Long Reach homeowner has a deep-rooted love of stormwater protection
By By Janene Holzberg
For The Baltimore Sun|
Sep 15, 2014 at 2:57 PM
Maintaining an environmentally friendly landscape at her family's home in Long Reach comes as second nature to Janine Pollack, who loves gardening and the outdoors.
The pluses, some obvious and some not, are numerous.
They include the inherent adaptability of native plants to the area's climate as well as their ability to attract insects, which attract birds, which attract wildlife.
But the primary ecological benefit — which goes undetected by most visitors surveying the natural beauty of Pollack's outdoor canvas — is the ability of strategically placed landscaping to prevent polluted stormwater runoff from spoiling waterways and eventually fouling the Chesapeake Bay.
Such benefits, and the principles behind them, will explained to visitors Sept. 20 when Howard County master gardeners host a Bay-Wise Garden Tour at Pollack's home; the event is open to the public.
Nine stations will be set up around Pollack's yard and staffed by master gardeners, according to Holly McFarland, a member of the county's trained Master Gardener corps, which is administered by the University of Maryland Extension. Their ranks now number 153.
Many homeowners and businesses became more aware last year of the damage uncontrolled runoff can cause when Howard County began instituting a stormwater remediation fee, referred to derisively by some as Maryland's "rain tax." Collected funds, which are levied differently by the 10 Maryland jurisdictions required to impose them, go into a watershed protection fund.
The pollutants accumulated in stormwater runoff as it wends its way into storm sewers and streams include sediment, animal waste, lawn chemicals, gas, oil and trash.
"We're trying to teach individual homeowners that using Bay-Wise practices is something everybody can do on their properties," McFarland said. "Collectively, we can make a great difference."
Pollack and her husband, Nathan, bought their two-story home next to wooded open space in 1999. In 2004, Pollack began planting such native perennials as joe-pye weed, three varieties of milkweed and purple coneflowers to attract butterflies, birds, bats and other creatures to her yard.
A small pond with a fountain that she had professionally installed has attracted a bull frog, whose low rumblings can frequently be heard, as well as a brightly colored northern green frog. She has added goldfish to the pond and can see snails and tadpoles just below the water's surface.
And her standing water and erosion problems are a thing of the past.
"A yard like this is all about finding a balance," Pollack said.
The other kind of balance she had to strike when planning the space for her family, she said jokingly, was providing the couple's three young sons with a large enough expanse of grass in the backyard to practice soccer moves.
But the improvements that Pollack has made are what set her property apart.
The county's program was started in 1997, a year after the Bay-Wise concept was conceived in Maryland, McFarland said. She counts herself among the 144 owners of certified Bay-Wise properties in Howard County.
Thirteen Maryland counties and Baltimore City offer certification in Bay-Wise landscaping, she said.
The Chesapeake Bay watershed, which covers 64,000 square miles, encompasses most of Maryland, all of Washington, more than half of Virginia, a sliver of western Delaware, the middle third of Pennsylvania and a snippet of south-central New York.
Pollack says her yard is a work in progress.
"I see a plant in an article or a book and decide I have to have it," she said. "I am always looking to add more features."
McFarland said Pollack is a good example of someone who has taken an interest in learning what she can do to make a difference.
"Most people want to do the right thing, but some just don't know what that is," she said, adding that a little education can go a long way.
"It's easy to look at industry and farming and point fingers. But we all need to look in the mirror," McFarland said. "This is about all of us. Everybody needs to do their part."
Nine stations to visit
The Bay-Wise Garden Tour, scheduled for 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Sept. 20 at 6401 Saddle Drive in Columbia, is free and self-guided. Howard County Master Gardeners will staff nine stations: