How Is Unplanned Land Development Polluting Our Environment?
Maintaining a lush, green lawn often requires the application of fertilizers and pesticides. As they wash away with rainfall-runoff, these chemicals and organic mixes have, in some areas, become the primary pollutants of nearby waterways, even to the point of causing algae blooms that reduce oxygen levels and kill fish in large numbers.
Unplanned land development reduces the population of native plants. The pollinator population, including bees, butterflies, birds, and other animals, is subsequently dropping.
These pollinators aid the growth of other native plants. It is a vicious cycle with no end. Uncontrolled development also leads to more roofs, roads, parking lots, and other surfaces that cannot absorb water.
Runoff from these surfaces causes erosion, carries toxic substances like old motor oil and trash into waterways and wastes water that could be used elsewhere.
What if you could help protect the environment by reducing your fertilizer and pesticide requirements, supporting your local pollinators and fish, and helping reduce pollution while lowering your water bill and having a beautiful lawn that requires less maintenance?
In some locations, the rainwater runoff problem is such a pain that homes with water harvesting systems and rain gardens qualify for a tax break! Call your municipality to learn if you are eligible.
NO NATIVE PLANTS
” Replace your lawn with NATIVE AND ADAPTED PLANT SPECIES! ”
The environmentally smart landscape includes native plant species and, depending on your location, possibly some non-native plant varieties adapted over time to the soil and conditions where you live. The area covered by grass is also either significantly reduced or eliminated.
Making these changes will dramatically reduce or eliminate the need for fertilizer and pesticides because native and adapted plants shouldn’t need them. Native plants also support pollinators.
Per Pollinator.org, pollination by bees is necessary to produce $40 billion in plant-related products every year. Yet, the managed bee population has dropped by more than 50% over the last ten years.
How To Find Native Plants Suitable For Your Location?
An online search will reveal a variety of sources for plants native to your geographical location. Your local agricultural extension office may, however, be the best place to start.
Gardening Know How maintains a convenient extension office locator. Simply enter your Zip Code and select the range of your search in miles, then click the search button. Results include a map, directions, and contact information for your local office.
You can also visit Ecoregional Revegetation Application (ERA) to find native plant species suitable for growing in your geographical location.
You can also include gravel walkways and other features to turn your native lawn into a picturesque park-like environment that rarely, if ever, needs to be mowed. Just avoid including surfaces that cannot absorb water. That defeats the purpose.
What Difference Is Made By Rainwater Management And Collection?
Texas A&M University recommends “WaterSmart” landscaping techniques for rainwater management. While the general concepts can be applied in just about any geographical location with varying results, Texas A&M’s research (see: watersmart.tamu.edu) revealed that, along the upper Texas Gulf Coast, managing runoff using rain gardens and rainwater collection systems reduced the volume of polluted water runoff into storm drains and area waterways by 90%.
Commensurately, the amount of water required to irrigate lawn and garden areas before implementation of these improvements was also reduced by 90%.
Implementing Rain Gardens
Rain gardens are like bowls in the ground where some of the rainfall-runoff soaks into the soil while the rest is filtered by soil and organic matter within the garden, removing some pollutants before it flows out and continues to storm drains and waterways.
If you have an area where runoff from a roof, sidewalk, or other sources effectively becomes a small creek during heavy rains, that’s a good location for a rain garden.
- Dig a bowl-shaped shallow depression in the path of the runoff. Make it at least ten feet from any foundations and slope it so that the outflow is directed away from structures.
- Once you’re finished digging, you’ll need to do a water penetration test.
- To ensure that your rain garden will not be a mosquito producer, the water in your garden bowl should not stand for more than 48 hours before it is absorbed completely into the ground.
- Fill the garden area with water and see how quickly or slowly it drains.
- If it drains too slowly, you probably have too much clay, and some soil mitigation may be required to make it more loamy and absorbent before planting.
- For the center, the deepest part of your rain garden bowl, you’ll need native plants that can handle their roots being wet for a few days at a time.
- As you move toward the upper rim of your garden bowl, use native plants that need less water and can also handle dry conditions.
- Again, you may wish to speak with your local extension office experts for plant recommendations if you have questions.
- While you will need to water your rain garden at first to ensure that your plants get established, and you may need to water it occasionally after that, it will allow much more water to penetrate the ground and save you water in the long run while it also filters out pollutants.
- Rain gardens with flowering native plants also support pollinators.
Rainwater Collection Systems
Less Energy Intensive Model (Courtesy: Pinterest)
Rather than having the water from your roof running down a spout and into your yard, why not collect it with a rain barrel or tank so you can use it later when it isn’t raining and your plants need a good soaking?
Perhaps the best place to start your rainwater collection project is at the Energy.gov site, where you’ll find rainwater harvesting regulations for your state.
That’s right; some states regulate how and how much rainwater can be collected and who can collect it.
At the Energy.gov site, click on your state to see the applicable regulations.
While a couple of states have strict limits on the amount of rainwater you can collect, others promote rainwater collection and offer incentives for doing so, like waiving the sales tax on the equipment required.
Once you know what type of system is permitted in your area, building one isn’t difficult. You can buy tanks specifically designed for this application or use a clean barrel.
Online instructions are plentiful. There are even video tutorials on YouTube.
Ideally, you would put your primary tank or barrel at a location where it gets a good supply of water from gutters and a downspout.
A secondary water tank that is elevated enough to use gravity then supplies water everywhere you need by simply opening a faucet – no pump required.
Examples Of Environmentally-Friendly Landscapes
Compact yet Smart
This compact masterpiece features a mix of edible and drought-resistant plants. Eco-friendly materials such as porous crushed rock and cobalt recycled glass aggregate provide a pleasing look to the patio. Coupled with a drip irrigation system that prevents water wastage and a rain garden, this landscape is one of the best examples of environment-first landscaping.
|Water Smart Landscape
This landscape consists of a traditional garden with modern, low water-using plants, flowers, colors, and textures. The plants are drought-tolerant and do not require frequent watering, making the garden water-smart. Mulch is used to reduce evaporation, control weeds, maintain soil temperature and prevent soil erosion.
Suppose you’re using pesticides and fertilizer to maintain your lawn. In that case, you are not only spending money you don’t need to spend, but you may be unintentionally and unknowingly contributing to the pollution of your local waterways.
By converting your lawn to a showcase of native and adapted plant species, you significantly reduce or eliminate the need for applying these potentially harmful chemicals.
At the same time, you’ll provide plants that support the population of critical pollinators in your area. This population has been declining rapidly due to development which is destroying their natural habitats.
Adding water gardens and a rainwater collection system to the mix will lower your water bill and help reduce the number of contaminants that end up in the environment.
Smart landscaping doesn’t have to be unattractive. There may be many plant species native to your area that will enhance the appearance of your lawn and home. Check and see what will work for you. You could be pleasantly surprised.