The feds, state of Maryland and Montgomery County want to do more to reduce stormwater runoff that officials say is overtaxing and contaminating the water supply.
Businesses like Backyard Bounty have a solution. A simple solution.
Build a rain garden in people’s yards. “That’s just one thing that we can do,” said Edamarie Mattei, owner of Silver Spring landscape design business Backyard Bounty.
The front-yard rain garden that Backyard Bounty installed at the Garrett Park home of Caroline Turner captures and filters stormwater that otherwise would rush down from the sloped backyard into the street and storm drains. The garden includes colorful native plants and mulch that soak up water surrounded by a natural-looking, permeable driveway that uses gravel to absorb more water.
In many homes and businesses, stormwater carries chemical fertilizers and other pollutants into curbside drains, which eventually end up in streams and the Chesapeake Bay.
Mattei’s company has spent about a year transforming Turner’s yard into one that absorbs much of the runoff when it rains. Backyard Bounty does not use pesticides or fertilizers, relying on native plants in more than half of the yard, which is about one-third of an acre.
The native plants attract natural pollinators, Mattei said. There is a small area of “eco lawn,” which is drought tolerant and requires mowing only about once a month, she said.
Turner received a rainscapes rebate from the county to defray some costs of the project. The program offers $2,500 rebates to residents and $10,000 rebates to businesses for eligible projects that reduce stormwater pollution.
The project was showcased this week by county officials, who held a ceremony to recognize Backyard Bounty and others as certified green landscapers in a new program.
“These are relatively simple things that everyone can do,” Montgomery County Council member Nancy Floreen said.
Seven Montgomery County landscaping businesses have been certified as environmentally friendly through an expansion of the county’s green certification program to that sector. Montgomery is one of the few counties with such a program.
The certification process, which involves meeting requirements that are verified through onsite visits, provides credibility in advertising that a business is environmentally friendly, said Toni Bailey, owner of Rockville landscape design business Gracefully Green.
“Having the word ‘green’ in your name does not really prove you are a green business,” Bailey said. “With this certification process, our customers can be confident that we walk the talk.”
Mattei, who started Backyard Bounty about five years ago after being an English teacher, said she first went to New England to get her company certified under the Northeast Organic Farming Association’s Organic Land Care program.
“I’m glad to see there is something like that here,” she said.
The green certification program formed about three years ago by the county, Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce and Montgomery College, which has a landscape technology program. Green landscaping practices not only help the county meet stringent stormwater management requirements, but improve water quality and reduce pollutants, said County Executive Isiah Leggett (D), who attended the ceremony Monday. “Going green is not only good for businesses, but good for the environment and good for education,” Leggett said.
The county certifies about 50 businesses and organizations, including the Montgomery chamber, as green.
“Having a healthy economy depends on having healthy ecology,” said Barbara Ashe, executive vice president of the chamber.
Other certified landscape businesses are The Abundant Backyard in Silver Spring; A.I.R. Lawn Care in Rockville; The Brickman Group in Clarksburg; Green Scene Landscaping in Silver Spring; and Kit Gage — Gardener’s Advisers in Silver Spring.
The county fee to become a certified landscape business is $100 for small businesses with fewer than 25 full-time employees and $250 for large businesses. Recertification is required every three years.
The county is promoting the program through advertisements, such as on Ride On buses, and its website.