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 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.

Actions
• Developed a slideshow and script for the URI Master Gardener Speakers Bureau. Trained 11 Master Gardeners to give this presentation. Two public presentations have been made in West Greenwich and Jamestown, and another is planned in Scituate in September 2006.

• Presented on Healthy Landscapes at the annual URI Master Gardener Training Program and for the Town of Scituate Conservation Commission and Northern Rhode Island Conservation District. Attended 13 events with display.

• Continue to monitor and maintain the North Kingstown Town Hall demonstration rain garden through May 2007. Installed a ground-mounted sign, October 2005.

• Developed and distributed a rain garden brochure.

• Two articles on the rain garden and program were featured in the September 2005 issue of the North Kingstown Villager and March 2006 issue of South County Living Magazine.

• 5 articles were written for the North Kingstown newsletter, The Puddle.

• Conducted a post evaluation with 129 program participants to track knowledge gained and actions taken.

• Conducted exit interviews with 3 demonstration sites (5 owners).

• Developed and distributed a final report, Cultivating Change: Engaging Community Participation in Water Quality Protection. Accomplishments and Impacts of an Extension Education Program.

• Healthy Landscapes Program materials and message are continuously incorporated into several programs and events sponsored by the URI CE Education Center and Master Gardener Programs, including the “Gardening with the Masters Tour” and “Summer and Fall Gardening School Series” held at the URI Botanical Gardens.

• In January 2006, URI CE staff shared methods and resources with the Northern Rhode Island Conservation District and Town of Scitutate Conservation Commission to develop local demonstration sites and assist with outreach and evaluation that focus on stormwater management practices and other healthy landscapes practices.

• URI CE Project staff coordinated a statewide steering committee to plan and develop a USDA CSREES National Water Quality Grant Proposal: Livestock on Small Acreages: Protecting Water Resources and Health; A Train-the-trainer Extension Education Program. The grant proposal was submitted in April 2005 and was awarded to URI CE in July 2005.

• Attended events and coordinated regional programming as part of the New England Region Water Quality Program’s Sustainable Landscaping Focus Area. Presented a talk on the Healthy Landscapes Program at the Northeast Region Master Gardener Conference in Newport, RI, June 2006.

Impacts (cumulative 2002 – 2006)
• Nearly 300 people attended Healthy Landscapes sponsored workshops (6) and tours (10). Display and educational materials attended over 40 events.

• 500 Master Gardeners received training (9 sessions) on the Healthy Landscapes Program. 20 Master Gardeners actively volunteered on behalf of the Program.

• 29 Plant Pro and other TV segments have aired reaching approximately 250,000 people per segment. 10 segments were filmed at 5 demonstration sites.

• 94% of North Kingstown residents received 12 articles and announcements on the Healthy Landscapes Program through the Town’s newsletter, The Puddle, mailed with quarterly municipal water bills.

• 80 percent of pre-evaluation respondents (200 evaluations administered) indicated a willingness to change yard care practices for water quality protection.

• Nearly 69 percent of post-evaluation respondents (129 post-evaluations administered) gained new knowledge in water conservation techniques, about 56 percent in controlling runoff and soil erosion and half learned more about common landscape pollutants.

• Over 54 percent of post-evaluation respondents have adopted at least one “smart” landscaping practice and about 21 percent plan to adopt a practice soon.

• Nearly 48 percent of post-evaluation respondents installed a rain gauge, about 40 percent now use yard waste as mulch and more than 35 percent incorporated native and sustainable plants in their gardens. 31 percent plan to install a rain barrel or cistern.

• Nearly 67 percent of post-evaluation respondents shared information with friends, 58 percent with family and half with neighbors.

• Strengthening of programs and partnerships within URI Cooperative Extension, state and local agencies and organizations, and the New England Regional Water Quality Program Sustainable Landscaping Focus Area.

• Project website, www.healthylandscapes.org continually maintained with all program resources, including 22 fact sheets, photos of demonstration sites and updated events.