University of Maryland Extension

Green Landscaping In Baltimore

Bay-Wise Garden
Sample Bay-Wise Garden at the Demo Garden at the Baltimore County Ag Center created by the University of Maryland Master Gardeners.
Image Credit: 
Trish Moore

It’s ironic that the best yard on the block may not be all that “green” because conventional landscaping can be detrimental to the environment. The good news is there is a “green landscaping” revolution underway in Baltimore, inspiring residents to plant eco-friendly and beautiful gardens. 

What wrong with today’s landscaping?

In short, our perfect lawns and plant beds require too much water, allow excess storm water run-off and are often over-fertilized. Excess fertilizer means the chemicals nitrogen and phosphorous run off your property after a rainstorm and eventually pollute the Chesapeake Bay. Also, our yards often include non-native, ornamental plants (English Ivy, bamboo and Day Lilies are examples) which require regular watering and invade forestlands when their seeds are spread by birds. Top it all off with the air pollution from weekly lawn mowing and there’s plenty of room for eco-improvement in our backyards.

What is “green landscaping”?

Often called sustainable gardening, or BayScaping in our region, green landscaping’s goal is to design and plant beautiful gardens that reduce water usage, storm water run-off and pesticide and fertilizer applications.  

Check out the University of Maryland Extension’s Bay-Wise Maryland Yardstick guide which offers a variety of green landscaping ideas that will help strengthen the Bay’s health while beautifying your landscaping. You can even attend free green landscaping courses or get on-site help from the Bay-Wise Master Gardeners. This group of passionate gardeners receive 40+ hours of horticultural training from University of Maryland experts and then volunteers their time to educate their communities about sustainable practices

Three keys to green landscaping

1: Re-think your lawn

“The best action anyone can take to green their yard is to right-size their lawn area and re-plant sections of turf with native plants,” shares Krisztian Varsa, a watershed restoration specialist at University of Maryland’s Sea Grant Extension.  

When you do mow, skip bagging the clippings and choose to “grasscycle” instead. Lawn clippings dry quickly in summer heat and become a soil nutrient.  

Maryland’s Lawn Fertilizer Law went into effect in October of 2013. This legislation eliminated phosphorous in fertilizer and greatly reduced the amount of nitrogen included in fertilizer sold in Maryland. If you hire a lawn company, choose an organic lawn care specialist like NaturaLawn, and buy the organic brands at your garden store. 

2. Go native

Whether you install your own plants or get help, this excellent native plant guide from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service lists the Chesapeake region’s native species. Many varieties of hollies, magnolias, mountain laurels, wisteria, grasses and trees are native to our region and they require little water and deer don’t eat them (should we just re-name the Asian-native hosta plant “deer snack”?).

Many local nurseries carry native plants but a terrific native plant source is the non-profit Blue Water Baltimore’s Herring Run Nursery which carries over 150 types of native plants.  

3. Water management

Reducing storm water run-off is a hot topic in Baltimore as our state grapples with legislating laws to pay for upgrading storm water run-off.

Check out Anne Arundel County’s own which says it best about reducing storm water run-off: when it rains, slow it down, spread it out and soak it in. This easy-to-read site provides ideas on how to manage storm water by installing rain barrels, adding permeable surfaces versus pavement and planting trees.  

Better yet, call Blue Water Baltimore for a free on-site water audit and learn which projects could help minimize your property’s storm water. Blue Water Baltimore even offers financial incentives for many water management ideas like removing paving, installing rain barrels and green landscaping.

Laurel Peltier is a freelance writer. Her work can be found on

Source: Green Landscaping In Baltimore


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