As a homeowner, are you doing your part to help clean up the Chesapeake Bay? "What," you ask, "Do I have to do with the Chesapeake Bay?" Surprisingly, the answer is plenty! Never feel that in the large picture, you are insignificant. If every small property owner made an effort to stop rainwater run-off from his own property, the total results would be huge!
Penn State recently introduced a new directive called Green Gardens, Clean Water. The name, was not immediately self-explanatory to me. After exploring several of their webinars on rain gardens, rain barrels, and riparian buffers, my conclusion is the title is telling us that in order to protect our drinking water and clean up our lakes and rivers, we need more green
Pollution of our water is a major threat today. People, such as members of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, have been warning us that the Chesapeake Bay has huge dead zones, which will no longer support aquatic life. The problem is certainly not just limited to the Chesapeake Bay. In other parts of the country, deep-sea fisherman have to go farther and farther into the
ocean before they can find fish.
What is causing the problem? Of course, there are many causes, but private landowners, as a group, play a major role. Nutrients, especially phosphorus and nitrogen wash off lawns, pastures, crop fields, and orchards and dump into the nearest waterway. The extra nutrients feed vast amounts of algae, which eventually die, depleting the water of oxygen. Many lawn and
garden care products contain chemicals that are toxic to fish and other aquatic life. Always check the label before using. Just because you don't live on a lake or river doesn't mean it is safe for you to use.
The answer to bringing life back to our water centers on stopping the flow of nutrients and toxins from entering the streams. The key is to temporarily stop and hold the water, then filter and clean it as it seeps through the soil. How do we do that? Well, here are three easy answers...Rain Gardens, Rain Barrels, Riparian Buffers.
Cities are way ahead of us country folks in educating about these remedies and putting them into use. Those of us who live in the country are guilty of feeling that what we do on our own property is unimportant to anyone else. We are coming to realize that that line of thinking is very wrong. Each property owner needs to begin to take responsibility for preventing
run-off from leaving his property.
Here is a eye-opener. There is no major water source entering Adams County. All of our water falls from the sky, and yet the water leaving Adams County is loaded with pollutants. We have no one else to blame!
Agriculture is a major culprit, but again, it is more often the small farm owner more than the big business that is not on-board with the program. When you see a creek meandering through a pasture or a cultivated field, unless it is bordered by a wide band of trees, you are witnessing one source of pollution. From pastureland, animal manure, a great source of
nutrients, is washing directly into that water along with the silt, which erodes off the banks of the stream. In the case of the crop field or orchard, fertilizer residue along with any chemical that has been sprayed on the crops has the potential of polluting the stream. This is a job for a Riparian Buffer.
A riparian buffer is a width of trees which is planted along the banks of a waterway. Instead of flowing directly into the stream, the rain run-off will now be absorbed by the soil and roots of the trees. Furthermore, the tree roots will serve to hold the soil in place, preventing the erosion and deposits of silt farther down stream.
Rain barrels and rain gardens are important measures average homeowners can take to stop and clean water before it flows off their property. A rain barrel will catch and hold water as it runs off the roof and down a rain gutter. You can then use the water for watering your garden or potted plants, and it will not only conserve your well or "city" water, but it is
better for the plants because it is not chlorinated.
A rain garden is another solution to catching and temporarily storing rainwater until it can be purified as it filters through the soil, and is absorbed by the deep roots of the native plants growing there.
Read other articles on ecological gardening & native plants