Project: Practice low-input landscaping
Do the natural thing!
The grounds and gardens around our home are our oasis and a personal reflection of our regard for our environment. How we use and care for them has a significant environmental impact. Proper, sustainable maintenance techniques and planting lower-maintenance plants can reduce inputs needed, and that’s always better for the environment. With natural landscaping, you’ll save time, conserve our natural resources, and still get great looking results.
Here are some general guidelines:
- Use native plants: They’ve adapted to the local climate, need little organic input, are more pest-resistant, and often are more drought-tolerant than introduced varieties. Many are also important food and shelter sources for beneficial insects like butterflies and honeybees, as well as birds and other wildlife.
- Compost your trimmings: Grass clippings, leaves, twigs, branches — along with kitchen scraps — yield nutrient-rich compost that’s highly beneficial for your lawn and garden.
- Avoid pesticides: Many organic methods of pest control are effective; use pesticides only as a last resort.
- Test before fertilizing: Too much can lead to contamination and cause harmful algal blooms in local waterways and the Chesapeake Bay. Use sparingly, and choose slow-release and/or organic products whenever possible.
Get rebates of $250 to $750 for replacing turf, invasive plants or impervious areas with native species, or for planting shade trees; through theMontgomery County RainScapes program.
$25 coupon from the State of Maryland for planting a tree costing $50 or more from the Marylanders Plant Trees Recommended Tree List.
If you live in Rockville, you may be eligible for a $150 rebate per tree through the RainScapes Tree Canopy Rebate Program. Maximum reward is $600.
If I’m practicing natural landscaping and using native plants, won’t my yard look wild and unkempt?
Successful conservation landscaping requires careful design, siting, scale, and maintenance. The amount of ‘naturalization’ and plant types should be compatible with location size, light, and adjacent uses. While conservation landscapes are typically lower-maintenance, they still require routine weeding and periodic thinning to maintain healthy plant densities. Except during extended drought, most established native, non-wetland plants can survive without routine watering, though they may temporarily die back.
My lawn’s going to look a mess if I leave the grass clippings on top of it. How do I grasscycle and still have my lawn look manicured?
Cutting your lawn to a height of at least three inches helps the cut grass to be absorbed more quickly into the lawn. Also, mowing regularly prevents the grass from growing too long and laying on top of the lawn. Finally, only cut the grass 1/3 of its length. If the week slipped by and you weren’t able to mow, raise your mover one setting higher. Then mow again in a few days at your regular setting to get back on track. This may take some getting used to, but it’ll pay off with a healthier, more natural lawn.
I’m still not sure whether my lawn will look good. Are there any local examples?
As a matter of fact, yes! The University of Maryland teamed up with Paul Tukey of SafeLawn.org to test organic lawn care at Glenstone, a nonprofit foundation in Potomac. The goal of the project to develop “peer-reviewed studies to settle long-standing debates about natural lawn care.” So far the grounds crew have been successful in maintaining a beautiful and organic lawn and has even saved money in with the new techniques. Go to Glenstone to see for yourself! The lawn remained green even during droughts, which is a testament to natural lawn care.