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Conservation Landscaping

Conservation landscaping benefits the environment by improving water quality, preserving native species, and providing wildlife habitat. Conservation landscaping replaces some of the turf grass of a traditional lawn with native plants that have adapted to Montgomery County’s local rainfall and soil conditions and require less water and maintenance than the lawn grasses.

Image of a conservation landscaping garden in a Montgomery County backyard.

 
The Chesapeake Conservation Landscaping Council defines conservation landscaping through “Eight Essential Elements.” A conservation landscape:
  1. Is designed to benefit the environment and function efficiently and aesthetically for human use and well-being

  2. Helps control erosion and other runoff problems.

  3. Uses locally native plants that are appropriate for site conditions

  4. Institutes a management plan for the removal of existing invasive plants and prevention of future nonnative plant invasions

  5. Provides habitat for wildlife

  6. Promotes healthy air quality and minimizes air pollution

  7. Conserves and cleans water

  8. Promotes healthy soils

  9. Is managed to conserve energy, reduce waste, and eliminate or minimize the use of pesticides and fertilizers.

 

Why Should I Install Conservation Landscaping?

Conservation landscaping is able to reduce the negative impacts on the environment associated with conventional lawn management. Many native plant species are deeply rooted, more resistant to insects, plant disease, and drought. By replacing traditional grass lawns with native plants, you can reduce the use of pesticides, fertilizers, and water.

Conservation landscaping saves you time and money when compared to many other forms of landscaping. There is less area to mow, so environmentally damaging emissions and time spent mowing are reduced. Native plant landscapes that are well-designed are easy to maintain, visually pleasing, and environmentally friendly. Conservation landscaping benefits wildlife, the environment, neighborhoods, and homeowners. The aesthetics of conservation landscaping can vary from naturalistic to more formall, traditional landscapes.

Conservation landscapes can be designed to receive runoff water from roofs, patios and driveways, allowing water to soak into the ground and reducing stormwater runoff. It is a great way to help the environment and protect your local streams and the Chesapeake Bay.

 


Benefits of Conservation Landscaping
  • Aesthetics

  • Enhanced wildlife habitat

  • Water conservation

  • Native species conservation

  • Reduced erosion

  • Improved water quality

  • Improved air quality

  • Reduced expense and time needed for mowing lawns and applying pesticide and fertilizers to conventional gardens

 


 

Resources

  • BayScapes: Conservation Landscaping
    You can have a beautiful yard with native plants.  This site focuses on using native plants and typically a more naturalistic style alternative. In the Chesapeake Bay watershed, this style is called BayScaping. BayScapes are environmentally-sound landscapes benefiting people, wildlife and Chesapeake Bay.
  • Bringing Nature Home: How You Can Sustain Wildlife and Native Plants
    A feature on the website: "What Should I Plant Where I Live?" provides suggestions for native plants appropriate for your area. The new paperback edition of Bringing Nature Home includes: An expanded resource section that details which plants attract specific butterflies and moths, updated regional native plant lists, as well as enhanced color photography of native flora and fauna.

 

Is Conservation Landscaping Right for Me?

Conservation landscaping is a great option for homes with garden space, but not the right conditions for a rain garden

  • This type of landscaping may be limited by your community restrictions (condo/subdivision regulations)

  • This may not be compatible with your neighbors’ landscaping (native plants do not look the same as a manicured lawn)

  • Although you may not need to fertilize or water as much, native plants do require regular gardening/maintenance

Want Help with Assessing Your Property and Designing Conservation Landscaping?  
Image of the front of the RainScapes Conservation Landscaping Guide
Download the Guide. (PDF, 676KB)

 

How to Assess Your Property for Conservation Landscaping

Before adding conservation landscaping to your yard, assess your site’s conditions. You want to preserve any existing beneficial environmental features and add conservation landscaping to create new native features.

The success of your new native landscape depends on whether you select the right plants for the right places in your yard. Carefully evaluate your property, so you can choose plants based on their sunlight, soil, and moisture requirements. Although native plants are adapted to our region, it is usually beneficial to add compost to the soil at the time of planting.

 

Take an inventory of your current landscape conditions:

  • Identify north on your property. Your property will receive morning sun from the east, afternoon sun from the west, full sun from the south and full shade on the north-side. Remember that trees and your house cast shade. This will help you select the best plants for your landscape. 
  • Measure your turf grass area that you wish to convert to conservation landscaping.
  • Observe how well water drains in the proposed project location or it there is standing water after heavy rainfall. 

 

Determine why you want to do conservation landscaping.

  • Capture stormwater runoff or sump-pump discharge
  • Attract wildlife (butterflies, pollinators, etc.)
  • Block an unattractive view
  • Block winter winds
  • Create focal points or views that can be enjoyed from your home
  • Shade your home or A/C/ unit
  • Control erosion and other runoff issues

 

Other site considerations:

  • Estimate the area needed for recreational space in your yard
  • Identify where your utilities are located as to avoid damaging, or avoid, them during installation
  • Estimate storage area needs for firewood, snow piles, lawn furniture, etc.
  • Identify any local ordinances, deed restrictions, or homeowners' association restrictions on landscaping

These observations should give you an idea of where to add conservation landscaping that will thrive and help to achieve your goals. 

 

Image of a man removing sod from a lawn. He is preparing the property for conservation landscaping. Installing Your Conservation Landscaping

Ready to move ahead with installing conservation landscaping?  

There are a lot of decisions that need to be made with your conservation landscaping after the assessment is complete.

  • Choosing the area

  • Selecting native plants (To qualify for a RainScapes Rewards Rebate, 75% of the plants selected must be native species)

  • Developing a planting plan

  • Whether to hire a contractor (For most properties, this project can be done without a contractor)

The RainScapes Conservation Landscaping Guide (below) has suggestions and useful information on how to best make the necessary decisions. The RainScapes program has knowledgeable and helpful staff who can help you through the process as well as the RainScapes Rewards Rebates program with great financial incentives for installing the garden.  

Download the RainScapes Conservation Landscaping Guide (PDF, 676KB)

 
 

Maintaining Conservation Landscaping

Conservation landscaping requires regular gardening maintenance. Overall, landscaping with native plants requires less maintenance than traditional lawns and gardens.  Remember: pesticides or fertilizers are generally not required.

 

Actions You Can Take to Maintain Your Conservation Landscaping

Monthly Actions

As Needed Actions

✔ Remove weeds and invasive plants.

✔ Cut back dead stems of herbaceous plants in March and remove from the conservation landscaping.

✔ Remove any trash.

✔ Water new plants during initial establishment of plant growth (first 18 months) and extreme droughts. Watering should only be needed when it has not rained for more than 10 days. 

✔ Regularly inspect the practice for signs of erosion, obstructions, or unhealthy vegetation.

✔ Replenish and redistribute mulch to a total depth of 3 inches.

 

DEP can answer your questions and provide additional guidance about maintaining your conservation landscaping. Please email askdep@montgomerycountymd.gov or call the Montgomery County Customer Service Center at 3-1-1.

 

 

Rebates, Resources and Financial Incentives

Interested in installing conservation landscaping?  The County offers incentives to help make the decision a little easier.

 

Logo of the RainScapes programThe RainScapes Rewards Rebates Program

The County offers technical and financial assistance (in the form of rebates) to encourage property owners to implement RainScapes techniques on their property, including conservation landscaping.

  • Residential properties are eligible for up to a $2,500 rebate

  • Commercial, multi-family or institutional properties are eligible for up to a $10,000 rebates.

To participate, your property must be located in Montgomery County, outside of the municipal limits of the City of Rockville, City of Takoma Park, or City of Gaithersburg. Projects are not eligible if they are associated with permit approval requirements for new building construction, additions, or renovations.

​The program is funded each fiscal year (The FY begins July 1 and ends June 30).  Annual funds for the programs are limited, so rebates will be awarded on a first-come-first-served basis.

The RainScapes program also provides technical assistance to help with the installation of your conservation landscaping.  They have a wealth of information, expertise and want to help!

Learn more on the RainScape Rewards Rebates webpage. 

 

 

The Water Quality Protection Charge Credit Program

After you have installed your conservation landscaping, you are now eligible to receive a credit off your annual Water Quality Protection Charge (found on your yearly property tax bill).  The credit provides an incentive for maintaining your conservation landscaping and other stormwater management practices.  

You must apply for the WQPC credit separately – the credit will not be provided to you automatically.

Residential property owners can receive up to 50% off their WQPC depending on the type and size of stormwater management practices on the property. 

Non-residential and multi-family properties can receive up to 50-60% off their WQPC depending on the type and size of the stormwater management practices on the property. 

Learn more on the WQPC Credit webpage. 

 

Image of a front yard with conservation landscaping and a rain garden.