5 Tips to Make Your Commercial Landscape More Bay Friendly

October 18, 2013 at 11:21 am

Chesapeake BayFrom our headquarters in Davidsonville, Maryland, E-Landscape serves a variety of commercial clients throughout Maryland, Washington DC, and Virginia. All of these States are a part of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed, and how we design and plant landscapes has a direct impact on the health of the Bay. For this reason, we’ve always been committed to Bay-friendly landscaping techniques.

Taking care of the Chesapeake Bay begins with small, concrete steps. The goal of Bay–friendly landscaping is simple: enhance the beauty of a landscape and preserve the natural environment at the same time.

There are some simple things that any commercial property owner or manager can do to make their landscape more Bay-friendly.

1. Avoid synthetic, quick release fertilizers

Nitrogen, the main ingredient in most fertilizers, is one of the largest polluters of the Chesapeake Bay. But many well-chosen plants thrive without fertilizers and many more survive without quick release fertilizers.

Bay-friendly commercial landscapers choose the least toxic alternative and use pesticides only when extremely necessary. Slow release or naturally derived fertilizers can typically get the results you are looking for and are much less harsh on the environment. A good first step in determining what kind of fertilizer is required is to have your soil tested first. This initial soil analysis will tell you if the soil is low in nitrogen or any other elements.

There are several Bay-friendly practices you can employ should the soil lack enough nitrogen. One is to maintain mulch with at least 2 inches of organic material. This layer will keep the nitrogen in place and support the growth of the plants’ root systems.

2. Protect water quality by determining how water flows through your property

A poorly designed commercial landscape can lead to runoff, which pollutes the Chesapeake Bay. A good landscaping plan will focus on reducing or avoiding runoff in a variety of ways. Here are some:

  • Collect leaves under trees or abundant organic material to help absorb water into the tree roots.
  • Minimize paving to reduce runoff or use permeable pavers if necessary.
  • Install a rain garden in a lower area. You can place it in a downhill area or in a location that drains properly. Native plants work better since they have deep roots, can absorb water more efficient, and can survive during wet and dry seasons.

3. Build a living shoreline to prevent erosion

Living shorelines help improve water quality by filtering pollution. They also serve as habitat or nesting area for various plant and aquatic species.

The loss of shoreline has been widely known to pollute the Bay. In a recent study by the state’s shoreline erosion bureau, scientists found that eroding sediment can fill the Bay with about 5 to 10 percent of nutrient pollution.

Organizations and communities can help fully restore the Chesapeake Bay by consulting with landscapers that specialize in constructing living shorelines. Permits for construction may take time depending on the type of project. So plan ahead, identify your site conditions and talk to a contractor. You can also introduce Bay-friendly landscaping practices by educating your neighbors about the benefits of constructing a shoreline.

4. Evaluate the site for opportunities and potential problems

Every landscape is unique. Its location determines its amount of saltwater, potential natural hazards, wind and sun exposure, size and shape of planting areas, soil type, moisture content and many more characteristics.

A Bay-friendly landscaping project should start with a careful evaluation of the land. A deeper knowledge of the landscape site will help you decide what type of plants to support and identify problems early on.

5. Plant and protect trees

Traditional commercial landscaping plans rely heavily on huge amounts of energy and water for landscape maintenance. By planting trees, landscapers and maintenance staff can help conserve these resources and reduce the strain on the Bay.

Besides conserving energy by shading, trees help prevent erosion by holding the soil in place. They also help filter chemicals and remove contaminants from fertilizers before they run into the Bay.

Be sure to plant a tree appropriate for the soil type, microclimate, exposure and water use.

Bay-friendly landscaping does not have to be expensive. In fact, because many of the techniques listed above require less maintenance, water and energy, they can actually reduce the cost of maintaining your commercial landscape while also protecting the health of the Chesapeake Bay.

Image credit: jomo333 / 123RF Stock Photo