10 Tips For Every Geist Homeowner
Last week I was explaining to a friend my plans to develop a reservoir friendly residence. He listened thoughtfully and then asked, “I’m not going to find you in a bus in Alaska in a few years, am I?” (Rent “Into the Wild” if you don’t get the reference.)
Many of the corrective actions needed to clean up our reservoir are well understood. Probably the biggest barrier to fixing things are cultural. My friend’s comment really drove this home for me. Doing what the experts say is the right thing is often in conflict with our mainstream definition of what makes a beautiful residential landscape. It seems weird.
I spent many nights last winter learning about water quality and urban runoff. But the truth is I have a mediocre lawn and know just enough about watershed friendly property management to be dangerous.
Here is a summary of what I learned. More importantly, following are some of the experts and resources that advocate these practices.
Top 10 Recommendations for Homeowners to Improve Geist Reservoir
- Don’t use phosphorus on your lawn. Truth be told, I think this problem is being fixed by our supply chain. I’ve checked out many local lawncare retailers. Its hard not to find phosphorus free lawn fertilizer. Still, if you fertilize, please make sure you are buying the right bag. The middle number should be “0”.
- Less lawn: Grass roots are about 2″ deep and cannot hold much stormwater. Lawns are costly to maintain as they require continuous mowing, feeding, and watering. Lawns provide almost no benefit to native wildlife.
- More native plants and trees: Natives require little care, benefit wildlife, and have deep roots that hold stormwater and remove the nutrients that hurt our reservoir.
- Rain Gardens: These are depressions in your property that catch rainwater runoff from your roof. The depression is filled with native plants and wildflowers. Rain Gardens remove nutrients from the water before it leaves your property. They require almost no maintenance and can be very attractive. They do not attract mosquitoes.
- Barrier Plantings: Retention pond and waterfront edges should be planted with native shrubs, prairie grass and wildflowers. Their deep roots remove nutrients and reduce the need for chemical and dye treatments. Barrier plantings also keep geese off your property.
- If you fertilize your lawn, do it in the fall (remember, phosphorus free). Spring fertilizer grows the blade. Fall fertilizer grows the root and produces a healthier plant. Added bonus: Fall fertilizing happens after most reservoir recreational activities have ended.
- Mow leaf waste back into the lawn (its a great source of nitrogen). Sweep debris back onto your property. Do not dump leaf waste into storm drains, streams, or the lake. Compost.
- Grow your soil: Heavy chemical treatments can kill soil animals that build soil structure and hold nutrients. Focus on building soil and you will need less fertilizer and pesticide. Dead soil leaches.
- Ask an expert: My three favorite resources are the Hamilton County Master Gardeners Association, HC Soil and Water Conservation District, and the HC Urban Conservation Association.
- Get Involved: Keep Indianapolis Beautiful, Superbowl 2012, and Plant a Million are some of the many outstanding organizations that offer opportunities to plant trees. They also host lots of green workshops. The Geist Watershed Alliance also needs your help.
Experts and Advocates of Watershed Friendly Residential Landscape
Dr. Lenore Tedesco: Director of the IUPUI Center for Earth Sciences and expert in watershed nutrients, cyanobacteria, wetland restoration, and evaluation of best management practices.
Shaena Reinhart of the Hamilton County Soil and Water Conservation District: Shaena will assess your property and prepare a very cool report recommending native species and locations for rain gardens. And its FREE!
Upper White River Watershed Alliance: Great resource for homeowners, farmers, businesses, and teachers.
US Geological Survey National Water Information System: A good resource for the big picture view. Indiana has the dubious title of being one of the top 8 suppliers of nutrient rich water that feeds the the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico.
Thanks to our storm drains, we all have waterfront (and oceanfront) property. Your actions, collectively, can make a big difference.
See you on the bus!
Links to these resources available at the Geist Watershed Alliance website atGeist.com/water.