The Green Scene
Creating environmentally friendly landscapes with sustainable gardening
Montgomery County has also embraced the sustainability movement through the Department of Environmental Protection’s RainScapes program, which provides rebates to residents and local businesses that use techniques designed to reduce stormwater runoff by collecting or absorbing rainwater that might otherwise make its way into local water sources like the Potomac River and Chesapeake Bay. Projects that may be eligible for rebates include pavement removal, the use of rain barrels and the installation of rain gardens, which are depressed garden beds that allow rainwater to collect and deeply saturate the soil.
Bethesda resident Susan Carle worked with the RainScapes program to install a rain garden in her backyard six years ago. Carle, whose sustainable living practices include composting, driving an electric car and having solar panels on the roof of her family’s Craftsman-style home, turned to RainScapes to help support the creation of a more sustainable backyard. According to Carle, an American University law professor and vice dean, when it rains, the garden becomes “a big puddle” that is slowly absorbed into the earth, nurturing the native plants growing there—including black-eyed Susans, witch hazel and sedum—instead of running into local waterways.
Carle surrounded her rain garden with eight large vegetable beds filled with mustard greens, kale, beans, cucumbers, eggplants, butternut squash and garlic, and she works with Love & Carrots to maintain her “dream garden.” “Gardening is very rewarding,” says Carle, who spends as much time as possible working in her garden with her pointer-retriever dog, Season. “When I want to relax, I go out to my garden to weed.”
Sustainable gardening practices also support the local ecosystem and the animal species that are native to the region. “Gardens are the way to give a hand to nature,” says Adriana Delgado, owner of AlmaVerde, a RainScapes-approved gardening firm based out of her Northwest D.C. home. Backyard Bounty also is approved by the program.
According to Delgado, native plants sustain pollinators, including monarch butterflies, bees and hummingbirds, in addition to the insects that become food for local species of birds, which are then consumed by their predators, and so on up the food chain. In addition to attracting pollinators, native plants such as coneflower and milkweed (a favorite of monarch butterflies) also reduce the need for potentially ecosystem-harming pesticides because the plants are acclimated to the environment and its pests.
These days, when Raiser and her family look at their front yard through their floor-to-ceiling windows during warmer months, they see a lively pollinator garden of sunflowers and butterfly bushes swarming with bees and insects.
And Raiser’s crops have done well, too. In fact, she describes her peak season haul as so prolific that she doesn’t need to buy produce at the grocery store. “It feels good to know what’s going into my family’s food,” she says. “It gives me so much satisfaction.”