Making the connection between how we care for our yard and the health of our local waterways
Most people have no idea of the connection between how they manage their lawn and gardens at home and the health of our local waterways and beaches.
From unnecessarily treating our garden and lawns with chemical fertilizers and pesticides to applying too much water, we’re killing all the beneficial biology in our soils that support beautiful and healthy plants, and it’s creating polluted runoff. Landscaping chemicals don’t stay where they are applied, but instead can leach into groundwater or be washed away by runoff when it rains or when misdirected irrigation runs off our properties. The resulting storm water and urban runoff pollutes local waterways and harms coastal ecosystems by causing harmful algal blooms and killing fish and other aquatic animals. Water affected by runoff makes it dangerous to swim and play in.
Ocean Friendly Gardens act like a sponge in your landscape. These gardens are shaped in a natural way to capture rain and runoff, contain native, climate appropriate plants and healthy, living soil which soaks up, stores and filters out pollutants from stormwater and road runoff. They have the added bonus of providing native habitat for bees, birds and butterflies. And it’s an important tool in addressing climate change as healthy plants and soil work in combination to capture and store carbon from the atmosphere. In the most basic terms, Ocean Friendly Gardens can conserve water, help clean up local waterways, and be beautiful and affordable too.
Want to make your backyard more ocean-friendly? Here are some easy ways to conserve water and prevent polluted runoff from hitting the ocean:
- Get dirty! Stop using chemical fertilizers and pesticides and pull weeds by hand instead.
- Mulch, mulch, mulch. Apply organic compost to your yard and garden and cover it with mulch to build healthy, living soil that acts like a sponge to hold onto rain for your plants’ use during dry months. Soil microbes, which are like probiotics, help the soil’s ability to absorb nutrients and resist drought, disease and pests and aid in cleaning up pollution and capturing carbon that plants absorb from the atmosphere.
- Compost. Make your own soil amendments by composting your yard and kitchen scraps in a compost or worm bin.
- Go native! Plant native plants and grasses that don’t need supplemental irrigation when they are fully-grown. You’ll also be providing food and habitat for butterflies, birds and bees.
- Shape your garden to slow down and soak up rainwater. Leave a natural buffer or slightly raised border around the edge of your yard to prevent runoff from leaving your property and polluting local waterways.
- Barrel on! Install a rain barrel to store rainwater for future watering needs, and direct the overflow into the landscape and not onto the driveway and out to a storm drain. If rain barrels are not an option, direct gutters to the landscape. This reduces flooding and keeps polluted runoff from reaching the ocean.
- Mind the gap. Make your walkways and driveways permeable by cutting gaps in them or make sure they are pitched to drain into your yard.
Healthy beaches start upstream with clean rivers, lakes and streams. Whether you live inland or by the coast, we can all do our part to protect local waterways and our ocean from being polluted.
Looking for more ways to learn more and help support the Surfrider Foundation's efforts to protect our ocean, waves and beaches?