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Responsible Landscaping For Homeowners

Can We Make A Difference?

Can individual homeowners do their part to improve water quality?  The answer is YES!  There are several things that we can do around our houses to improve water quality.  The way that we manage our lawns, driveways, and ditches has a huge impact on the condition of the water as it leaves our property.  We can also affect water quality by carefully selecting and using pesticides and fertilizers.

Would you believe that during a half inch rainfall event, a one acre lawn collects about 13,600 gallons of water?  Depending on the time of year, much of that water may be absorbed by your lawn, but what happens to the rest of the water, and what happens when the lawn is either frozen or already saturated with water?  The water that is not absorbed by our lawns is called runoff, and depending on where it flows and what it flows through, it can have a devastating impact on downstream ecology and ultimately, the health of Owasco Lake.  The key to properly managing runoff is to slow down the water to give the soil, nutrients, and chemicals that the water may be carrying a chance to fall out of suspension.  Soil, nutrients, and chemicals are known to cause degradation of water quality and consequently, damage to our ecosystems.

GreenScaping

The term ‘GreenScaping’ is used to describe environmentally conscious landscaping.  Responsible lawn care includes but is not limited to using only organic fertilizers, or no fertilizers at all, minimizing herbicide and pesticide use, integrated pest management, composting yard waste, using drip irrigation, planting buffer strips to slow and filter lawn runoff, and capturing roof runoff for later use.

 

Vegetated Buffer Strips

Maintaining a vegetated buffer strip along lake, ditch and stream edges effectively slows down water, keeps soil in place on steep slopes, and filters out soil and nutrients before they enter the waterway.  These buffers can be made up of native grasses, trees, or any type of tall and thick vegetation that will slow down the water.

For more information on vegetated buffer strips, check out this publication from the Portland Water District in Portland, ME.

Safe Use of Lawn and Garden Chemicals

When using pesticides and herbicides to control bugs and weeds, it is extremely important to follow the directions on the product’s package.  These products can have a minimal impact on soil and water if they are properly applied.  An even better option is to use eco-friendly products or homemade concoctions that effectively solve your garden pest problems.  A spray bottle of vinegar can be a very effective way to kill weeds in your garden and driveway, and a bowl full of beer placed between tomato plants can eliminate a slug problem.

Responsible Construction

Often when we put an addition on our house, repair a septic tank, or disturb groundcover in some other way, we leave bare soil exposed to the weather.    It is important to build a silt fence downgrade from the disturbed soil to catch any soil that may be carried away by rainfall.  Exposed soil is highly regulated by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation for areas larger than one acre.  We should all make sure to take the time to build a silt fence around our own projects.  These can be as simple as a few bails of hay staked into the ground surrounding exposed soil, and can save valuable top soil from washing into waterways.

Driveways

Driveways are also a huge contributor to runoff.  Steep and/or blacktopped driveways provide a way for water to not only quickly runoff and erode the sides of your ditches and lawn, but also provide a direct path for oil residue from vehicles and lawn mowers to waterways and eventually to the lake.  The best driveways are flat and made of a porous material such as gravel or landscape pavers that allow for maximum water absorption.  Another option might be to crown the driveway, so that water flows into your lawn rather than to the road or nearby ditch.

There are many ways to manage your property to preserve water quality.  It may not seem like much, but if each of us properly maintains our lawn, the long term impact on water quality can be significant.  Feel free to submit photos of your green landscaping project to OWN.  Together we can make a difference!

 

 

NOTE TO READERS:  If anyone knows of any tools that are available for landscape planning for water resource management, please leave information in the comments section.  Links to such tools would be a valuable addition to OWN.