BayScapes are landscapes that benefit people, wildlife and the Chesapeake Bay. You can make your landscape a BayScape by saving water, using fertilizers and pesticides wisely, planting native plants, and providing habitat for wildlife.
You can capture and reuse rainwater by installing rain barrels or cisterns attached to gutters. Use the rainwater you have saved to water the garden or wash your car. You can also save water by planting drought-tolerant plants that will not need to be watered frequently during the region's hot, dry summers and by letting your lawn go dormant during droughts. Use mulch to keep soils in the garden moist without watering as often.
Apply herbicides and pesticides only when you see damage being done. Package directions indicate the correct amount and timing. Helpful insects like ladybugs and praying mantises can take care of some of your pest problems, or you can pick pests off your plants by hand. It's always a good idea to do a soil test to find out whether your soil needs nutrients and what plants will grow best. On your lawn, be sure to use a quality lawn fertilizer that contains slow-release nitrogen to feed it over time. Bargain fertilizers with the numbers 10-10-10 on the package are really just farm-grade products, and supply nutrients all at once. If you spill some fertilizer on pavement, just sweep or blow it back on the lawn. A well-kept lawn can absorb thousands of gallons of rainwater. If your lawn has hard, compacted soil, you can help it absorb more water by aerating it.
Plant many different kinds of native plants to provide fruits, flowers, seeds and leaves for wildlife to feed on. Most birds eat many insects in the spring to feed their young, and native plants support more insects. This may seem like a bad thing to a gardener, but remember that birds will eat most of the insects before they harm your plants. Butterflies often rely on particular native plant species as food in their caterpillar stage. For example, without milkweed plants in the garden, you will never see monarch butterfly caterpillars.
You can also put up nest boxes for birds, bats, and solitary bees among other creatures. Provide water in the garden by adding a bird bath or small fountain. Kids and adults love to watch for butterflies, birds, toads and praying mantises, all of which are easy to attract to a garden.
To learn more about BayScaping, visit the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay, and the Chesapeake Conservation Landscaping Council's 8 Elements of a Conservation Landscape.
Article by Sylvan Kaufman. Dr. Kaufman is a writer of popular scientific and gardening articles. She is also an ecological consultant.