Sustainable Landscaping
healthy lawn care
rain gardens



55 Richard Smith Drive, Wickford, RI 02852, 401-294-3521

Smith's Castle is a historic site open to the public and located in the town of North Kingstown, Rhode Island. The Castle is owned and operated by the non-profit Cocumscussoc Association. URI Master Gardeners and Smith's Castle volunteers partner in the care and management of the Castle gardens and grounds and incorporate many healthy landscaping practices.

What you will see!

*Permeable paving alternatives: crushed stone walkways, parking lot and runoff control

*Shoreland Buffers

*Healthy Lawn Care


*Rain Barrel

*18th Century Garden

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Crushed Stone Walkways, Parking Lot and Runoff Control
Tip 5 - reduce runoff
Tip 6
- reduce soil erosion

Smith's Castle features a crushed stone walkway on the grounds in heavy traffic areas where it is difficult to maintain grass. Crushed stone or other permeable paving options are better than impervious surfaces because they allow rainwater to soak through, replenishing the groundwater table instead of creating stormwater runoff which can lead to pollution in nearby storm drains or water bodies.

This is especially important for Smith's Castle because it is surrounded by Mill Cove in the Narragansett Bay and the Cocumscussoc Brook, important water resources for the area.

The small shrubs lining the crushed stone walkway above also help control runoff by slowing it down, and add an aesthetically pleasing look.

As shown in the above and below pictures, crushed stone also serves the dual purpose of slowing down roof runoff at the Castle. The majority of the roof area does not use gutters or downspouts, so the crushed stone serves as the mechanism to slow down the runoff and allow it to infiltrate.

Smith's Castle has a large lot for visitor parking. Crushed stone reduces runoff to nearby fresh and coastal water resources. June 9, 2005.

Crushed stone parking lot, June 9, 2005.

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Shoreland Buffers
Tip 5 - reduce runoff
Tip 6
- reduce soil erosion

Shoreland buffers, also known as riparian buffers, are also important for controlling stormwater runoff and protecting water resources. Shoreland buffers are areas bordering water bodies that are maintained in natural vegetation instead of a lawn or other managed landscape. This vegetation helps slow down and settle stormwater runoff and allows it to filter naturally into the ground or be uptaken by the plants. This can help to remove some pollutants such as bacteria and nutrients.

Shoreland buffers also provide habitat for many species. For many fresh water resources, trees in the buffer zone are important as they provide shade which helps keep the water cool. Cool water stores more oxygen than warm water so this is crucial for the health of aquatic life.

Mill Cove

The picture above shows where the Cocumscussoc Brook, a freshwater stream, enters Mill Cove. A narrow area that is managed in lawn provides view and access. The key, as has been done here, is to minimize access to ensure a well functioning shoreland buffer remains.

URI CE Coastal Landscapes Program - includes a RI Coastal Plant Guide.

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Healthy Lawn Care

The lawn at Smith's Castle does not receive irrigation water, fertilizers, or pesticides, which helps to protect the surrounding water bodies from potential pollution. The pictures below illustrate some additional healthy lawn care practices being used at the Castle.

White clover, a legume, fixes atmospheric nitrogen and converts it into a form that the lawn can use, reducing the need for added fertilizers.

Lawn clippings are also left on the lawn after mowing, providing additional nutrients and further reducing the need for applied fertilizers.

There is often waterfowl passing near the Smith's Castle grounds. In situations such as these it may be tempting to feed the waterfowl but that is not recommended because it encourages the waterfowl to congregate in groups larger than would naturally be present. This creates a water quality issue because of the excess animal waste.

This lawn area contains natural stones and boulders at the surface. The lawn in this area is subject to shallow soil depth near the rocks which can lead to reduced drought tolerance and weed invasions--especially crabgrass. Another issue is that this landscape is more difficult to mow.

Naturally occurring boulders can be used to create rock and water gardens as has been done at our Glen Demonstration Site.

Another option here would be to expand on the existing cedar stand to create a park-like setting. Some options could include planting additional hardwood trees with interesting bark, fall leaf color, or spring flowers and/or other evergreen trees and shrubs that provide interesting foliage, flowers, fruits and berries. The lawn area beneath the cedar stand (and additional tree and shrub plantings) could be planted to native wildflowers and groundcovers. Think about creating irregular or wavy edges with additional tree and shrub plantings. Some plants should be selected for their tolerance of salt spray, others for their ability to tolerate shallow soils, others, near the shoreline, for their ability to tolerate temporary flooding or moist soils.

Installing benches, paving stones, and crushed stone can also enhance the aesthetics of a park-like setting. For more information on landscaping in wooded areas see our Woodscaping Factsheet Series, Today's Forest Tomorrow's Legacy: A Guide for Small Acreage Woodland Owners.

For other sustainable landscaping resources view Tip 1 - choose the right plants.

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Tip 2 - recycle yard waste

The composting at Smith's Castle is managed by a group of URI Master Gardener volunteers. This bin was constructed to compost plant prunings and other yard waste to use as mulch.

URI Master Gardner, Jules Cohen, discusses Smith's Castle's composting activities during a Healthy Landscapes tour in August 2004.

URI CE Master Composter and Recycling Program

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Rain Barrel

Rain barrels are used to gather rain water coming out of roof gutter downspouts so it can be used to water plants during dry periods. Collecting the rain water also helps to prevent stormwater runoff.

The rain barrel above was installed at Smith's Castle in August 2004 and holds 54 gallons of water. The Barrel's outlet will eventually connect to a soaker hose to water the nearby garden, shown below. This barrel is installed on cement blocks to help with gravity flow from the barrel.

During the Spring of 2005, a roof gutter downspout extension was installed to allow for two rain barrels to be linked in series, holding a total of 108 gallons of water.

The rain barrels are linked with a flexible plastic hose that comes with each of these ready-made rain barrels. June 9, 2005.

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18th Century Garden

The 18th Century Garden is a unique garden on the Smith's Castle grounds that displays many of the same plants that would have been present in a similar garden during the 18th Century.

The garden uses many sustainable practices such as crushed stone walkways and mulch to retain moisture and reduce watering needs and weeds. Where possible naturally disease and pest resistant plant varieties are used. Future plans for the garden may include a water efficient drip irrigation system.

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