Creating a Sustainable Yard

Creating a Sustainable Yard

Property owners can take care of their yards in a way that improves the health of their neighborhood environment by managing stormwater, planting native plants, and controlling invasive species, and using yard chemicals wisely.

Capturing & Using Rainwater

What we do in our yards has significant impacts in our neighborhoods and beyond. Runoff that flows down driveways into the street carries phosphorus from leaves and fertilizer, chemicals, and other materials that harm water quality in area lakes and ponds.

You can take action to capture runoff and use it to improve the appearance of your yard while saving time and resources and sustaining wildlife.
  1. Direct downspouts away from hard surfaces.
  2. Install rain barrels to store water for use in perennial gardens.
  3. Direct the downspouts to your lawn, shrub and perennial plantings to slow down the rainwater so that it can infiltrate into the soil, rather than flow down the driveway and into the street.

Plant to Infiltrate & Provide Habitat for Wildlife

Use deep-rooted plants wherever possible in your home landscape. The roots take up water and nutrients and provide a conduit for rainwater to infiltrate down into the soil. Many native prairie grasses and wildflowers have extensive root systems and are ideal for sites with afternoon sun.

Reduce the size of your lawn by planting shrubs and perennial groundcovers. Consider replacing lawn growing poorly in a wet spot with a shade tree and a shrub or perennial planting of moisture-loving plants.

Install a raingarden with a carefully sized depression to capture runoff from the roof or other hard surface. Plant it with hardy perennials to take up the rainwater, filter out excess nutrients.

Go Native with prairie, woodland and wetland plants. A native planted according to sun and moisture needs actually requires minimal watering, and little or no fertilizer or pesticides. You can plant natives to save time and money while benefiting the environment. Native wild plants also attract a whole host of pollinators, dragonflies, birds and other beneficial wildlife.

Plant for Cleaner Air and Energy Savings

Mature shade trees can reduce your energy bill. Fully leafed in summer, a tree can shade your house from the heat of solar radiation. Without leaves in winter, a tree will allow the heat of solar radiation to be absorbed by your house.
  1. Plant a shade tree for cleaner air. Tree leaves intercept particulate matter such as dust and soot as well as take up carbon dioxide and produce oxygen for us to breathe.
  2. Shade a south or west window or air conditioner with a deciduous tree for energy savings.

Grow a Healthy Lawn that Absorbs Rainwater

A healthy lawn needs less water and pesticides to keep it in good shape. Fertilize in spring and fall, and mulch clippings all season long. Raise your mower blade to 3 inches particularly during the summer months when it’s important to shade the roots so water loss is diminished. Water in the cooler morning hours when evaporation rates are low and the roots will have time to absorb the water before the heat of the day. Aerate the lawn each year for healthy roots and better water infiltration.

Keep Hard Surfaces Phosphorous and Salt-free

Hard, or impermeable, surfaces do not allow rainwater to soak in and they carry whatever is in their path in the water flow. Excess phosphorous, salt, organic matter and other substances in stormwater runoff contribute to abundant algae growth in wetlands. Actions to take:
  • Direct mowers and fertilizer spreaders away from all hard surfaces so the nutrients nourish the lawn and are not washed down the street to area wetlands.
  • Do not use fertilizer with phosphorus added. Because Maplewood soils are already high in phosphorous, residents are not allowed to use fertilizer with phosphorus content.
  • Bag leaves or shred with mower as mulch for shrub beds.
  • De-ice sidewalks with one of the new salt-free products such as Safe Paw that is safe for children, pets, and plants.
  • Consider pervious pavers for new installations of patios, sidewalks. Pervious pavers are laid with spacing between which allows water to seep down into a gravel bed beneath.

Resources for Sustainable Yards

Cost share money for rain gardens and native plants are available from the City's watershed districts. For more information click on the links below:
For plant nurseries that sell native plants follow this link: