Preventing Water Pollution With Landscaping

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Commercial landscaping is certainly partly about beautifying spaces visible to and used by tenants and the public, not to mention boosting property value. From the clear profitability of curb appeal to establishing an inviting environment that promotes well-being and attracts customers, the aesthetics of well-done landscaping function on many levels – including the subliminal. 

But a manicured landscape is also part of an urban or suburban ecosystem, woven into the flow of biological communities and watersheds. Besides designing it to catch the eye and soothe the soul, consideration must be given to minimizing its potential polluting impacts.

In this blog post, we’ll identify some of the key issues regarding landscaping and water pollution, then run through the many ways to remedy these problems – or avoid them altogether in the first place – with the right design and the right management strategies.

Needless to say, Executive Landscaping can assist on all fronts when it comes to lessening the environmental footprint of your commercial landscape!

Issues With Water Pollution & Runoff From Landscaping

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Commercial landscaping can contribute to water pollution – plus erosion and other associated outcomes – in several ways. Impermeable hardscaping, for one thing, increases the amount and the velocity of stormwater runoff. This can cause a larger amount of water contaminated with organic debris, fertilizer, all manner of chemicals (including pesticides, herbicides and automotive fluids) and other suspended or dissolved material to drain into streams, rivers, lakes and wetlands. Runoff that’s been concentrated and hastened by impermeable surfaces is also more likely to scour soil, carrying greater silt and other sediment into waterways.  

Certainly, some of those contaminants can come directly from the property in question. Said property’s impermeable surfaces, though, also provide higher runoff discharge volume, increasing the ability of stormwater in a particular catchment zone to pick up pollutants and debris from other areas, including roadways, parking lots and construction sites. 

This kind of contaminated runoff can be outright toxic for aquatic systems or destabilize them with excess nutrients such as phosphorus and nitrogen, which may promote algal blooms and deplete dissolved oxygen. (Remember: At abnormally high concentrations, any nutrient can become a pollutant.) Large amounts of washed-out silt can cloud the water column, dramatically changing the physical character of the ecosystem.

Besides these ecological effects, it’s worth noting that poor water quality can also degrade the value of your commercial property and even turn away potential tenants and customers. 

How To Prevent Water Pollution in Commercial Landscaping

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Here’s the good news: You can do a great deal to minimize water pollution from your property with savvy landscaping design and management. Read on to learn some of the tips and tricks! 

Executive Landscaping can help design-or improve-commercial landscaping to greatly reduce the potential for polluted runoff, so reach out to our team today! 

Managing Runoff

Reducing impervious surfaces such as solid pavement from your commercial landscape can go a long way toward tackling potential water pollution. Capturing or slowing stormwater dramatically lessens the amount of runoff the lot introduces into the watershed. 

More plantings and mulch in general, even narrow vegetation strips and buffers, can lower the velocity and increase runoff absorption. Trees intercept rainfall, sheltering runoff-prone zones with their umbrella-like canopies, and also of course draw up infiltrated rainwater through their extensive (and thirsty) roots. 

In low areas, including drainageways themselves, rain gardens can be very effective in temporarily pooling runoff and allowing it to infiltrate into the soil. A properly sited, sized and installed rain garden shouldn’t result in surface water lasting long enough to promote mosquito issues. Like rain gardens, retention ponds (for temporary stormwater pooling) or detention ponds (for more permanent water storage) can double as attractive new landscaping features beyond their runoff mitigation.

Planting native vegetation whenever and wherever possible helps greatly to lessen water pollution. After all, plants evolved for your region’s climate, soil and other environmental conditions tend to require less water and fewer amendments. Here on the Gulf Coast, we benefit by having a wonderfully diverse roster of gorgeous native trees, shrubs, herbs, and grasses to choose from. Besides reducing the amount of fertilizer and (often enough) pest control you need to apply means you’re also less likely to overwater. 

Speaking of overwatering, you’ll be more efficient with your irrigation if you situate plants with similar water needs together within your landscape mosaic. 

Avoid allowing areas of bare soil to develop or linger on your property, and promptly mulch or seed spots left idle after land disturbances. Be sure to schedule grading and excavation work for spells of dry weather, which reduces sediment runoff and erosion. Plant hard-to-mow sites such as steep hillsides in perennial groundcover, shrubbery, or trees rather than turfgrass to reduce maintenance needs

Conscientious Fertilizing

A common issue for gardens, yardscapes and commercial properties alike is overfertilization. Conduct soil analyses and confirm the specific nutrient requirements of given plants before deciding on the composition and amount of fertilizer you apply – if you apply any at all. Again, native plants will often demand less fertilizer than exotic species and varieties. Generally speaking, choose fertilizers with no or low levels of phosphorus, which in excess quantity (as delivered by polluted runoff) is the primary culprit behind algae blooms in many aquatic ecosystems.

Apply fertilizer at the right time of year – coinciding with the height of growth and nutrient uptake by plants – and in the right kind of weather. Don’t fertilize amid heavy rains, when fertilizer is more likely to be washed away or leached beyond the reach of roots, or, in turn, during very dry spells, when the chemical salts of fertilizer can dehydrate drought-stressed plant roots.

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Pest & Weed Management

Pesticides and herbicides tend to be woefully overused, setting the stage for more polluted runoff. Well-designed landscaping that takes advantage of the ecological services provided by a healthy yard/gardenscape ecosystem often requires minimal chemical treatment for insect pests and weeds. Biological control of pests in the form of predators (from songbirds to spiders) can be promoted with the right habitat enhancements. Diverse, well-nourished plantings will often out-compete and exclude weed species while remaining more resilient to infestation and disease.

Favor mechanical as opposed to chemical methods of control, too, including installing traps for insect pests and mulch for thwarting weed growth. 

Grass & Turf Management

Strategically situated, well-managed turfgrass can slow and absorb runoff, plus stabilize soil to reduce erosion impacts. A green lawn, however, can also be a notable source of water pollution. 

Don’t sweep, blow or dump your grass clippings or raked leaves into the street or down storm drains or ditches, as they can be significant sources of excess nutrients and chemical contaminants when flushed directly into drainages. Use them for compost or mulch, or bag them up for curbside pickup or transfer to municipal processing stations. 

Avoid mowing down your grass to less than three inches tall. A taller lawn is generally healthier and more resistant to weed infiltration. 

Turn To Executive Landscaping for Beautiful, Environmentally Conscious Commercial Landscaping Design on the Gulf Coast

Whether you’re looking to reduce runoff and pollution in an existing scheme or install brand-new commercial landscaping that’s as low-impact as possible, look no further than Executive Landscaping for the finest designs and management on the Gulf Coast! From selecting and arranging plantings to installing rain gardens, we’re your go-to choice for water-conscious commercial landscaping: Get in touch via the website or by calling us at (850) 478-2312.