BayScaping for the Chesapeake Bay

A few simple changes in your yard can help preserve the health of the Chesapeake Bay

What is a BayScape? It's a landscape that benefits people, wildlife and the Chesapeake Bay. You can make your landscape a BayScape by saving water, using plant food, weed & insect killers wisely, planting native plants and providing habitat for wildlife. Learn how to get started below.

Conserve Water

You can capture and reuse rainwater by installing rain barrels or attaching cisterns to your gutters.

Use the rainwater you save to water your garden or wash the car. You can also save water by planting drought-tolerant plants, which will not need to be watered as frequently during the region's hot, dry summers. Use mulch, such as Miracle-Gro® Garden Mulch, to help keep garden soils moist without watering as often. Letting your lawn go dormant during droughts will also save resources during times when water supplies are stressed.

Use Lawn and Garden Products Wisely

Apply weed and insect killers only when you see damage being done by pests. Package directions will indicate the correct amount to apply and when. Helpful insects like ladybugs and praying mantises can take care of some of your pest problems, or you can pick pests off your plants by hand. It's always a good idea to do a soil test to find out whether your soil needs nutrients and what plants will grow best. On your lawn, be sure to use a quality lawn food that contains slow-release nitrogen to feed it over time. If you spill lawn food on pavement, just sweep or blow it back on the lawn. A well-kept lawn can absorb thousands of gallons of rainwater. If your lawn has hard, compacted soil, you can help it absorb more water by aerating it.

Create a Wildlife Habitat

Planting various different kinds of native plants will provide fruits, flowers, seeds and leaves for wildlife to eat. Most birds eat many insects in the spring to feed their young, and native plants support more insects. This may seem like a bad thing to a gardener, but remember that birds will eat most of the insects before they harm your plants. Butterflies often rely on particular native plant species as food in their caterpillar stage. For example, without milkweed plants in the garden, you will never see monarch butterfly caterpillars.

You can also put up boxes for birds, bats and solitary nesting bees, among other creatures. Provide water in the garden by adding a bird bath or small fountain. Kids and adults love to watch for butterflies, birds, toads and praying mantises, all of which are easy to attract to a garden.

Find Out More about BayScaping

To learn more about BayScaping, visit the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay, and the Chesapeake Conservation Landscaping Council's 8 Elements of a Conservation Landscape.

Original article by Sylvan Kaufman. Dr. Kaufman is a writer of popular scientific and gardening articles. She is also an ecological consultant.