Ms. Rockwell and Mr. Modell are Bay-friendly homeowners, since they live along the upper reaches of the Wye River. They welcomed the Master Gardeners to come tour their yard and advise them on whether they were doing enough to make their landscape Bay-wise.
The Bay-Wise representatives were impressed with what these homeowners have done in their landscape. They have installed a septic system with state-of-the-art nitrogen-reducing technology, which is a great improvement for waterfront properties such as these. Merle and Ed do not mow near the waterfront, allowing deep-rooted trees and native plants to absorb runoff from the land before it reaches the water. They have native trees which provide habitat for birds and other wildlife, while cooling the house in the summer and protecting it from buffeting winds in the winter.
Due to the many beneficial practices used throughout the property, their landscape passed the Bay-Wise certification process with flying colors.
Master Gardener Stephanie Simpson, who helped certify the property, noted that most homeowners can easily adopt Bay-Wise landscaping. “We let homeowners know that there are plenty of little things they can do that make a difference. Since all of Queen Annes County is in the Chesapeake Bay watershed, its important, plus its fun. Bay-Wise landscaping can reduce the time and money you spend on your yard, while improving the health of your plants as well as the Bay.
The Bay-Wise committee is part of the Master Gardener program, which is sponsored by University of Maryland Extension. Volunteers are trained to educate homeowners about landscaping practices that will improve surface and groundwater quality. And there is no cost to the homeowners.
The statewide program began in 1996 in Howard County. Currently, Queen Annes and Talbot County Master Gardeners offer Bay-Wise consultations in the mid-Shore counties on the eastern shore, including Kent and Caroline.
When called to assess a yard, committee members use the Bay-Wise Maryland Yardstick, a checklist of landscape management practices such as fertilization, wise plant use, mulching, stormwater management and lawn care. Items on the list are worth points, or “inches” on the yardstick. For certification, a homeowner gets 36 or higher out of 72 possible points. Once the landscape is certified, the homeowners get a certificate and a 6 x 7 blue sign for their yard.
Ms. Simpson noted that homeowners may seek advice from the Bay-Wise committee without a certification. If a homeowner just wants us to come out and advise them on how to maintain their landscape in a Bay-friendly way, we are happy to do that, she said.
The Master Gardeners also assess and certify public gardens as Bay-Wise, such as the rain garden at the Queen Annes County Free Library in Centreville.
Wanda MacLachlan, state coordinator of the Bay-Wise program, said the program is unique in that the volunteers work one-on-one with the homeowners on solving landscape problems and promoting bay-friendly landscapes.
The Bay-Wise program promotes plants, native or not, as long as they are not invasive, and are drought tolerant, and are relatively pest-free,” she said.
Regarding lawns, Ms. MacLachlan added, Bay-Wise promotes reducing the area of your lawn and encourages the use of slow-release fertilizers.
Now that the gardening season is getting underway, the Master Gardeners encourage county residents to take advantage of the free Bay-Wise consultation service.
To schedule a visit or for more information on the Bay-Wise program, call 410-758-0166.