By Jenny Engle
If you love a beautifully manicured lawn and have visions of golf course vistas in your head, let me share some green concepts my husband and I learned several years ago.
We live in Lancaster, PA in the Conestoga Creek watershed, which flows into the Susquehanna River, which flows into the Chesapeake Bay, which is extremely polluted. Not only did we want to help clean up the Bay, we also wanted to be smarter homeowners. That meant parting ways with several large areas of grass and “Bayscaping” our yard. So we set out to redesign our lawn using as many principles from the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay guidelines as we could. This “redo” occurred in stages, over several seasons. We did most of the work ourselves (my husband loves operating any kind of machinery!), but we also solicited the help of professionals as needed.
A Stream Runs Through It
Part of our challenge involved the fact that our ¼ acre lot slopes downward toward a stream that runs through the back portion, creating excessive water runoff and some erosion. Even though we use organic products on our lawn, we wanted to reduce as much storm water runoff into this stream as possible.
First, we identified areas of the yard that were steeply sloped (and a pain to mow!) or that were rarely used. We dug up the grass in those areas and planted a variety of native shrubs, grasses and other ground cover, as well as native perennials and annuals. We used a combination of river stones and mulch to slow down and/or redirect heavy rains and melted snow water. Not only did these features reduce storm water runoff, they also created wildlife habitats and attracted many varieties of birds and butterflies.
We made sure we had good buffer plantings around our house using native trees, plants and shrubs with offered the following benefits:
- Extra protection to our heat pump, perhaps even prolonging its life and eliminating common repairs
- Protection of the house from winter winds and direct sunlight
- Reduction of water runoff and the potential for water in the basement
- Enhanced beauty and privacy of our home
- Creation of more wildlife habitats
Going Native – In Private!
We love trees and planted native varieties around the edges of our property. Since we are not allowed to have fences, this offered the privacy we wanted, added beauty and buffers, and sometimes actually keeps our dogs within their boundaries! We also put in planting islands, which reduced lawn maintenance and added beauty and interest. A professional landscaper advised us on the best location for these islands and suggested native plants that were low maintenance.
We allowed a riparian buffer (a vegetated area near a stream, which helps shade and partially protect it) to form along our stream bank. We added some diverse native plants along the stream banks, as well as in front of our compost pile. Again, these features reduce storm water runoff, prevent soil/bank erosion and create wildlife habitats.
While we have more projects in mind (a water garden and dry laid stone walls), those that we have completed have added significant environmental and financial value to our home — and cut down on mowing time! We learned a lot and even got some pretty good exercise. If you have children, these types of green family projects make summer vacations a lot more fun and educational. Plus, these new landscaping features contributed to my Green Plus Certification for my home marketing and communications business. So, don’t just landscape your home, Bayscape (or greenscape) it!
Jenny Engle is the owner/principal of jke marketing & communications, a GreenPlus Certified business. One of PA’s 50 Best Women in Business, she also is a popular speaker and writer on a variety of topics. http://www.jkecommunications.com