Turns out our monthly tips add up to a handy guidebook with steps everyone can take to protect our watershed. What better way to start the year than to review the basics. True, we can’t start with a clean slate, as it were. Our waterways are in a heap of trouble, thanks to runoff from pavement, roofs and other hard surfaces. But we can commit to taking simple steps to reduce and even reverse the damage to our waterways and, by extension, our health.
Here’s a calendar for 2020.
January: Recycle your Christmas tree. Howard County’s Merry Mulch program keeps thousands of trees out of the landfill and turns them into compost and mulch. Put your unadorned tree at the curb for pickup or take it to Kendall Hardware.
February: Instead of salt – listed in the ingredients as sodium chloride – please use a de-icer that is less harmful to our waterways and friendlier to pets and other creatures. A safer de-icer for plants and waterways is magnesium chloride. Better yet: Clear walkways and driveways first and you can often skip the de-icer. Never use fertilizer as a de-icer.
March: Make a plan to replace some of your lawn with beautiful and beneficial native plants. (Remember to submit an Exterior Alteration Application before creating a planting bed, converting lawn to native plants, or installing a rain garden.) Once the weather turns mild, place mulch in a ring around the base of trees instead of building a tree-killing mulch volcano. Better yet, add compost (such as Leafgro) to your garden and around your trees. Also watch for notices about our Pull & Plants and Stream Cleanups.
April: Pleasant weather means more walks, so be sure to pick up after your dog – all year round. Dog poop on the ground is a pile of pathogens waiting to cause problems. Left to decompose on yards and pathways, it seeps into the soil and washes into our streams and rivers or, gulp, drinking water sources. Look for pet-waste stations along River Hill paths.
May: Check your downspouts. If they exit onto pavement, rain won’t be absorbed into the ground. Instead, the rainwater will be “wasted,” sent directly down the storm drains and on to streams and rivers. All this speeding stormwater causes erosion along streambanks. Making matters worse, that rushing rainwater picks up pollutants along the way, including oil, gasoline, fertilizer, pesticides and pet waste.
June: Cut your lawn deep (keep it 3 to 4 inches tall), leave clippings in place and don’t apply fertilizer without first testing the soil. (Get a free fertilizer test bag from Claret Hall.) Make sure your lawn-care contractor follows these guidelines, too.
July: Celebrate #PlasticFreeJuly by taking the pledge to avoid single-use plastic, including plastic water bottles, bags, straws, cups, utensils. Our waterways are filled with plastic debris, so much so that it’s ending up even in our drinking water.
August: Let the lawn hibernate when the summer turns hot and dry. Watering and adding fertilizer only encourage summer crabgrass and other weeds. If you’ve followed the June guidelines, the grass will have deep roots and manage just fine.
September: If you aren’t already composting food scraps with the Green Bin, order a free one from Howard County at 410-313-6444.
October: Don’t blow those leaves away with polluting leaf blowers. Instead, mow and mulch leaves to create free food for your yard and gardens.
November: To avoid fatbergs and plumber emergencies, always place Fats, Oil and Grease (FOG) in the garbage bin, not down the drain. Also, the black-out phase for fertilizer starts Nov. 16 and runs through March.
December: Take a moment to appreciate the gifts of a clean watershed: filtering and storing water, filtering air, storing carbon, forming soil, and providing recreation and food.
Happy new year and new decade to all. We hope to see you at our events.