Peconic Great South Baykeeper

What is Bayscaping?

Bayscaping incorporates a growing body of knowledge about design, horticultural, construction and maintenance approaches in landscaping and property management that minimize environmental impacts emanating from developed areas, particularly pollution carried in stormwater runoff and groundwater.  Most bayscaping methods can be practiced by individual property owners, and they can enhance habitat values as well as benefit local water quality.  For instance, if you are selecting new plant material for your landscape, choose varieties that are well adapted to your property's soil and climate so that there is less reliance on fertilizers, pesticides and irrigation.  Your local garden center, garden club, agricultural extension service or landscape professional can be great resources in getting started. 

Why Bayscaping?

As the population of Long Island continues to grow, the environmental pressures on our fragile coastal ecosystems increase as well. Thousands of homes that neighbor our tidal wetlands potentially contribute nonpoint source pollution via stormwater runoff. While each home may contribute relatively little, the cumulative effect of stormwater runoff loaded with nutrients, pesticides, pathogens, petroleum products, and sediments from upland properties can pose serious threats to the health of our bays. Nutrients (nitrogen and phosphorous) released from fertilizers have been responsible for algal blooms which block sunlight to valuable seagrasses and deplete dissolved oxygen levels, which are essential to marine life in the estuary. Toxic chemical compounds, components of landscape pesticides and other household chemicals, can concentrate in the aquatic environment and cause problems in reproduction and disruption of the food web. Nonpoint source pollution can be controlled, but it requires conscious decisions and actions by individual households.

Some suggestions and tips for letting stewardship of the bay begin in your own yard:

  • Reduce the amount of lawn area on your property, and replace with deep-rooted plant material that requires minimal amounts of fertilizer, pesticides or irrigation.

  • Landscape with plant material adapted to your property's soil and climate to eliminate the need for fertilizing, irrigating and the use of pesticides.  Many of our native plant species are well-suited for landscaping. Where possible establish a tree canopy with an understory to provide shade, wildlife habitat and to reduce runoff.

  • If you have waterfront property or excessive grades, establish a wide buffer area of deep-rooted plant material to filter stormwater runoff flowing towards streams or surface waters.  Incorporating low berms or swales may also be useful in containing runoff.

  • Reduce the amount of nonporous surface area on your property.  When possible, use porous materials (brick, gravel, turf block) for sidewalks, driveways and patios. These materials allow rainwater to seep into the ground, helping to filter pollutants while reducing the amount of runoff from your yard.

  • Improve your soil by adding compost or other organic matter. Organic matter improves soil structure, texture and aeration and increases the soil's capacity to hold water. Additionally, it helps to loosen compacted soils, improves fertility and creates a favorable environment for microorganisms, insects and earthworms.

  • Minimize watering: A sure way to reduce watering is to choose drought-resistant vegetation, native to eastern Long Island. Drip irrigation is preferable as it conserves water by applying it directly to the root zone of the plants.

  • Before applying any fertilizer or lime, a soil test should be performed to identify soil deficiencies. slow release fertilizers are preferred as they are absorbed more efficiently by the plant and minimize the potential for nutrient loading of the bay. Because of the high toxicity of some pesticides, consider other biological remedies.

Related Files

Bayscaping Guide
June 16, 2009 Bayscaping Symposium

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by Scott Hughes