University of Maryland Extension

Best Practices - Landscaping

landscaping without grass


Choose Plants Wisely

  • Go native! Plants that are adapted to local conditions require less water, fertilizer, and pesticides. See our list of 20 best native plants for Maryland
  • Plant the right plant in the right place. Research a plant's growing requirements and select accordingly. 
  • Remove non-native invasive plants; don't plant invasive or aggressive plants. You may be surprised at the invasive plants for sale locally! English ivy, for example, can get out of control quickly. See Invasive Species of Concern in Maryland.   
  • Encourage pollinators and beneficial insects by planting their favorite plants. See Plants for Pollinators.
  • Limit turf area. As a non-native plant species, turf grass requires significantly more water, fertilizer, pesticides, and maintenance than native species to keep it looking good. For additional information go to Lawn Alternatives
  • Timing is key. Spring planting is ideal because of predictable rains and longer growing season. Summer is difficult because of lack of water. Fall is OK, as long as there is enough rain, you choose hardy plants, and mulch them to protect new root growth.

Conserve Water and Prevent Erosion

  • Limit impervious surfaces to encourage absorption of rainwater into the ground instead of it running off into the storm sewer.
  • Water plants only when they need it. Frequent, shallow watering leads to underdeveloped root systems that can't support the plant during drought periods. Test the soil moisture in the root zone, 6-8 inches below the surface. If it feels dry to the touch, water for about an hour in the morning to deliver about an inch of water. Test the soil again in 24 hours. Go to After Planting Care.
  • Guard against stormwater washout. Collect rainwater in rain barrels or direct runoff to rain gardens. See the Rain Garden app  the video, Install a Rain Garden.
  • Mulch planting beds to maintain soil moisture and temperature, prevent weed growth and erosion, and protect plant roots and crowns from temperature extremes. Consolidate mulched areas under trees into one planting bed to streamline mowing and to give a cohesive appearance. Group plants (trees, shrubs, perennials, etc.) in mulched beds instead of placing them individually around the yard. This technique gives a more natural look to the landscape and makes watering and weed control much easier. Consolidate mulched areas under trees into one planting bed to streamline mowing and to give a cohesive appearance.

Reduce Carbon Emissions

  • Use manual tools instead of ones powered by fossil fuels. Use a rake and get some excercise! Just say NO to leaf blowers. They contribute to air and noise pollution.

Practice Integrated Pest Management (IPM)

  • Integrated Pest Management is a commonsense approach to pest control to maintain plant health with the least detrimental environmental impact. Some basic steps in IPM include:
  1. Learn about your plants and common problems that might affect them; learn how to prevent problems and how to scout for symptoms of poor plant health
  2. Attract and conserve pollinators and beneficial organisms
  3. Eliminate or minimize the use of pesticides
  4. Learn more about integrated pest management
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