From Yard to Waterway

Bennett Joffrion, Fletcher, Jr., Bobby H.  |  10/30/2007 1:45:30 AM

It is important to remember that our yards and neighborhoods are channels to our waterways. What you do in your landscape certainly needs to take this into consideration. The health of Louisiana’s estuaries, rivers, lakes and aquifers depends partly on how you maintain your yard and gardens. You don’t even have to live on the water to make a big difference. Rain that falls on yards, roads and parking lots can wash into waterways or leach into groundwater, carrying pollutants – including fertilizer, pesticides, animal waste, soil and petroleum products. In particular, improperly applied fertilizers and pesticides from urban and suburban residential areas can play a role in polluting Louisiana’s waters.

Louisiana is rich in natural habitats that function well in preserving the quality of the environment. Unfortunately, when land is developed for residential use, land is covered by impervious surfaces, such as asphalt and concrete, and neighborhoods with landscapes that make use of few native plants and bear little resemblance to native Louisiana habitats. Expansive planting of high-maintenance lawns has formed the dominant landscape in most of our communities for years, but that may be changing. You can be a part of the movement in Louisiana to have a more environmentally friendly landscape.

Look around your neighborhood or nearby parks to see if any natural landscapes remain. Can your own landscape be redesigned to replace a piece of what has been lost?

The ideal Louisiana-Friendly Yard — the smart way to garden — should reflect the beauty of natural habitats and ecosystems in our state. To be truly effective, these landscapes must be created and sustained by landscape practices that have a low impact on the environment. What are some of these practices?

  • Cooperate with pre-existing natural conditions instead of altering them or changing them to suit the desires of the gardener or needs of plants not suited for those conditions.

  • Conserve water and energy – both indoors and out.

  • Use more native species in your landscape. Plant native and non-native trees, shrubs, vines and ground covers that require minimal water, fertilizers and pesticides under the right growing conditions.

  • Choose plants that are appropriate and attractive but also provide environmental benefits.

  • Tolerate some pest damage in the landscape and focus on gardening techniques that reduce pest problems. Use pesticides only when necessary and according to label directions. Always choose the least toxic products that will do the job.
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