Friday, May 6, 2011

Plant More Plants - For Mother's Day

The Maryland Department of the Environment urges everyone to pay tribute to Moms — and Mother Earth — by planting more plants.

The Chesapeake Club's "Plant More Plants" campaign encourages consumers to celebrate the holiday by giving the gift of a tree, shrub, or perennial – "gifts that keep on growing."

Potted plants, shrubs, and trees can be planted in Mom's yard, ultimately improving stormwater absorption and contributing to cleaner waterways. Stormwater runoff is the fastest-growing source of Chesapeake Bay pollution and contributes about 20 percent of Maryland's nitrogen load to the Bay. The campaign provides an online listing of native, "bay-friendly" plants. Its website also includes two videos, "Wage War on Runoff" and "Keep Up With The Joneses."

 Here are some simple, "bay-friendly" basics from the Plant More Plants campaign to help you and Mom "grow some good" while benefiting the Bay — any time of year:

  • Plant more plants! Not only do plants — including trees — make for a more attractive, healthier landscape, their canopies and expansive root systems also help filter stormwater runoff and minimize erosion, keeping our local waterways cleaner. Examples of flowering perennials ideal for growing conditions in D.C./Northern Virginia and Baltimore include wild bleeding heart, wild geranium, black-eyed Susans, wild columbine, and mistflower. For a comprehensive list of plants, trees and shrubs native to the Chesapeake Bay Watershed visit the Plant More Plants website.  
  • Go au natural. Natural landscaping reduces the need for excessive yard maintenance and fertilizer use, conserves water and minimizes erosion and stormwater runoff. Native plants and grasses require less water and fertilizer. They grow well together and are adapted to local conditions such as weather and insects. For a list of plants native within the Chesapeake Bay watershed, click here.   
  • Choose the right grass. Select a grass that is well-adapted to your region. Cool-season grasses (such as bentgrass, Kentucky bluegrass, rough bluegrass, red fescue and perennial ryegrass) are ideal for homes across much of Washington D.C./Northern Virginia and Baltimore.
  • Test your soil first. It may need less fertilizer than you think. Results should give you a good indication of the nutrients your lawn needs, as well as prevent over-fertilization, which can lead to phosphorus-rich soils. When it rains, that excess phosphorus is washed into storm drains and can enter Bay waterways. Homeowners can get an inexpensive and easy-to-use soil test kit by contacting their Cooperative Extension Agents in Maryland.  
  • Don't bag your clippings. The extra bonus – less work for you! Leaving them on the lawn provides a natural source of nitrogen fertilizer. Be sure to spread them across your lawn – away from your storm drain – for optimum benefit. Also consider using them as compost.
  • When should you fertilize? This depends on the grass varieties you have. For warm-season grasses, late spring through the summer months are best. If you have cool-season grasses, fall is optimal. Fertilizing during the proper times promotes root growth and results in a healthier, drought-tolerant lawn.  
  • If you fertilize… Use a phosphorus-free formula. Most lawns already have sufficient phosphorus to meet their needs. In addition, check for options like "slow-release," which promotes a steady, uniform growth and is less likely to wash away as runoff. Also, sweep and pick up excess fertilizer off sidewalks, driveways, and other hard surfaces to prevent runoff. Don't fertilize when rain is in the immediate forecast and never fertilize when the ground is frozen.
  • Don't forget to pick up after your pets. If left untouched, the nutrients in pet waste can infiltrate stormwater runoff and make their way into creeks, rivers, and ultimately the Bay. This results in increased nutrient loading, which threatens the integrity of our aquatic ecosystem. Furthermore, the presence of pet waste in runoff poses a threat for potential fecal bacteria contamination — a risk to ecological and human health.
In addition, consider building a rain garden with Mom using these simple, downloadable landscape plans offered on the campaign's website. Rain gardens, a shallow lawn depression filled with a variety of plants that collect water draining from roofs and driveways, are a fun and easy way to filter stormwater runoff, preventing it from entering nearby waterways.

For more information on landscaping tips and best practices, as well as a list of resources and professionals who provide "bay-friendly" landscaping services, please visit Plant More Plants. Here, you'll also find a $25 coupon towards the purchase of a tree at participating nurseries and garden centers through the Marylanders Plant Trees program

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