Monday, August 9, 2010

August is National Water Quality Month

As gardeners, when we think about water, our main thought is often about how to get it to our plants when they need it and we don’t have enough. The water that flows off of our property sometimes seems insignificant. After all, if it’s flowing off, it’s EXTRA water. And it just makes more sense to be concerned about something that is lacking than something that is overflowing.

But the truth is that what happens to water while it is on our property is very important to the health of our local water bodies. Water that flows from our landscapes finds its way into local streams, lakes and other water bodies, taking with it any chemicals, pollution, pet waste or other debris that it picks up in the process. National Water Quality Month was created to help remind people of the importance of protecting our ground water supplies.

To help protect local water supplies, keep these things in mind:
  • Reduce rainwater runoff by using rain barrels, or creating rain gardens. Turn downspouts of rain gutters into planted areas instead of toward paved surfaces such as driveways. Make sure sprinklers are not watering the streets and driveways instead of the plants.
  • Avoid blowing or sweeping lawn clippings or other debris into the street, where they will eventually be washed into local water supplies. A better solution is to leave grass clippings on your lawn after mowing to supply nutrients back into the soil. Composting is another way to reuse leaves, grass clippings and other small cuttings.
  • Practice water-friendly landscaping techniques such as Bayscaping, which encourage the use of native plants.
  • Reduce or eliminate chemicals in your landscape. When possible, use environmentally friendly alternatives to pesticides, fertilizers and herbicides.
  • If you must use fertilizers with higher chemical contents, weed killers or pesticides, make sure only to use the amount and frequency directed on the label and only on the affected areas. Remember, in this case, more is not better.
  • If using a fertilizer, choose one that contains at least 30 percent slow-release nitrogen. Also, check the three numbers on the front of the bag to select the right mixture for the type of plant you are fertilizing. The numbers represent the fertilizer's nitrogen (first number), phosphorus (second number) and potassium (third number) contents. High nitrogen fertilizers on a plant that does not need it is a waste of money and will eventually be washed away by stormwater if not used by the plant.
  • Use permeable surfaces such as pavers, stone and mulch. Permeable surfaces allow water to seep into the ground rather than being washed away into the street. This holds moisture in your landscape, where it can be utilized, and keeps pollutants out of the waterways.
For more information about protecting water quality from your landscape, visit these sites:

Water Quality Stewardship Guide from Fairfax County Virginia

Bayscapes – Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay

Home Landscape Practices to Protect Water Quality – Virginia Cooperative Extension


  1. Thank You for this great post. I love local information about gardening. I love doing my part to save the bay and still have a nice garden. And not using any chemicals brings alot of wildlife to the garden. Good or bad :) Thanks again

  2. Great ideas. I have been hearing a lot about permeable paver driveways lately and am looking into a rain barrel!


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