Suffolk County

Three steps to crafting a bay-friendly lawn

Save the Great South Bay presents how to create an outdoor space

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Do you practice sustainable gardening methods?

Habitat restoration, stormwater man- agement and local stewardship are all part of a “green” lawn. Save the Great South Bay also certifies bay-friendly yards with a yard sign to display.

The overall goal is to restore the yard back to its native state. The typical suburban lawn relies heavily on fertilizers, pesticides, and huge amounts of water.

Bay-friendly yards are beautiful, full of life, less expensive to maintain, and help filter groundwater before it hits a creek or the bay. Biologist Frank Piccininni of Save the Great South Bay suggested these three essential elements to a bay-friendly yard:

1. Habitat restoration
Plant native plants for local pollinators, birds and wildlife. Adapted to local ecosystems they will grow deeper roots and decrease soil bulk density and eliminate nitrogen. Remove inva- sive species such as English ivy, garlic mustard, wisteria and many others. Invasive strangle trees and crowd out beneficials plants.

Replace ornamentals like Japanese maple, Norway maple and Russian olives. Use alternatives like red chokeberry not burning bushes or big blue stem grass instead of fountain grass, milkweed instead of foxglove. Attract pollinators with trees.
Also, reduce the size of lawn. Lawns, he said, are the equivalent of cement.

2. Stormwater management
Runoff usually takes nitrogen and pollutants into receiving rivers and Great South Bay. Instead, stormwater should be retained on site with less runoff and pulling containments into waterways. Techniques include bioswales with rock to pull it into receiving channels naturally, rain barrels attached to gutters for repurposing to water plants and rain garden depressions with rain and water loving plants.

3. Local stewardship
Start where you stand; every patch counts. Over-mowing creates a unhealthy lawn that requires pesticides. A florescent green is not a healthy lawn, he added. So, why are we trying to sterilize where we live? Piccinni suggested mowing every two weeks and use the clippings and discard the leaves. Leaves eventually disappear and become the soil and serve as a natural fertilizer.

For more information or to certify your yard, email info@savethegreat- southbay.org.

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