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Bay Blog: garden

Jul
14
2017

A walk in the edible woods

Lincoln Smith, founder of Forested, a food forest in Bowie, Md., inspects a tree while giving a tour of his land on July 6. Over the five years that Smith has been renting the ten acres from a local church, he has transformed it into a multistory food forest that produces diverse crops and provides food for the community.

Imagine a forest garden, where the best of both farming and forestry combine to form an ecosystem that gives back to the land. Figs, pomegranates, pineapple guavas,  mulberries, leafy greens, mushrooms and raspberry brambles grow and are harvested in harmony with shady canopies and a wide array of other edible plants, and the environment benefits from the forested landscape. What you may not imagine is that you can find this forest agriculture paradise in a quiet, suburban cul-de-sac in Bowie, Maryland.

Just past the cheerful mailboxes and carefully trimmed lawns of its host neighborhood sits the forest garden, a ten-acre demonstration site founded in 2011 by Lincoln Smith through a grant from the District of Columbia Urban Forestry Administration and Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments. Smith designs forest gardens and teaches courses on production ecosystems through his organization, Forested, LLC.

Goldenseal, a plant valued for its medicinal properties, grows in Smith’s forest farm.

Stepping inside the rustic gate, you are greeted to an array of edible plants, both of the standard and unexpected variety. Oak trees make up a portion of the canopy, providing all of the traditional benefits of trees such as improving air quality, retaining water and providing shade, however they also supply a surprising staple: starch. In terms of production and space, acorns produce as much as or more food per acre than wheat. It is this kind of information that Smith hopes will get people thinking differently about food. Helping him to do that in a delicious way is Michael Costa, head chef for the Washington, D.C., restaurant Zaytinya.

Food Forest Feasts are held twice a year at Forested and feature dishes created from the forest abundance. All over the forest garden, special emphasis is given to species that grow wild. A species of grapevine growing all over the garden is embraced as a food source and used by Chef Costa to create dolmas from the leaves. Fresh wine cap, shitake and oyster mushrooms feature in the meals. Spice bush is used to make a vinegar, sumac for a lemon spice.

Smith picks Wine Cap mushrooms of several maturity stages growing in a mulched patch of ground inside the forest. Due to their quick growth rate, Smith tries to check on the wine caps, or Stropharia Rugosoannulata, twice a day during harvest season.

Designed as a space for the community to be enriched, Forested’s forest garden is always open to the public. The land is owned by a local church, and the steps Smith had to take in order to rent it perfectly fit with his concept of urban forest agriculture. “I had to go to every home in the neighborhood,” he laughs, spreading his arms over the tops of kale and indicating the homes nearby.

Community members go to the garden to learn about edible forestry, paint the landscape, help with the harvest or just take their dogs on a leisurely stroll. “The longer we’re here,” says Smith with quiet pride, “the more the local community seems to understand and appreciate the project.”

A close up of perennial asparagus as it grows in a sunny vegetable patch of the forest garden. The delicate, fern-like foliage grows throughout the summer before dying back to make way for fresh, harvestable asparagus shoots the following spring.

If the forest garden is well-integrated with the human community, its relationship among the winged, crawling and rooted community is even more impressive. Take, for instance, the resident flock of ducks, whose grazing area rotates so they can forage throughout the garden. When harlequin bugs become a problem for the brassicas—crunchy vegetables like cabbages and radishes—the ducks are set loose to thin out the pests. Comfrey and dandelions are also a favorite snack of the ducks, who in turn spread nutrients as the comfrey and dandelions pass through their digestive systems.

Thanks to the biodiversity encouraged by a healthy ecosystem, pests like the invasive Japanese beetle meet some formidable foes at Forested. Scolia dubia, a native and beautiful blue-winged wasp, preys on the beetle. And wheel bugs are given a free pass to feast on the mulberry crop, in exchange for providing a valuable service in actively liquefying Japanese beetles. There are complex interactions to an ecosystem, which when working in harmony produce a beautiful, living landscape.

With the forest garden now in its sixth year, it is beginning to generate its own prizes outside, or ahead of, the man-made design. Jack-in-the-pulpit, sassafras and jewelweed now all grow unbidden. Will the herbalist begin creating jewelweed salves for bug bites and other irritations? Will they use that sassafras to create root beer? When the biosphere is diverse, it builds its own potential.

Smith tends a mulberry tree amidst his forest farm. The farm is maintained by him as well as neighbors, other volunteers and members of the forest’s Community Supported Agriculture program, or CSA, whose customers receive produce from the farm.

Food forests provide a wide variety of sustenance in a small space, and hit that double mark of community space and environmental improvement. Forested recently worked on a project to design a new food forest for the city of Hyattsville in Prince George’s County, and discussion is underway for additional gardens. Given all the intertwined benefits, it is no surprise that many are excited to implement forest gardens into urban settings.

Caitlyn Johnstone's avatar
About Caitlyn Johnstone - Caitlyn is the Outreach Coordinator at the Chesapeake Bay Program. She earned her Bachelor's in English and Behavioral Psychology at WVU Eberly Honors College, where she fed her interest in the relationship between human behavior and the natural world. Caitlyn continues that passion on her native Eastern Shore by seeking comprehensive strategies to human and environmental wellbeing.



Jul
10
2017

Creating a cadre of Chesapeake Bay Landscape Professionals

Written and photographed by Jim Edward, Deputy Director of the Chesapeake Bay Program

As I drove into the parking lot of the Mt. Olive African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church in Annapolis on June 20, I couldn’t help but notice the rain gardens and lush native plantings on the church property. It certainly seemed appropriate, though, as I was there to attend a two-day training class with others aspiring to become certified as Chesapeake Bay Landscape Professionals (CBLP). The nascent CBLP Certification Program, in its first full year of operation, is a new voluntary credential system for professionals who design, install and maintain sustainable landscapes. The training and examination are based on a core set of standards in sustainable landscaping, emphasizing best practices for stormwater retrofitting and conservation landscaping to benefit the environment.

A rain garden at Hillsmere Shores Community Beach is visited during a Chesapeake Bay Landscape Professionals (CBLP) training workshop in Annapolis, Md., on June 21. CBLP offers voluntary certification for sustainable landscape professionals.

My class consisted of about 25 people representing a wide variety of environmental professionals. Some, like myself, had degrees in landscape architecture or regional planning, while others were horticulturists, arborists, engineers, ecologists or environmental scientists. While a bit eclectic, we were all there for two reasons: first, because we care about protecting and restoring the Chesapeake Bay and its rivers, streams and creeks, and second, to learn about the design, installation and maintenance of sustainable landscapes, with an emphasis on properly maintaining stormwater best management practices (BMPs). Consisting of a two-day class, an online webinar series and a written exam, the course incorporates interactive classroom instruction with a field-based practicum.

To begin our class, we were greeted warmly by Reverend Johnny Calhoun, pastor of our host Mt. Olive AME Church and one of the Chesapeake region’s leading advocates of involving faith communities in Bay restoration work. Thus inspired by the Reverend, we spent most of the day in the classroom with CBLP Program Coordinator Beth Ginter and our expert instructors learning about a variety of topics, including native plants, invasive species and soil textures. Following an overview of issues related to the design, installation and maintenance of stormwater BMPs, we finally headed outside for some field work.

We didn’t have to go far: the grounds of Mt. Olive AME Church served as a perfect venue for viewing first-hand some rainwater harvesting practices. For most places of worship, large parking lots are the norm, and Mt. Olive is no exception. To help limit stormwater runoff, church leadership put a number of practices in place, including three rain gardens lush with native plants and flowering perennials as well as some rain barrels to capture runoff from the church and community center roofs. They also installed pervious concrete in parts of the parking lot to help prevent stormwater from leaving their property and polluting local streams and rivers.

Day two of the CBLP training was spent primarily out in the field, participating in a “BMP Maintenance Practicum.” The CBLP management team decided that, regardless of whether a professional is going to focus on landscape design, installation or maintenance, it is imperative that everyone understand and properly plan for the maintenance needs and implications of sustainable landscapes. Armed with our inspection checklists, we spent the day examining various residential and commercial sites in and around the city of Annapolis.

A rain garden at Mt. Olive AME Church in Annapolis captures and filters stormwater before it can leave the property.

Our first stop was the downtown Annapolis Visitors Center. We met with local landscape architect Shelley Rentsch, who designed the elliptical parking lot and bioremediation practices and plantings that surround it. Her design—which won a Best Urban BMP in the Bay Award, or BUBBA—uses a mix of rain gardens and their larger cousins, bioswales, as well as pervious concrete and permeable pavers for the parking spaces and driving surfaces. The conservation landscaping was generally in good shape, although our instructor was able to point out a few minor maintenance issues likely resulting from an inadequately trained maintenance crew.

Next was a green roof on top of a bank building off Westgate Circle. It was well-maintained and watered by a professional landscaping crew and had mainly low-growing, herbaceous plantings with some benches for workers to sit and enjoy the view of the city.

We then moved onto the Hillsmere Shores neighborhood, where we saw a number of good examples of somewhat larger-scale bioremediation projects on community properties (beaches, neighborhood pools, etc.), such as bioswales, step pool storm conveyances and raingardens. Most of them were well-established and professionally maintained, although we were told that annual maintenance costs are starting to raise concerns among some community residents.

We spent the remainder of the day touring other residential and commercial sites around the city, some of which had more serious maintenance issues (no names, please!). In a number of cases, it was hard to tell if the issues were the result of inadequate maintenance or of flaws in design or installation. But that was what the training was for: to get us thinking about these issues now, so we’ll each be prepared to address them in the future when we become certified Chesapeake Bay Landscape Professionals. We’ll know for sure after we take our certification exams this fall!

About Jim Edward - Jim Edward is the Deputy Director of the Chesapeake Bay Program. He plays a lead role in coordinating the U.S. EPA's activities with other federal agencies, and works with state and local authorities to improve the water quality and living resources of the Bay.



Nov
13
2014

Letter from Leadership: A thousand chances to heal

It is often said that the environment is dying a death by a thousand cuts. No single development, no act of an individual or organization or business causes a big negative impact; but collectively these developments and actions represent a significant impact on the environment. Left unchecked or unaltered, the ultimate fate is clearly predictable.

Thankfully, throughout the watershed, more and more small organizations and businesses are working with local governments to uproot pavement and concrete and replace it with gardens and natural areas.  These pollution-reducing conservation practices at churches, schools, libraries, car dealerships, marinas, and, yes, even local brew pubs are healing some of the thousand cuts, as they absorb runoff from buildings and parking lots and reduce pollution flowing off the land and into local streams and creeks. Most of these projects are the result of a few dedicated and talented local citizens and organizations. Recently, the Spa Creek Conservancy, working with the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay and the Watershed Stewards Academy, with funding support from state and local agencies, installed rain gardens and infiltration basins at the Cecil Memorial Methodist and Mt. Olive African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Churches in Annapolis, Maryland.

Remarkably, these beautiful gardens now catch and absorb virtually all of the polluted stormwater runoff that previously flowed off the property, untreated, and into nearby Spa Creek. While controlling polluted runoff was important to the leadership and congregations of these inner-city churches, so too was the sense of pride that they had in beautifying their houses of worship, with flowering native plants in the rain gardens and these community improvements. 

So, how do we stop the death of a thousand cuts from which nature is suffering? By healing those cuts one at a time, through small projects like these that also lift our hearts and our souls and restore that sense of pride in our communities. How glorious and uplifting it will be for members of these churches to attend services and witness these plants in full bloom and know that they are honoring and paying tribute to creation.

Note: The opinions expressed above are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect U.S. EPA policy endorsement or action.

Nick DiPasquale's avatar
About Nick DiPasquale - Nick has nearly 30 years of public policy and environmental management experience in both the public and private sectors. He previously served as Deputy Secretary in the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, Director of the Environmental Management Center for the Brandywine Conservancy in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania and as Secretary of the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control.



Oct
11
2012

From the Field: Building rain gardens with youth in Howard County, Md.

When Marcus Moody hears the term “rain garden,” he will smile. Not because those colorful patches of flood-tolerant plants capture stormwater and allow it to gradually sink into the ground, but because he survived seven weeks of planting 27 rain gardens in Howard County, Md., during the hottest summer on record.

For Marcus and the 29 other 16 to 25-year-olds that participated in the Restoring the Environment and Developing Youth program this summer, also known as READY, rain gardens are no longer an intangible concept or an idea to read about in guides to “going green.” Instead, rain gardens are dirty, wet and empowering endeavors that prove that a group of focused youth can make visible, lasting change. And in most cases, rain gardens are a lot of fun to create.

“We all became friends,” said Moody. “The actual experience of … getting to know new people and working in teams with different personalities—that was great.”

From the Field: Building rain gardens with youth in Howard County, Md. from Chesapeake Bay Program on Vimeo.

READY’s participants included graduate students, fashion design majors and high school seniors looking to fund their college careers. The program provided them with a resume-building career experience, a few extra dollars and a new network of friends.

Working with people from different backgrounds toward a common goal made the summer experience stand out for Afua Boateng, who moved to Maryland from Ghana six years ago.

"Sometimes I find myself thinking about things that I feel like no one in my age group thinks about, because [in Ghana] we are trained to grow up faster. Learning to work with people that have the same interest and that are willing to work together to save something we should all care about—I really love that,” Boateng said.

READY program participants pose next to a finished rain garden

Image courtesy READY/Facebook

READY was conceived with two goals in mind: first, to provide jobs for young people. Second, to reduce the amount of stormwater runoff entering the Chesapeake Bay.

Stormwater runoff, or rainfall that picks up pollutants as it flows across paved roads, parking lots, lawns and golf courses, is the fastest growing source of pollution into the Bay. But rain gardens and other so-called best management practices can reduce the flow of stormwater into creeks, streams and rivers.

For Amanda Tritinger, building rain gardens brought her studies about stormwater to life.

"I studied hydrology and hydraulics as a course in school, but the theoretical doesn't stick with me at all and I don't really get it,” Tritinger said. “Seeing all this stuff hands-on was so valuable for me.”

Image courtesy READY/Facebook

READY is the brain child of People Acting Together in Howard (PATH), a coalition of faith-based organizations in Howard County, Md. READY is funded through a grant from the Howard County government administered by the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay.

Like any program in its inaugural year, the leaders behind READY have learned lessons for next summer, with a number of suggestions coming from the participants themselves.

For Nabil Morad, who is enrolled in the Environmental Scholars Program at the University of Maryland, working in an environment where his feedback was valued was highly encouraging. It was also the last thing he expected from a program with the words "developing youth" in its title.

"I was a little worried we were going to be treated like kindergarteners," Nabil said. "But this feels like it's an actual job."

After working in an industry where his age and experience meant his suggestions were not welcome, Nabil said that READY's willingness to listen to its participants is refreshing.

“Here, respect travels both ways in the system. I could make a suggestion to [program manager] Don [Tsusaki], and if the day comes, he'll put it into action,” Nabil added. “Everybody here is developing toward the same goal together, which is really nice.”

That goal—curbing stormwater pollution—will become more attainable if READY continues in Howard County, and if similar programs are established elsewhere in the Bay watershed.

"We have a waiting list of people who want rain gardens for next year," said PATH administrator Guy Moody. "That's a good problem to have."

Image courtesy READY/Facebook

How do rain gardens help the Chesapeake Bay?

When rainfall hits impervious surfaces like sidewalks, roofs or driveways, or when it falls onto grass lawns, it is not absorbed into the ground. Instead, it runs off into a storm drain, collecting fertilizer, pesticides, pet waste, litter and other pollutants on its way.

Rain gardens are shallow depressions planted with sedges, rushes and other flood-tolerant vegetation that capture rainfall and allow it to soak slowly into the ground.

To learn how to install a rain garden on your property, visit Anne Arundel County’s Rainscaping page.

Caitlin Finnerty's avatar
About Caitlin Finnerty - Caitlin Finnerty is the Communications Staffer at the Chesapeake Research Consortium and Chesapeake Bay Program. Caitlin grew up digging for dinosaur bones and making mud pies in Harrisburg, Pa. Her fine arts degree landed her environmental field work jobs everywhere from Oregon to Maryland. Now settled in Baltimore, she is eagerly expecting her first child while creating an urban garden oasis on her cement patio.



Jan
30
2012

Nine native Chesapeake Bay plants that look beautiful in winter

These dreary winter days got you down? Fortunately, there's still plenty of color out there! We’ve compiled a list of nine native plants that are particularly beautiful during our coldest season. Go on a scavenger hunt for them, or plan on planting them this spring to brighten up your yard next winter – not to mention provide food and shelter for wildlife all year round.

1. Witch hazel (Hamamelis vernalis and Hamamelis ovalis)

witch hazel

(Image courtesy Tigermuse/Flickr)

Two varieties of this small tree flower in late winter. Extracts found in witch hazel's bark and leaves help shrink blood vessels back to their normal size. Witch hazel extract is used in medicines, aftershave lotions, and creams that treat insect bites and bruises.

2. Inkberry (Ilex glabra)

inkberry

(Image courtesy Mary Keim/Flickr)

Wildlife feed on inkberry’s purplish-black berries, which often persist through the winter. Raccoons, coyotes and opossums eat the berries when other foods are scarce. At least 15 species of birds, including bobwhite quails and wild turkeys, also rely on this plant.

3. Winterberry (Ilex verticillata)

winterberry

(Image courtesy Wallyg/Flickr)

Winterberry is very easy to grow, and isn’t susceptible to many pests and diseases. Its bright red berries stand out in mid-winter snow and look beautiful in holiday arrangements. Not to mention they provide excellent nutrition for winter wildlife. But be careful – they’re poisonous to humans!

4. Staggerbush (Lyonia mariana)

staggerbush

(Image courtesy Patrick Coin/Flickr)

This low-growing shrub has purplish berries that last through the winter. In early summer, staggerbush's unique, urn-shaped flowers will surely accent your landscape beautifully.

5. Northern bayberry (Myrica pensylvanica)

northern bayberry

(Image courtesy JanetandPhil/Flickr)

Yellow-rumped warblers rely heavily on northern bayberry’s berries, which have a waxy, light blue-purple coating. When this deciduous plant’s leaves are crushed, they give off a spicy scent. Bayberry essential oil is extracted from these leaves and used to scent many products.

6. Shining sumac (Rhus copallina)

shining sumac

(Image courtesy treegrow/Flickr)

Sumac berries are quite sour, so they usually aren't the first choice of wintering wildlife. But they are high in vitamin A and have helped many a bluebird when insects are scarce. Shining sumac’s shrubby nature is perfect for critters looking to take cover.

7. Staghorn sumac (Rhus typhina)

staghorn sumac

(Image courtesy flora.cyclam/Flickr)

Staghorn sumac is easily identified by its pointed cluster of reddish fruits, which often last through the winter and into spring. Since it can grow in a variety of conditions, staghorn sumac is perfect for novice gardeners. Humans have used the fruit to make a lemonade-like drink high in vitamin A. Native Americans used the plant to make natural dyes, and often mixed it with tobacco.

8. Southern arrowwood (Viburnum dentatum and Viburnum recognitum)

southern arrowwood

(Image courtesy Kingsbrae Garden/Flickr)

Southern arrowwood is an eye-pleaser year-round, with furry, white flowers in summer, wine-red foliage in autumn and dark blue berries in winter. This shrub prefers well-drained soils.

9. Yellow birch (Betula alleghaniensis)

yellow birch

(Image courtesy underthesun/Flickr)

Yellow birch trees even smell like winter; when their twigs scrape together, they give off a slight wintergreen scent. The tree is named for the color of its bark, which will brighten up any winter landscape.

Do you have a favorite native plant that looks great in winter? Tell us about it in the comments! And if you’d like more suggestions for native plants that provide winter interest, check out the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Native Plants for Wildlife Habitat and Conservation Landscaping: Chesapeake Bay Watershed.

Caitlin Finnerty's avatar
About Caitlin Finnerty - Caitlin Finnerty is the Communications Staffer at the Chesapeake Research Consortium and Chesapeake Bay Program. Caitlin grew up digging for dinosaur bones and making mud pies in Harrisburg, Pa. Her fine arts degree landed her environmental field work jobs everywhere from Oregon to Maryland. Now settled in Baltimore, she is eagerly expecting her first child while creating an urban garden oasis on her cement patio.



Jun
16
2011

Online guide helps homeowners choose Chesapeake Bay native plants

The Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have launched the Native Plant Center, an online guide to help homeowners identify and choose plants that are native to the Chesapeake Bay region.

Users to the website, www.nativeplantcenter.net, can search for native plants by name, plant type, sun exposure, soil texture and moisture. Users can even find native plants with the same characteristics as some of their favorite non-native plants. The website also includes a geo-locator feature to identify plants suited to a user’s specific location.

Planting native plants is an important part of restoring the Chesapeake Bay. Residents who replace their typical backyard landscaping with native plants use less fertilizer and pesticides, provide critical habitat for pollinators, and reduce polluted runoff to storm drains.

The portal uses the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service’s native plant database, associated with the publication Native Plants for Wildlife Habitat and Conservation Landscaping: Chesapeake Bay Watershed.

To learn more about native plants, visit www.nativeplantcenter.net.



May
24
2011

Eight things environmentalists do to help the Chesapeake Bay

The Chesapeake Bay Program’s staff is on a mission to restore the Bay and its rivers. Whether they work on water quality, education or oysters, everyone here is dedicated to helping the Chesapeake. But do they keep the Bay in mind when they aren’t behind their desk?

A few months ago, we sent our staff a quick survey asking them about the types of positive activities they do for the Bay when they’re not at work. Some results were typical, while others were very interesting! The following eight activities were the most popular:

1. Recycle

Is anyone surprised that recycling ranked as the number one thing Bay Program staff do to help the Bay? Recycling is one of the easiest things you can do for the environment.

One of the most common reasons why people don’t recycle is because their location does not offer recycling services. If you’re having trouble finding recycling services in your, enter your area code at Earth911 for a listing of drop-off locations near you.

2. Use little or no fertilizer on their lawn

You know you work with environmentalists when fertilizer use ranks near the top of the list! The average person may not realize that yard runoff containing fertilizer can be harmful to local waterways and the Chesapeake Bay. Fertilizer is full of nutrients, which fuel the growth of algae blooms that block sunlight from reaching bay grasses and rob the water of oxygen.

To learn more about Bay-friendly fertilizer use, visit Chesapeake Club.

3. Compost

A little more than half of respondents said they composted at home on a regular basis. Composting is a great way to save time, money and the Bay! When you compost things like kitchen scraps and leaves, you are not only creating your own free fertilizer, but you are reducing the amount of waste that goes to landfills. Old composters used to require a pitchfork to turn over the pile, but these have been replaced with easy-to-use bins with hand cranks.

To help you get started with composting, visit How to Compost.

4. Have a Bay license plate

If you live in or have driven through Maryland, you have probably noticed the iconic blue Chesapeake Bay license plate. What many people don’t know is that the proceeds from this “vanity plate” go to the Chesapeake Bay Trust, a non-profit that conducts restoration, education and community engagement activities throughout the Bay watershed. To date, the Trust has planted 220,648 native plants and trees, restored 65 acres of wetlands, oyster reefs and streamside buffers, and engaged 86,717 students.

If you live in Maryland, buying a Bay plate is one of the easiest things you can do to help the Chesapeake Bay. Visit the Bay Plate website to learn more.

5. Volunteer for restoration projects at least once a year

All the funding in the world for restoration projects will not help if there is no one to do the work! There are an overwhelming amount of opportunities to get involved with environmental organizations in our region. From planting trees to removing invasive species to building oyster reefs, there are activities for every interest. Volunteering is also a great way to get your kids outside and help them appreciate nature.

If you are interested in getting your family involved, the Baltimore Aquarium offers regular restoration events. You can also contact your local watershed organization for more information about opportunities near you.

6. Have a rain garden or a rain barrel

Rain barrels and rain gardens are important because they collect water from roofs, yards and paved surfaces that would otherwise flow into storm drains. Rain gardens and rain barrels are so important that some counties actually offer funding and tax breaks for implementing them. Check with your city environmental office to see if your area has a program.

To learn more about rain barrels and rain gardens, visit Rainscaping.org.

7. Pick up after their pets

It is common misconception that it’s safe to leave pet waste on the ground because some consider it a “natural fertilizer.” However, pet waste actually contains harmful nutrients and bacteria that can run off into local waterways. Some areas can be closed off to swimmers in summertime due to high bacteria levels from pet waste. Dog waste should be thrown away, flushed or put in a pet waste composter.

For more information about pet waste pollution, visit the Stormwater Center Pollution Prevention website.

8. Carpool to work

People tend not to carpool because they do not know if anyone else who works with them lives nearby. People also enjoy the freedom of being able to come and go as they please without having to worry about altering their schedule because of another carpool rider. However, carpooling can actually save you time and money. You will spend less on gas and vehicle maintenance, and you can take advantage of High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lanes.

The best solution is to create a way for colleagues who are interested in carpooling to list where they live. Put it in a well-traveled place, such as a kitchen, front desk or break room.

After seeing what the “average environmentalist” does for the Chesapeake Bay, do you think you do the same? Or more? What activities do you do that help the Chesapeake?

Kristen Foringer's avatar
About Kristen Foringer - Need some text



May
10
2011

10 Chesapeake Bay native plants to plant in your yard this spring

The birds are chirping, the sun is starting to feel warm on your face, and those afternoon thunderstorms are rolling in. It’s officially spring in the Chesapeake Bay region, which means it’s time to get outside and plant!

If you’ve been looking for a way to help the Chesapeake Bay, planting native plants in your yard is a great way to make a difference. Native plants are adapted to our region's environment, so they need less watering and no fertilizer – which saves you money. Less work, less cost and helpful to the Bay? Sounds great to us!

Here are ten native plants we recommend you plant in your yard this year!

1. Eastern Purple Coneflower

Coneflower (or Echinacea) is a popular, long-lasting perennial that grows 2-5 feet tall. Its bright lavender flowers attract butterflies, hummingbirds and other beneficial wildlife. Coneflower is also known for its herbal remedies as an immune system booster.

2. Sweetbay Magnolia

Sweetbay magnolia is a slender tree or shrub with pale gray bark. It is native to all the Chesapeake Bay states, except West Virginia. It usually grows 12-20 feet tall, but occasionally reaches 50 feet in the southern part of its range. When in bloom, the plant’s fragrant magnolia flowers open in the morning and close in the evening.

3. Scarlet Beebalm

Scarlet beebalm is a popular perennial with tufts of scarlet-red flowers. The 3-foot stems are lined with large, oval, dark green leaves that have a minty aroma. Scarlet beebalm will attract hummingbirds to your garden.

4. Red Maple

This popular, beautiful shade tree tree grows 40-60 ft. in cultivation, occasionally reaching 100-120 ft. in the wild. Red maple is named for its brilliant red autumn leaves. It has the greatest north-south distribution of any East Coast tree species.

5. Flowering Dogwood

Considered one of the most spectacular native, flowering trees, flowering dogwood is a 20-40 foot, single- or multi-trunked tree with white or pink spring blooms. Its fruit is known to attract birds and deer.

6. Eastern Redbud

The eastern redbud is a 15-30 foot tree with a purplish or maroon trunk and a wide, umbrella-like crown. Its tight, pink flower clusters bloom before its leaves grow, offering a showy spring display.

7. Dense Blazing Star

Blazing star has long spikes of dense, feathery white or purple flowers that bloom from the top down. Birds, bees and butterflies will be frequent visitors to your garden if you plant these beautiful native flowers.

8. Common Boneset

Boneset’s tiny, white flowers are arranged in fuzzy clusters atop 3-6 foot stems. Early herb doctors thought this plant helped set broken bones. Its leaves were wrapped with bandages around splints.

9. New York Ironweed

New York ironweed is a tall perennial, growing 5-8 feet in height. Its clumps of striking, deep reddish-purple flowers attract butterflies.

10. Cardinal Flower

This perennial grows 2-4 feet tall and has showy, red flowers. Although relatively common, cardinal flower is scarce in some areas due to over-picking. Because most insects have difficulty navigating the plant’s long, tubular flowers, cardinal flower depends on hummingbirds for pollination.

For more information about native plants in our area, check out the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center’s special Plants of Chesapeake Bay collection. This database contains hundreds of native plants and a link to a BayScaping guide that will help you use native plants in a Bay-friendly garden.

Kristen Foringer's avatar
About Kristen Foringer - Need some text



Dec
09
2009

A Saturday Well Spent

 

If someone were to ask you what an average twenty-something would be doing before noon on a Saturday morning, what would you say? I’m going to guess sleeping. Well, I am proud to say that a few Saturdays ago, some of my co-workers and I broke this mold.

When I started working for the Chesapeake Bay Program about two months ago and moved from just north of D.C. to Annapolis, a former co-worker recommended I look into attending St. Martin’s Lutheran Church. On my first Sunday there, I noticed a write-up in the bulletin about a rain garden planting that would be taking place a few months down the road, and I thought it would be a great opportunity to get involved.

St. Martin’s received a $109,000 Small Watershed Grant from the Bay Program and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to plant 23 rain gardens and 23 trees on its property. One rain garden and all 23 trees were to be planted on a Saturday in November, while the rest of the project was to be finished in the spring. The Spa Creek Conservancy, which is responsible for managing the grant, predicts that the new trees and rain gardens will reduce runoff from the property by 97 percent. The church’s day school plans on incorporating the plantings into its lesson plans and engaging the young students as much as possible in local environmental issues.

Most of the volunteers that arrived that Saturday were either senior members of the church community or children who attend the day school. This made the job of planting the 23 trees and rain garden seem like much more of a challenge. But I was surprised to find that everyone found a task to complete and the group finished the plantings on time.

I remember looking up from the tree we were planting and seeing all of the volunteers working together on this early Saturday morning. I thought that if everyone planted a rain garden, or even a tree, what a difference it would make for the health of the Chesapeake Bay.

Many of my co-workers who joined me at the planting used the event for certain projects that they were working on for the Bay Program. Members of our communications team took pictures and video to post on our website, while other staffers were interested in learning more from the Spa Creek Conservancy about similar projects. Although we each came with our own agenda, in the end, our biggest accomplishment was that we did something positive for the Bay.

Sometimes when you work for an environmental program, like the Chesapeake Bay, you forget what it really takes to make a change. Sure, making policy or informational videos and collecting data have a large impact, but what is really going to save the Chesapeake Bay are voluntary actions made by people in communities around the watershed. That Saturday at St. Martin’s, we were actually practicing what we preached, and I think that was the best message of all. A Saturday morning well spent.

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About Kristen Foringer - Need some text



Keywords: rain gardens
Apr
22
2009

RainScaping Campaign Promotes Homeowner Involvement in Reducing Bay Pollution

A new campaign is urging Anne Arundel County, Md., residents to find “beautiful solutions to water pollution” by installing rain gardens, rain barrels and other methods of absorbing polluted runoff before it makes its way into the Bay.

The RainScaping Campaign, which kicked off this Earth Day, is a social marketing effort supported by more than 30 organizations throughout Maryland. The purpose of the campaign is to help reduce the fastest-growing source of pollution to the Bay: the dirt, oil, fertilizers and pesticides that run off residents’ lawns, decks and driveways when it rains.

Hundreds of years ago, the Chesapeake watershed was covered by vast swaths of forests, which slowly absorbed and filtered rain water before returning it to groundwater and nearby streams. RainScaping methods attempt to replicate the natural flow of water in today’s environment, in which much of those forests have been converted to cities, towns and subdivisions that are dominated by paved, hardened surfaces.

“Though we’ve lost a big piece of the natural forest, there are ways we can replicate it” through RainScaping techniques, said Jeff Horan with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, one of the campaign partners.

The campaign is centered around a website that contains detailed information about RainScaping, including directions on how to build a rain garden, lists and photos of plants native to the Chesapeake region, and where to order a rain barrel. The website also asks visitors to take the “RainScaping Challenge” by registering their RainScaping projects.

The rain gardens, native plants and permeable pavers promoted by the RainScaping campaign are on display at the Chesapeake Ecology Center in Annapolis. The site boasts 24 native demonstration gardens that absorb and filter polluted runoff while providing a colorful garden setting on the banks of College Creek, a tributary of the Bay.

To learn how you can RainScape to “slow it down, spread it out and soak it in,” visit RainScaping.org.



Feb
09
2009

The Art of the Possible

I couldn’t pass up the recent chance to join colleagues from the Chesapeake Bay Program for a short road trip to witness the art of the possible.

Just down the road from Fort Meade in Maryland is an office building that is incorporating the latest in green construction techniques. 

It’s called the EnviroCenter, and for good reason. It’s a showcase for ways to protect the environment by harnessing nature – from drawing the energy of the sun to reusing the rain from a storm.

The first clue that innovation was afoot at this converted 1905 farmhouse was the lack of puddles as we pulled into the driveway on a miserably rainy day. A downspout from its green roof was feeding stormwater directly into a lineup of storage containers, and rain was being sucked up by the property’s absorbent surfaces. 

With expansion plans in the works that will add a range of new environmental features, the EnviroCenter will even be able to capture stormwater gushing down the highway in front of the building – doing more than its share to corral one of the biggest nemeses of the Chesapeake Bay.

Stormwater carries pollutants and dirt from hard surfaces directly into streams and rivers, fouling the water and the habitat needed by fish and other Bay-dwellers. 

The Bay Program is about to launch something called the “No Runoff Challenge” to promote no stormwater runoff from properties. The EnviroCenter is expected to do it one better and actually achieve negative runoff.

Stan Sersen, architect and owner of the EnviroCenter, gave us gawkers a tour of the facility, highlighting the practice-what-we-preach aspects of the construction. He also showed us plans for an attached 7,000-square-foot greenhouse that will allow office tenants to grow their own organic fruits and veggies. 

If you have the time, check out the EnviroCenter and its non-profit Green Building Institute to learn about sustainable building practices.

About Tom Damm - Tom Damm is a public affairs specialist with the EPA at the Chesapeake Bay Program.



Dec
01
2008

New Online Calculator Assesses Your Nitrogen Footprint

Ever wonder how much pollution you contribute to the Bay and its rivers? The Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) has launched a new online tool to help you find out.

The Bay Foundation’s Nitrogen Calculator uses information about your home to assess how much algae-producing nitrogen your family sends each year to the Bay or your local river. As you enter details about your sewer system, electricity use, and travel and lawn care habits, the calculator comes up with a yearly “nitrogen footprint” for you and your family.

“We hope this new tool will encourage people to think about the choices they make and take actions that will reduce nitrogen pollution across the watershed,” said CBF Senior Scientist Dr. Beth McGee.

One way Maryland residents that use septic systems can help reduce pollution to the Bay is to upgrade their system to one that removes more nitrogen. The Maryland Department of the Environment is currently offering free upgrades to nitrogen-removing systems.

Here’s some other ways you can help reduce nitrogen pollution to the Bay:

  • Don’t fertilize your lawn.
  • Plant trees and shrubs, which absorb airborne nitrogen and slow polluted runoff from your yard.
  • Pick up after your pet.
  • Reduce the amount of miles you drive.
  • Install a rain garden or rain barrels to capture runoff from your downspout


Nov
19
2008

Getting aboard the low-impact development train

Here at the American Society of Civil Engineers International Low-Impact Development (LID) Conference in Seattle, I’m swept up body and spirit by the growing throng of several hundred enthusiastic devotees to the cause of polluted runoff (a.k.a. “stormwater”) reduction. As a non-engineer EPA bureaucrat, I’m a first-time participant in this biennial LID pilgrimage. But after three days of PowerPoint presentations and an all-day field trip to Portland, Oregon, which is the other “LID Mecca,” I’m just about ready to compose my own rap tune out of cool LID lingo and design “treatment trains” (combinations of multiple LID techniques) in my sleep. When I get home I’ll definitely take a new look at my own roof downspouts and concrete driveway, and think about how much reinforcement my carport will need before I can put a vegetable garden on the roof!

I used to be an engineer when I was a kid growing up in the suburbs of hilly central Connecticut. One of my favorite activities was building snow dams in the street gutter when the rain finally came and melted the snow on our particularly steep hill. It was great fun to pack the snow into a big ice dam and then, when the call came to go inside for dinner – invariably at 5:00 sharp – kick the dam open and send a big slushy gusher down the street.  Down at the bottom of the hill it always flooded out of the street and into the Perraults’ front yard.  (Maybe that’s why I felt guilty when I saw them at Sunday Mass.)

Of course at that time, I didn’t see any connection between that phenomenon – the runoff gusher – and the fact that we could always catch trout in the Quinnipiac River upstream of the city but never caught any downstream. Or why we never found any oysters when we went way downstream to tromp through the mud in Long Island Sound, even though my grandfather and uncles told great stories of burlap sacks full.

From what I’ve learned thus far, the “treatment train” at a house like mine would go something like this:

  • First, don’t cut down any trees and plant as many additional trees and shrubs as possible.
  • Basically get rid of the lawn.
  • Catch all the rain you can on a green roof, where it either evaporates or gets used up by the plants. That’s evapotranspiration.
  • For the remainder of the water that comes down your downspouts, run it directly into a rain garden, where a lot of mulch, trees, shrubs and native plants soak it up (more evapotranspiration), and lots of it goes through the soil into the groundwater. That’s infiltration.
  • If you have a driveway, garden path or sidewalk, replace the non-porous (impervious) concrete and asphalt with porous (pervious) stuff. More infiltration.
  • If there’s still a surplus of water, run it through a vegetated swale (more evapotranspiration) and into another basin with more trees, shrubs and mulch. The surface of the swale should be a little lower than the surrounding land so that it may form a pond for a little while when there’s a really heavy rain. That’s biorentention.

By that point, you should have pretty well mimicked what the Chesapeake Bay watershed used to be: a beautiful hardwood forest with clean waters in healthy streams. With this LID “treatment train,” now we can all be engineers! Choo Choo!

About Mike Fritz - Mike Fritz is with the U.S. EPA at the Chesapeake Bay Program office.



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