plans for rain gardens are available on the Plant More Plants website. Rain gardens are shallow lawn depressions filled with plants that collect water draining from roofs and driveways. 

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