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.

Gardening is the number one hobby nationwide. On average, residential landscapes use several times more 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.

• Installed a demonstration rain garden at the North Kingstown Town Hall. Monitoring and maintenance occurs on a weekly basis.

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

• Installed demonstration landscape best management practices at the URI CE Botanical Gardens.

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

• The Healthy Landscapes website at is 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 programs and events.

• Developed a series of four fact sheets and two self-assessment worksheets for small acreage livestock owners in Rhode Island. Coordinated review by USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service staff in RI. The series covers proper management of livestock for the protection of water resources and health.

• Conducted a URI MANAGE Model Risk Analysis to estimate impacts from fertilizer use and water consumption based on adoption of recommended BMPs. A fact sheet summarizing the analysis was developed.

• 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 outreach to URI Master Gardeners engaging them in demonstration site development and maintenance and education program delivery.

• Conducted training for landscape professionals through the RI Nursery and Landscape Association Winter Seminar Series and Pesticide Applicator Training Series.

• All educational tours, workshops and training programs contained an evaluation component to document and evaluate Program impacts.

200 general residential surveys administered from spring 2003 through June 2005 were tabulated and summarized.

• Extended programs, materials and information to additional Rhode Island communities, agencies and organizations. Healthy Landscapes Program materials, demonstration sites, and message are being incorporated into several additional programs and events sponsored by the URI CE Education Center and Master Gardener Programs, including the “Gardening with the Masters Tour” and “Summer Gardening School Series” held at the URI Botanical Gardens.

• Attended meetings and training programs as part of the New England Region Water Quality Program’s Sustainable Landscapes Focus Area. Presented a talk on the Healthy Landscapes Program at a New England Region Sustainable Landscapes Workshop in October 2004 and at the National Water Quality Conference in February 2005. Attended a training program on social marketing and behavior change, April 2005.

• 50 people attended Healthy Landscapes sponsored workshops and tours. Display and educational materials attended over 11 events and organizational meetings.

163 Master Gardeners received training on the Healthy Landscapes Program. 13 Master Gardeners actively volunteered on behalf of the Program this year.

• Ten Plant Pro segments have aired reaching approximately 250,000 people per segment. Four segments were filmed at three Project demonstration sites.

• 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.

• 80 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.

What’s Next – one year no-cost extension
September 2005 – August 2006

• Continue to train and incorporate URI Master Gardeners in education program delivery, including a Healthy Landscapes talk for the URI Master Gardener Speaker’s Bureau.

Continue to monitor and maintain the North Kingstown Town Hall demonstration rain garden through May 2007.

• Conduct a follow up survey with program participants to track knowledge gained and actions taken.

• Conduct exit interview with demonstration site owners.

• Conduct pilot workshop with 4-H leaders on the use of the small acreage livestock fact sheet and worksheet series.

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

• Develop a final report of Healthy Landscapes Program.