Chesapeake Bay Field Office
Northeast Region

Why BayScape?

BayScaping focuses on the use of native plants, and is a good idea for both the environment and for the gardener.

Benefits for the Environment


Credit: USFWSThis landscape provides little food or
shelter for wildlife.

Birds and other wildlife have three basic requirements: food, water and shelter. Lawn does not make good habitat for birds, beneficial insects, or most any kind of wildlife. When we replace lawn area with a variety of trees, shrubs, and perennials, the structure, leaves, flowers, seeds, berries and other fruits of these plants provide food and shelter for a variety of wildlife. There are added benefits to using native plants.

Water Quality and Quantity
Americans manage approximately 50 million acres of lawn. Conventional lawns and gardens often require high maintenance and receive large inputs of pesticides, fertilizers, water and time, and require a lot of energy—human as well as gas-powered—to maintain. A yard with 10,000 square feet of turf requires 10,000 gallons of water per summer to stay green. When we replace portions of our lawn with native trees, shrubs and perennials, we reduce the amount of chemicals and water we need to use. We also reduce the amount of excess water that runs off our properties during rain events.

In managing our yards and gardens, we tend to over-apply products, using 100 million tons of fertilizer and more than 80 million pounds of pesticides annually. When it rains these chemicals often find their way into our local waterways, and have impacts in the rivers and waterbodies downstream as well.

Root systems of prairie plants. Heidi Natura, Conservation Research Institute

Credit: Heidi Natura, Conservation Research Institute
The roots of Kentucky Blue Grass (far left) are much shallower
than the rest of these perennials
. Click on drawing for larger image.

Deep rooted plants, such as most trees, shrubs and perennials, are able to make better use of rain water than typical lawn grasses, and so require less watering once established. They are also better at trapping and removing nitrogen and pollutants from rain water so that it is not released into nearby waterbodies.

By replacing some of our lawn area with deep rooted plants, we can have a positive impact on water quality.

The high volume of water that runs into storm drains in most urban and suburban areas during rain and snow melt events also has negative effects on our rivers, lakes and streams. Storm drains generally flow directly to these waterways. The high volume of water, and resulting force gouges out the stream channel, destroying habitat for fish and the plants and aquatic insects they depend upon. This water is also generally a higher temperature than water that has trickled slowly into surface waters through natural areas. When we allow run-off from roofs, driveways and sidewalks to be filtered by the vegetation on our properties, we can reduce the volume and temperature of the water that reaches our local waterbodies.

Another great way to reduce the volume of water that leaves your property (and to save money on your water bill!) is to install rain barrels under your downspouts. This prevents the captured water from leaving your property during rain events, and the water collected in the barrels can be used later to water lawns and gardens as necessary.

For more information on BayScaping for water conservation, read BayScaping to Conserve Water - A Homeowner's Guide

Air Quality
The small gas-powered engines used for yard care—mowers, trimmers, blowers—are inefficient and lack the emission controls that car and other larger engines have.

In addition to all the water quality and wildlife benefits of BayScaping, reducing high maintenance lawn areas saves gas and thereby benefits air quality.

Benefits for the Gardener
Once established, BayScaped gardens save us both time and money. BayScaped gardens require less regular maintanence than conventional lawns and gardens. BayScapes are more interesting than lawn, and the use of native plants creates a sense of place. The birds, butterflies, and other interesting wildlife that a BayScape attracts are an added bonus.

I want to BayScape! Tell me how!

Why BayScape?

Choosing Plants

How To

USFWS Plant List

Finding Natives

Other Web Resources


Online Native Plant Center now available to help you find native Plants of the same type, shape color, size and other desirable plant characteristics for creating attractive and more natural landscapes in your yard.


Last updated: June 28, 2011