In Your Yard


Bay-friendly landscaping, like this front yard wetland, can help reduce the amount of pollution that ends up in the Bay.

Marcy Damon/CBF Staff

Every single person who lives in your neighborhood has a profound impact on the health of the Chesapeake Bay. Help improve water quality in your backyard by making smart decisions in your home and by using Bay-friendly landscaping techniques. Smart landscaping choices can help reduce the Bay's biggest pollutants (sediments and nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus) and restore natural filters.

Bay-friendly landscaping increases native plant diversity; provides food, cover, and nesting areas for wildlife; and reduces the stormwater runoff (equally important in city and suburban gardens) that dumps sediment and pollutants in the Bay and its rivers and streams. You can also involve and educate your community by using Bay-friendly landscaping on community property near your home.

  • Become a Bay-Wise gardener. The University of Maryland Extension Bay-Wise Program is a homeowner education program conducted by Maryland Master Gardeners in several counties. Get information about the Bay-Wise program here or read more about it in this article from Chesapeake Bay Magazine. Your efforts might even help your county meet its TMDL [Total Maximum Daily Load of Pollutants] and WIP [Watershed Implementation Plan], water pollution reduction plans that are required by the state as part of the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint.
  • If you live in the District of Columbia, check out the D.C. Department of Energy & Environment's RiverSmart programs for property owners, communities, and schools. These programs provide information and financial incentives for projects that keep polluted stormwater out of local waterways.
  • Google "stormwater credit programs" in your state. If your state has a stormwater fee you might be able to receive a reduction by reducing stormwater runoff from your property.
  • If you live on the water, build a living shoreline to prevent erosion, allow wildlife access, and beautify your waterfront. Read our Living Shorelines brochure (pdf).
  • In your landscaping, use native grasses or other plants that don't require watering or fertilizing. Reduce or eliminate use of chemical herbicides and pesticides. Learn to live with a dandelion or two. Lawn fertilizers and chemicals are a big source of nitrogen and phosphorus pollution and toxic runoff. 
  • Avoid pouring toxic substances down storm drains. Don't dump hazardous materials like solvents, paints, and preservatives. They go directly into streams and waterways to pollute the Bay. Use your county's hazardous waste collection program instead.
  • For more ideas for your own yard:
    • Read our blog post, "Saving Songbirds, and Waterways, One Yard at a Time," written by CBF Virginia Outreach & Advocacy Manager Ann Jurczyk, who is also a Chesapeake Bay Landscape Professional Level 2 Certified for Design and Installation.
    • Watch our video, Ask an Expert: What's the Buzz About Bee Balm?
    • Check out our webinar, Creating a Backyard Buffet for Birds, Bees, and Butterflies
    • Follow along with our Backyard Report Card video and downloadable investigation to explore how you impact the Bay at home and what you can do to safeguard water quality.
    • Learn how to plant a tree with our video.. Besides providing oxygen to the atmosphere, trees hold soil in place with their roots, preventing erosion that runs into the Bay. They soak up fertilizers and other chemicals before they seep into waterways. And by shading your home in summer, they even reduce energy costs. 
  • Get more information and resources about trees at

Learn more about creating bay-friendly yards

Things You Can Do to Help the Chesapeake Bay

Don't litter—Reduce the amount of trash that ends up in the Bay.

Use fertilizer sparingly—Limit the amount of fertilizer used on your lawn and garden. Excessive levels of nutrients in the Bay lead to lower levels of oxygen needed for aquatic life.

Build a rain garden or rain barrel—Stormwater carries pollutants such as lawn chemicals from our yards into local waterways and the Bay. Rain gardens, backyard habitats, and rain barrels can minimize runoff and reduce yard work.

Scoop the poop—Make your neighbors happy and keep harmful nutrients and bacteria out of waterways by always cleaning up after your pet.

Source: Ten Things Marylanders Can Do to Reclaim the Bay, Maryland Department of the Environment

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