Last night I served a homegrown arugula, spinach, and lettuce salad to 6 people. This was a milestone event for me and represented the culmination of hundreds of hours of yard work. (more)
Featuring spinach, cilantro, wood, flowers, hay, and grass.
5 farmers:1 customer. Not a great ratio, but you gotta start somewhere.
In the Midwest, dandelions in the front yard are more telling than an Obama sign. They make a very public statement that the property owner is either negligent, in foreclosure, or going green.
This is the year I tried organic lawncare. (more)
Indiana is a major contributor of nutrients that pollute the Gulf of Mexico.
Phosphorus, the middle number on a bag of fertilizer, is not necessary for established turfgrass. If you fertilize, make sure to buy the bag with a "0" number in the middle.
As natural vegetation is replaced with turf grasses in urban areas, less stormwater is absorbed into the ground, leading to more stormwater runoff and water pollution.
Landscaping with drought tolerant native plants is a great way to reduce the amount of nutrients and runoff that leaves your property. source
originally published in AtGeist magazine on 3.22.10
Last week I was explaining to a friend my plans to develop a reservoir friendly residence. He listened thoughtfully and then asked, “I’m not going to find you in a bus in Alaska in a few years, am I?” (Rent “Into the Wild” if you don’t get the reference.)
Many of the corrective actions needed to clean up our reservoir are well understood. Probably the biggest barrier to fixing things are cultural. My friend’s comment really drove this home for me. Doing what the experts say is the right thing is often in conflict with our mainstream definition of what makes a beautiful residential landscape. It seems weird.
I spent many nights last winter learning about water quality and urban runoff. But the truth is I have a mediocre lawn and know just enough about watershed friendly property management to be dangerous. Here is a summary of what I learned. More importantly, following are some of the experts and resources that advocate these practices.
Top 10 Recommendations for Homeowners to Improve Geist Reservoir
1. Don’t use phosphorus on your lawn. If you fertilize, please make sure you are buying the right bag. The middle number should be “0″.
2. Less lawn: Grass roots are about 2″ deep and cannot hold much stormwater. Lawns are costly to maintain as they require continuous mowing, feeding, and watering. Lawns provide almost no benefit to native wildlife.
3. More native plants and trees: Natives require little care, benefit wildlife, and have deep roots that hold stormwater and remove the nutrients that hurt our reservoir.
4. Rain Gardens: These are depressions in your property that catch rainwater runoff from your roof. The depression is filled with native plants and wildflowers. Rain Gardens remove nutrients from the water before it leaves your property. They require almost no maintenance and can be very attractive. They do not attract mosquitoes.
5. Barrier Plantings: Retention pond and waterfront edges should be planted with native shrubs, prairie grass and wildflowers. Their deep roots remove nutrients and reduce the need for chemical and dye treatments. Barrier plantings also keep geese off your property.
6. If you fertilize your lawn, do it in the fall (remember, phosphorus free). Spring fertilizer grows the blade. Fall fertilizer grows the root and produces a healthier plant. Added bonus: Fall fertilizing happens after most reservoir recreational activities have ended.
7. Mow leaf waste back into the lawn (its a great source of nitrogen). Sweep debris back onto your property. Do not dump leaf waste into storm drains, streams, or the lake. Compost.
8. Grow your soil: Heavy chemical treatments can kill soil animals that build soil structure and hold nutrients. Focus on building soil and you will need less fertilizer and pesticide. Dead soil leaches.
9. Ask an expert: My three favorite resources are the Hamilton County Master Gardeners Association, HC Soil and Water Conservation District, and the HC Urban Conservation Association.
10. Get Involved: Keep Indianapolis Beautiful, Superbowl 2012, and Plant a Million are some of the many outstanding organizations that offer opportunities to plant trees. They also host lots of green workshops. The Geist Watershed Alliance also needs your help.
Experts and Advocates of Watershed Friendly Residential Landscape
Dr. Lenore Tedesco: Director of the IUPUI Center for Earth Sciences and expert in watershed nutrients, cyanobacteria, wetland restoration, and evaluation of best management practices.
Shaena Reinhart of the Hamilton County Soil and Water Conservation District: Shaena will assess your property and prepare a very cool report recommending native species and locations for rain gardens. And its FREE!
Upper White River Watershed Alliance: Great resource for homeowners, farmers, businesses, and teachers.
US Geological Survey National Water Information System: A good resource for the big picture view. Indiana is one of the top 8 suppliers of nutrient rich water that feeds the the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico.
Thanks to our storm drains, we all have waterfront (and oceanfront) property. Your actions, collectively, can make a big difference.
See you on the bus!
article originally published 2.17.10 in AtGeist magazine
We should all care about the water quality of Geist Reservoir. We drink it. We swim in it. And it affects our property values.
Unfortunately, toxic blue-green algae (also called cyanobacteria) love Geist Reservoir as much as we do. The combination of shallow and calm water, moderate seasonal temperatures, sunlight, and a high nutrient load make Geist an ideal environment for toxic algae.
Nutrient load, the mass of nitrogen and phosphorus that drain into a waterway, comes from leaves, grass clippings, topsoil runoff, manure, septic tanks, and agricultural and residential fertilizer runoff. Algae are particularly fond of phosphorus.
Given a high nutrient load, algae will outcompete all other forms of aquatic vegetation in our reservoir. As it blooms, algae prevent sunlight from penetrating the water and inhibit growth of beneficial native aquatic plants. At night, algae consume dissolved oxygen in the water and can kill fish. Toxic algae can cause serious illness to pets, waterfowl, and humans. It looks bad, smells bad, limits reservoir recreation, and increases the treatment cost of our drinking water.
So while we can’t change some of conditions that affect the reservoir’s water (like the weather), we can reduce the reservoir’s nutrient load. An important first step is to change how we fertilize our lawns.
Most established lawns in Indiana already have enough phosphorous. By purchasing phosphate free lawncare products and services we can significantly reduce the reservoir’s nutrient load. Your lawn will not know the difference.
HERE’S HOW YOU CAN HELP – this spring, if you fertilize, please buy the bag with a “0” in the middle. For example, a bag with the label 29-0-5 contains no phosphorus. (The three numbers on a bag of fertilizer identify the nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium content). If you use a lawncare service, request a zero phosphate treatment. Waterfront properties should not fertilize within 15 feet of the water’s edge. Finally, consider replacing one fertilizer application with a mechanical aeration.
The EPA estimates that only 35% of lawn fertilizer actually makes it to the lawn. The rest is vaporized or leaches into the water. Zero phosphate fertilizer is an essential first step to a cleaner reservoir.
To learn about what else you can do to improve our reservoir, visit the Geist Watershed Alliance website at www.atGeist.com/water.
Your community thanks you.