Sustainable Landscaping
healthy lawn care
rain gardens

 

 

The University of Rhode Island Cooperative Extension (URI CE) Water Quality Program and the Cooperative Extension Education Center currently play unique roles within Rhode Island as leaders in both water quality and sustainable landscaping education using state of the art approaches that tailor educational programs to local communities. The Healthy Landscapes Education Program is a partnership between URI CE’s Water Quality, GreenShare, and Master Gardener Programs, the Town of North Kingstown, and the private sector.
The goals of the program are to inform residents about the importance of their water resources and identify steps they can take to protect those resources from home landscape activities.

Situation
Gardening is the number one hobby nationwide. On average, residential landscapes use ten times the amount of fertilizers and pesticides on a per acre basis than agricultural lands. In addition, residential water consumption increases 40% - 50% during summer months due mainly to landscape watering.
The improper use of fertilizers, pesticides, lawn watering and the need to manage and dispose of yard waste and pet waste are occurring on small acreages with close proximity to “urbanizing” areas or areas with an increase in impervious surface areas. Polluted stormwater runoff and a reduction in groundwater recharge threaten water quality and balance in the water cycle.
Many rural homeowners also have pets, horses and other livestock. Improperly handled, concentrated animal waste from pets, livestock, and other “resident wildlife” are potential sources of pathogens and nutrients that can impact water quality. These rural parcels are also subject to erosion, sedimentation, sparse vegetation, loss or damage to riparian buffers and impacts to drinking water wells when pastures and animal access areas are improperly managed.

Actions
• Maintained three residential demonstration landscapes and one “small acreage” farm site. Two additional demonstration landscapes were used for educational programming, one being a public-access historic site, the other a private residence.

• Demonstration practices for the URI CE Learning Landscape were planned for installation during fall of 2004. Preliminary planning for demonstration practices at the North Kingstown Town Hall began.

• Distributed Program information through mass media including TV and print media coverage and electronic mail on statewide and local levels.

• The Healthy Landscapes website at www.healthylandscapes.org was updated regularly to contain all Program materials, events, demonstration sites and TV coverage.

• Developed and maintained written materials and an educational display to accompany educational programming and events. Initiated development of a set of printed materials for small acreage livestock owners.

• Conducted educational tours of demonstration sites, workshops, and participated in community events and organizational meetings for residents, URI Master Gardeners, 4-H leaders and landscape professionals.

• Conducted targeted Program outreach to North Kingstown Homeowner Associations and citizen groups, as well as local garden clubs, garden centers and landscape professionals.

• Conducted targeted Program outreach to URI Master Gardeners and engaged them in advanced training programs, demonstration site development and maintenance and education program delivery.

• Conducted training program for landscape professionals, which included a pre-test and final exam for a Healthy Landscapes Trained Practitioner Certificate and window sticker.

• All educational tours, workshops and training programs contained an evaluation component to document and evaluate Program impacts. General residential surveys were routinely collected and tabulated.

• Extended materials and information to additional Rhode Island communities and organizations for use in programs and events.

• Attended meetings and training programs as part of the New England Region Water Quality Program’s Sustainable Landscapes Focus Area. Presented a talk at the New England Region Conference and a poster at the National Water Quality Conference.

Impacts
• 50 landscape professionals trained as Healthy Landscapes Practitioners. In addition, over 80% indicate that they are interested in attending additional Healthy Landscapes training programs.

• 79 people attended Healthy Landscapes workshops and tours. Display and educational materials attended over 12 events and organizational meetings including the annual RI Flower Show, annual URI GreenShare field day, and North Kingstown Environmental fair.

• 152 Master Gardener volunteers were trained in Healthy Landscapes practices.

• Nine Plant Pro segments have been aired, reaching approximately 250,000 people per segment.

• 94% of North Kingstown residents receive articles and announcements on Healthy Landscapes Program through the Town’s newsletter, The Puddle, which is mailed with quarterly municipal water bills.

• Eighty percent of survey respondents indicate a willingness to change yard care practices for water quality protection.

• Strengthening of residential pollution prevention programs with the development of new educational materials, innovative programming, and new delivery techniques. Training and sharing of educational approaches and materials within New England’s Sustainable Landscapes Focus Area.

• Trained Master Gardener volunteers applying the skills learned and using Healthy Landscape training materials. 16 volunteers actively participated on behalf of the Program this year.

What’s Next – Year Three
• Continue local and statewide media campaign.

• Hold additional demonstration site tours, workshops and training programs for residents and targeted audiences such as landscape professionals, garden center employees, URI Master Gardeners, 4-H leaders, Homeowner Associations and garden clubs.

• Continue to train and incorporate URI Master Gardeners in education program delivery.

• Participate in events and organizational meetings with educational display and printed materials.

• Continue to develop and maintain printed materials. Complete printed materials for small acreage livestock owners and conduct targeted training and outreach for
4-H volunteers and youth.

• Continue to maintain demonstration sites and install new practices at URI CE Learning Landscape. Explore possibility of demonstration site installation at the North Kingstown Town Hall.

• Continue comprehensive evaluation methods to evaluate and track information gained and practices adopted. Evaluate potential benefits to water quality from various landscape practices using the MANAGE risk assessment tool.

• Continue to extend information and Programs throughout the state, New England region, and nationally.