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Volunteer Water Reporter Susan Woodman bends her body over to get a closer look at the eelgrass at Willard Beach, holding a delicate green blade like the hand of a friend.

A Friend to Eelgrass: A Water Reporter Helps Look After a Vital Ecosystem in Peril

Volunteer Water Reporter Susan Woodman bends her body over to get a closer look at the eelgrass at Willard Beach, holding a delicate green blade like the hand of a friend.

Susan Woodman is eager to get to the beach during the lowest of low tides to glimpse her favorite eelgrass beds. It’s 6:47 a.m. and the tide is still way out. She can spot it in the distance. Susan began photographing the eelgrass meadows at Willard Beach about a year ago as a volunteer Water Reporter for Friends of Casco Bay. “It’s become like my garden,” she says. “It’s really quite pretty, like a field of very green grass.”

view of a relatively healthy eelgrass bed underwater
A healthy bed of eelgrass growing in clean, clear water. Photo credit: Steve Karpiak.

Eelgrass (Zostera marina) is a flowering marine plant that grows in shallow, coastal waters of Casco Bay and up and down the Atlantic seaboard. To the folks who named it, its long leaves looked like eels swimming in the water. For Casco Baykeeper Ivy Frignoca, it conjures up images of ballerinas swaying together with the waves.

Eelgrass habitats are vital ecosystems.

Beyond its lovely green locks, eelgrass habitats are dynamic ecosystems that play an essential role in the health of our fisheries, oceans, and planet. The eggs and larvae of bivalves, especially blue mussels and clams, get their start in these natural nurseries. Young fish, such as herring, striped bass, shrimp, and lobster, find safe refuge amongst the tall green eelgrasses. Its rooted blades also hold sediment in place, buffering the shoreline from storm damage and trapping carbon and excess nitrogen. Because eelgrass needs clean, clear water to thrive, it is an important indicator of water quality – meaning, if you’ve got healthy eelgrass, you’ve got healthy water for fish and shellfish.

These superheroes seagrasses have been quietly keeping our oceans healthy, our fisheries abundant, and our coastlines intact.

chunks of the eelgrass meadows are missing at Willard Beach.At Willard Beach, Susan notices chunks of the eelgrass meadows are missing. She points to a series of scattered sections that had once been an unbroken expanse, now divided into patches like an archipelago of islands. Susan is certain the January storms that ravaged so much of Maine’s coast also caused significant damage to the eelgrasses at Willard Beach.

Something is happening to Casco Bay’s eelgrass. This vital ecosystem is in peril.

In 2018, Casco Bay’s eelgrass was mapped by Maine Department of Environmental Protection, revealing an extensive network of eelgrass beds. But four years later, when mapped again in 202254% of all eelgrass beds in Casco Bay had disappeared – a huge loss in a short amount of time. Ivy notes, “We know eelgrass comes and goes in cycles. But a loss this catastrophic signals that something more is going on.”

These two maps show the decline of eelgrass in Casco Bay over just four years. In 2018, Casco Bay’s eelgrass was mapped by Maine Department of Environmental Protection, revealing an extensive network of eelgrass beds. But four years later, when mapped again in 2022, 54% of all eelgrass beds in Casco Bay had disappeared – a huge loss in a short amount of time.
Maine’s Department of Environmental Protection eelgrass mapping has been invaluable and revealed a need for more frequent and regular mapping. Maine DEP had temporary funding for the 2018 and 2022 eelgrass mapping. Soon afterward, Friends of Casco Bay helped to pass a bill that now funds the mapping of eelgrass across the entire Maine coast in five year cycles.

 

Underwater view of an unhealthy eelgrass bed.
Without clear sunlight reaching the leaves, eelgrass struggles to thrive in cloudy waters and places where excess nitrogen feeds blooms of algae and phytoplankton. Lawn fertilizers, wastewater, stormwater, and air pollution all contribute to nitrogen pollution. Photo credit Sonny McAplin.

What’s destroying the eelgrasses of Casco Bay? The problems offer us clues…and hope for the future.

Before attempting to restore eelgrass beds, we want to understand why they are failing. Without addressing the causes of failure, planting new eelgrass will not be successful.

Friends of Casco Bay has joined a two-year collaborative pilot project. Over the summers of 2024 and 2025, Casco Bay Estuary PartnershipManometMaine Department of Environmental ProtectionTeam Zostera, and the scientists at Friends of Casco Bay will work together on a project to study factors putting eelgrass at risk and begin testing restoration solutions.

A team of many talents.

Friends of Casco Bay scientists, Mike Doan and Heather Kenyon, will do what they do best – collect data on water temperature, water quality, nutrient concentrations, and light availability – to examine issues such as nitrogen loading and warming waters. While our partner organization Manomet will monitor the green crabs. Team Zostera divers will get us ready for phase two by studying the seed germination cycle of eelgrass. We are asking our volunteer Water Reporters to work with us to document eelgrass washed up on shore for signs of nutrient impairment, green crab damage, and other harm. Casco Bay Estuary Partnership is managing the project.

Next year, the project team will test methods for seeding eelgrass using seeds collected by Team Zostera. In coming years, Maine may need to consider seeding more heat-resistant varieties of eelgrass from regions to the south.

The hope behind the pilot project’s efforts is to start moving on solutions and restoration before it’s too late.

Map of the two eelgrass monitoring sites in Casco Bay: Broad Cove in Cumberland and off Mackworth Island
The pilot project will monitor two eelgrass beds in 2024 and 2025: one off Mackworth Island and a second site in Cumberland’s Broad Cove.

 

a closeup image f a scallop in one of Virginia's thriving eelgrass habitats
Eelgrass restoration in Casco Bay might be possible. An effort to restore eelgrass beds along Virginia’s Eastern Shore began in 2000 with a few seeds from the York River. Today, these seagrass meadows have grown to 6,195 acres—providing a home for an estimated 200,000 bay scallops reared in a hatchery. Image credit: Bob Orth, Virginia Institute of Marine Science.

Everyone can be part of the solution for Casco Bay’s eelgrass habitats.

To be a friend to the amazing eelgrasses of Casco Bay, we recommend these actions:

  • Become a BayScaper by limiting your use of fertilizers, or better yet, opting out of fertilizing your lawn and garden to reduce excess nitrogen entering the watershed (this applies to all locations in the watershed, from Bethel to the beach). If your property is next to water, plant a buffer of native plants to reduce nitrogen runoff.

  • Walk carefully at low tide to avoid stepping on fragile eelgrass beds.

  • Boat smart in shallow waters. Propellers, anchors, and mooring chains can all damage eelgrass.

  • Install high, narrow ramps and docks to avoid shading eelgrass beds.

  • Use sustainable harvesting practices to prevent damage from aquaculture moorings, lobster traps, and shellfish/worming rakes.

Susan Woodman holds her phone, ready to take photos of the eelgrass at Willard Beach.
Volunteer Susan Woodman was heartened to hear news of our pilot project because she recognizes eelgrass as an indicator of a healthy ecosystem, as well as a potential carbon sink. “Climate change is something I worry about. How can you not?” Eelgrass is increasingly being studied as a nature-based solution to addressing the climate crisis.

You might also consider becoming a Water Reporter, like Susan.

Before the tide inches up over the Willard Beach eelgrass meadows, Susan bends her body over to get a closer look, holding a delicate green blade like the hand of a friend. She notes the length of the blades, the interesting bumps and holes in the sand, and wonders what else is living amongst the eelgrass. Susan enjoys volunteering as a Water Reporter with Friends of Casco Bay. “It feels as though you’re contributing something and looking after the beach.”

Water Reporters make a difference.

As a Water Reporter, Susan is providing an important service to Casco Bay. By photographing evidence of algal blooms, sea level rise, pollution, eelgrass, wildlife sightings, and other notable observations with an app on their smartphones, Water Reporters help us see how the Bay is changing over time. This helps us learn how our communities can make better choices. If you are interested in becoming a Water Reporter, sign up here.

While the future of eelgrass in Casco Bay is indeed in peril, Casco Baykeeper Ivy Frignoca reminds us, “We do this work, because we’re hopeful.”


Correction: A previous version of this story stated that Maine DEP’s eelgrass mapping in 2022 was funded due to the passing of legislation that Friends of Casco Bay helped to pass. Maine DEP used temporary funds to do the mapping work for both 2018 and 2022. The bill that Friends of Casco Bay helped to pass will fund the future mapping of eelgrass across the Maine coast in five year cycles.


 

A Grassroots movement in South Portland is a model for the Bay

City of South Portland’s 100 Resilient Yards program is helping residents protect Casco Bay by growing sustainable yards and gardens.

If you drive around South Portland these days, you may have noticed yard signs that read “100 Resilient Yards, Revitalizing South Portland One Yard At A Time.”

The residents and businesses who are proudly posting these signs took part in a forward-looking program that provided hands-on assistance to build healthy soils that protect Casco Bay. City of South Portland staff, experts, and volunteers helped those in the program grow resilient landscapes, including vegetable gardens, rain gardens, native plantings and pollinator gardens, and organic lawns.

The City of South Portland restricted the use of pesticides in 2016 and limited the use of synthetic fertilizers in 2020. To help residents comply with these ordinances, Julie Rosenbach, South Portland’s Sustainability Director, conducted outreach and education throughout the pandemic. By 2021, recognizing that everyone was weary of workshops and Zoom meetings, Julie struck on a “grassroots” plan to bring best practices in yard care directly to neighborhoods.

The 100 Resilient Yards program was born.

When South Portland opened applications last spring, 430 people applied for the 100 slots. After site visits in May and June by organic landscaping professionals, 100 yards were selected. 89 people ultimately completed the pilot project.

Julie Rosenbach was delighted with the enthusiasm from the community. “People want to transition their yards to healthy, organic landscapes. They just need help getting started. With this program, we were able to help in spades.”

Friends of Casco Bay Executive Director Will Everitt is pleased that a lot of those yards belong to Friends of the Bay. After all, it was Friends of Casco Bay’s BayScaping campaign, launched 20 years ago, that began to persuade residents and community leaders to rethink their use of fertilizers and pesticides.

Each participant in South Portland’s 100 Resilient Yards program received help to create a Bay-friendly landscape. Julie assembled teams of landscaping and gardening advisors and recruited two dozen volunteers to help homeowners. The recipients got material resources such as raised beds, seeds or starter plants, mulch, compost, native plants — and even apple trees on 26 sites. It was truly a hands-on effort. Julie recalls how she and volunteers hauled 456 bags of mulch to nearly 50 sites around the City.

Emily Rothman, a Friends of Casco Bay member who lives in Ferry Village, requested a vegetable garden. She met with a technical advisor who helped her mark out a suitable site. “While we were out, they delivered a raised bed and filled it with soil!” Emily used a coupon provided by 100 Resilient Yards to pick out young plants at a farm in Cape Elizabeth. Her five-year-old helps harvest their chard, kale, and lettuce. Her two-year-old loves to play in the soil in a corner of the garden reserved for digging.

Emily says, “I learned about things I should and shouldn’t do so close to the ocean. I love it when people come by and ask questions about the garden. It helps us feel like we are doing our part and that we have an investment in the South Portland community.”

Elizabeth Ross Holstrom, another Friend of the Bay, opted to put in a native flower garden. “As a 30-year resident of South Portland, who recently downsized to a small house with no backyard garden, I was thrilled to be selected for the South Portland 100 Resilient Yards initiative.”

Her backyard was completely gravel before the beds were installed. “I worked with several team members, from the initial photos and soil testing, and plan for a native flower bed. Mine was one of the last gardens because of the prep work needed before planting could be done. Lia Farnham and Brett at Sophia Garden Design were both super helpful in keeping things on track. It turned out lovely. I am excited to see everything come up next spring. With the plants they selected, the entire bed will be colorful, multi-tiered, and self-contained. The trimmings each fall will serve as mulch for the winter.”

“The City of South Portland’s 100 Resilient Yards program has gone beyond education to help residents grow green lawns and gardens that help keep Casco Bay blue,” says Will. “We hope other towns around the Bay look at this as a model for how municipal officials, master gardeners, residents, and businesses can all work together to build soil health and protect our coastal waters from nitrogen pollution and toxic lawncare chemicals.”

Julie Rosenbach notes, “Indeed, I’ve already had interest from other communities who would like to replicate the program.”

The roots of South Portland’s effort are directly linked to the work Friends of Casco Bay has done over the years. Our stormwater and water quality sampling demonstrated that lawncare pesticides and fertilizers threaten the health of the Bay. Pesticides are toxic by design. The excess nitrogen from fertilizers could trigger nuisance algal blooms and deplete oxygen levels in the water, degrading the health of our coastal waters.

Over the years, through our BayScaping efforts, Friends of Casco Bay encouraged residents to grow lawns without using harmful chemicals. By sharing our data on pesticides and nitrogen sampling, educating city councilors about the risks of lawn chemicals, and serving on citizen task forces, we helped municipalities, including South Portland, adopt ordinances to limit lawn chemicals.

Partners on the 100 Resilient Yards project include Friends of Casco Bay, Maine Audubon, Cumberland County Soil & Water Conservation District, Osborne Organics, the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association (MOFGA), Wild Seed Project, University of Maine Cooperative Extension, and Garbage to Garden.

You can read more about 100 Resilient Yards by clicking here. You can find tips on chemical free lawns on Friends of Casco Bay’s website.

Many thanks to Mary Cerullo for writing this article for Friends of Casco Bay and to the City of South Portland for providing photos.

Our top 10 moments of 2020

As this very odd year comes to a close, let’s celebrate the large and small ways our community helped us protect the health of Casco Bay in 2020. Here are our top ten for the year:

1.) On December 2, the Maine Climate Council released its four-year Climate Action Plan, “Maine Won’t Wait.” We are heartened that the plan sets a roadmap for achieving carbon neutrality in Maine by 2045 and includes important mitigation measures to help coastal communities adapt to looming changes.

2.) Our volunteer Water Reporters were chosen as CommUNITY Champions. More than 240 volunteers are helping us keep watch over the health of the Bay.

3.) Gulf of Maine Poet Gary Lawless wrote the poem, “For Casco Bay, For Us,” in honor of our 30th anniversary. You can read the poem here and hear Gary read it at our Celebrating Water event in July, hosted by Executive Director Cathy Ramsdell.

4.) The South Portland City Council passed a groundbreaking fertilizer ordinance to promote soil health and to protect Casco Bay from nitrogen pollution.

5.) In October, Staff Scientist Mike Doan and Casco Baykeeper Ivy Frignoca shared what they saw on the Bay this field season during What Casco Bay is Telling Us: A Casco Bay Matters Event.  Ivy also hosted a Casco Bay Matters event earlier this year about the Maine Climate Council.

6.) Knack Factory made this short documentary about our work in honor of our 30th anniversary. If you liked that film, watch this behind the scenes montage about how it was made!

7.) We were delighted that Royal River Conservation Trust selected Executive Director Cathy Ramsdell and Friends of Casco Bay as recipients of their Conservation Champion Award.

8.) On Facebook, this huge lion’s mane jellyfish and this beautiful rainbow were our two most shared images from this year.

9.) We launched the public phase of our $1.5 million Climate Change and Casco Bay Fund. We are now less than $15,000 from crossing the finish line! And we will soon be launching two more continuous monitoring stations, thanks to the Fund!

10.) While we couldn’t celebrate our 30th anniversary in person, we were honored to have these community partners reflect on our success over the past three decades. We also took a trip down memory lane by scrolling through this timeline of our biggest victories and milestones.

We look forward to keeping you updated in the New Year. Thank you for being a Friend of Casco Bay.

More good news for the Bay

Nuisance algal blooms, such as the one seen this summer along the Fore River in South Portland, can be caused by excess nitrogen. These blooms can degrade water quality and create conditions that worsen coastal acidification.

Casco Bay received an early holiday gift: the City of South Portland passed an ordinance to restrict the use of fertilizers in order to encourage soil health and reduce nitrogen pollution into our coastal waters.

Friends of Casco Bay applauds South Portland for taking this first-in-Maine step to protect our marine resources. The ordinance, which updates the City’s groundbreaking pesticide regulations, was passed on November 17. Any fertilizers used must be organic and free from synthetic chemicals, and a soil test is request before any use is allowed. There are special provisions for high performance such as playing fields, and new construction. The ordinance focuses on best practices for promoting soil health.

South Portland began working on this ordinance because nitrogen, which is found in lawn care fertilizers, can be washed downstream into the Bay. Once in marine water, excess nitrogen can cause nuisance and harmful algal blooms, which degrade water quality and create conditions that worsen coastal acidification. Friends of Casco Bay’s water quality data, including sampling for Total Nitrogen and pesticides, have been pivotal for helping the city understand the need to limit the use of lawn care chemicals.

South Portland’s City Council appointed Executive Director Cathy Ramsdell to the Fertilizer Working Group, which was tasked with drafting the protections. For a year-and-a-half, Cathy served alongside local residents, city officials, and landscaping business owners, to develop the ordinance.

“This is great news for the Casco Bay! South Portland has shown tremendous leadership in its efforts to protect our marine resources,” says Cathy, reflecting on the Working Group’s effort. “Whenever we hit a roadblock in the drafting of the ordinance, work group members found a way forward by reminding ourselves of the need protect the health of the Bay and the importance of healthy soils, especially in light of climate change.”

While South Portland’s fertilizer ordinance is the first of its kind in the state, we hope it will not be the last. Local ordinances such as this can lead to changes at regional and statewide levels. The City’s pesticide ordinance, for example, has been used as a template by other municipalities in Maine, including Portland.

As a Friend of the Bay, you probably know that we launched our BayScaping program nearly 20 years ago to help residents and businesses grow green lawns that can help keep Casco Bay blue. We have worked with local residents, Master Gardeners, TopLine Landscapes professionals, and state agencies to encourage the use of ecological approaches to lawn care rather than depending on fertilizers and pesticides. As BayScaping has taken root in our communities, more towns around the Bay have considered ordinances to reduce lawn care chemicals.

Helping municipalities develop ordinances is just one of the many ways Friends of Casco Bay is working to limit nitrogen pollution in the Bay. We continue to work with federal, state, and local officials to reduce sewer overflows, address stormwater pollution, and enforce the Bay’s No Discharge Area status.

Top 10 stories of 2019

Let’s walk down Memory Lane together to recall our most popular stories of the year, based on your visits to our website and our social media interactions which reached a huge crowd with the help of experts from https://www.fanexplosion.de/produkt/tiktok-likes-kaufen/ who needs a very good appreciation in this post:

  • You answered the call when Casco Bay needed your voice
    We asked our supporters to let legislators know they are concerned about climate change and the health of Casco Bay. You urged the Maine Legislature’s Committee on Marine Resources to support a bill to create a Climate Change and Ocean Acidification Commission. Your voices were heard as our bill was incorporated into the Governor’s comprehensive climate change bill, An Act to Promote Clean Energy Jobs and to Establish the Maine Climate Council, which was passed with strong bipartisan support.
  • Maine takes a BIG step forward to address climate change
    Friends of Casco Bay fervently supported Governor Mills’ bill to establish the Maine Climate Council because it focuses on the root causes of climate change and recognizes that we must act now to remediate and adapt to inevitable change. Our Casco Baykeeper Ivy Frignoca has been appointed to the Coastal and Marine Working Group of the Climate Council.
  • Casco Bay Temperature Extremes
    Research Associate Mike Doan is often asked, “What were the highest and the lowest water temperatures this year?” Thanks to our Continuous Monitoring Station, Mike is able to share those data with confidence. He can tell you what water conditions in the Bay are on an hourly, daily, weekly, seasonal, or yearly basis in far more detail than ever before.
  • Our new pumpout boat is taking care of business
    On June 10, more than 100 friends cheered the christening and launch of Headmaster, the new pumpout boat specially built for Friends of Casco Bay. It transports raw sewage from the holding tanks of recreational boats to shoreside treatment. The name Headmaster is a play on the word for a marine toilet — “head” — and gives a nod to the educational and ambassadorial role of the pumpout service.
  • Have you seen this fin?
    It’s not a shark! Several boaters on the Bay encountered Mola mola, or ocean sunfish, this summer. Its bulbous body is not designed for speed, but it can plunge down hundreds of feet in search of its favorite food: jellyfish. It then floats on its side at the ocean surface to warm up after its chilly dive.
  • Casco Bay Matters
    In March and April, 380 people attended our first-ever Casco Bay Matters series, held at three venues around the Bay. They heard Casco Baykeeper Ivy Frignoca, Research Associate Mike Doan, and Executive Director Cathy Ramsdell speak on Climate Change, Ocean Acidification and You in Portland, South Portland, and Brunswick. By the last presentation, in Brunswick, it was standing room only. If you missed our Casco Bay Matters presentations, you can see the series of three videos on our YouTube channel.
  • BEE a BayScaper!
    We were proud to see a BayScaper sign on the lawn of Friends of Casco Bay’s volunteer Jane Benesch. Her South Portland yard is bedecked with flower beds, vegetable patches, and wood chip-lined paths — and just a little turf. Her yard attracts butterflies and bees — and neighbors who stop to admire her winged visitors.
  • Hosting so many service days with local companies this year is great for Casco Bay.
    Friends of Casco Bay led 22 coastal cleanups this summer. We had so many requests for community service projects that volunteers sometimes scoured the same location only four days apart. “Still,” said Community Engagement Coordinator Sarah Lyman, “we always found find plenty of debris to pick up!”
  • Keep pet waste out of the Bay!
    While we were examining a pollution incident in Cumberland, we came across several dog poop bags at the outfall of a storm drain. When folks toss poop bags into a storm drain, they are not doing the Bay any favors. Storm drains often lead directly to Casco Bay. So after bagging it, deposit pet waste in a trash can or flush the contents down the toilet and throw the plastic bag in the trash.
  • Water Reporters report in about #sealevelrise
    Volunteer Water Reporters were out taking photos of the high tides to document flooded streets, eroding coastlines, and tide levels encroaching where we don’t normally see them. Water Reporter provides a two-way conversation platform about protecting Casco Bay.

We look forward to keeping you updated in the New year. Make sure you stay on top of news about Casco Bay in 2020!

BEE a BayScaper!

Photographs by Kevin Morris

We are proud to see a BayScaper sign on the lawn of one of Friends of Casco Bay’s volunteers, Jane Benesch. Her South Portland yard is bedecked with flower beds, vegetable patches, and wood chip-lined paths—and just a little turf.

BayScaping is our educational program that encourages residents to restrict or eliminate yard chemicals. We focus especially on lawns, where rainstorms are more likely to wash fertilizers and pesticides off the yard and ultimately into the Bay. Jane doesn’t use any bug killers, weed killers, or fertilizers.

Jane says that it is not necessary to devote an hour or two per day to your yard during the growing season as she does. “You can start small. Convert a small plot of land and replace the grass with native plants or a groundcover. Then, watch for changes in your environment.” 

She replaced grass with insect-friendly milkweed, coneflower, and beardtongue. Now her yard attracts butterflies and bees—and neighbors who stop to admire her winged visitors. One little visitor said to his Dad, “That’s the bee happy garden!”

Jane’s advice:  

  1. Start small. Replace a bit of turf with a few perennials or ground cover.
  2. Leave grass clippings when you mow—they are natural fertilizer.
  3. Water in the morning so that the grass dries out before nightfall. This helps prevent fungal growth.
  4. Be a BayScaper! Show your neighbors that you don’t use pesticides and fertilizers. Pick up a free yard sign from Friends of Casco Bay, 43 Slocum Drive, South Portland, on the campus of Southern Maine Community College.  Email at keeper [at] cascobay [dot] org or call (799) 799-8574.

BayScaping Takes Root in the Community

 

We first met Jesse O’Brien of Down East Turf Farms when South Portland was considering passing an ordinance to limit the use of pesticides. Jesse is a practicing agronomist, who says, “If you want to get good turf, you need to start with good soil.”

Initially, Jesse expressed concern about how businesses would be able to meet (some) customers’ demands for perfect lawns or athletic fields if pesticides were banned.

Jesse attended innumerable public meetings. We were at those meetings as well, sharing our data on pesticides in stormwater and our BayScaping outreach, to encourage town officials to limit the use of lawn chemicals. Jesse served for nine months on Portland’s Pesticides and Fertilizers Task Force, alongside Friends of Casco Bay Executive Director Cathy Ramsdell. They found agreement in the philosophy, “Don’t treat your soil like dirt!”

In January 2018, Portland passed a ban on synthetic pesticides similar to one adopted by neighboring South Portland in 2016. The City of Portland Pesticide Use Ordinance went into effect for city property on July 1, 2018, and will extend to private property on January 1, 2019.

Although Jesse worries about the unintended consequences of the ordinances, “We are in agreement that there is an overuse and misuse of lawn chemicals. I want to focus on culture practices that reduce the need for inputs.”

He has put those words into action. Today, Jesse serves on South Portland’s seven-member Pest Management Advisory Committee. In September, he recruited a dozen yard care professionals to demonstrate best practices for organic lawn care at South Portland’s Bug Light Park—teaching about overseeding, watering, aeration, soil testing, and dealing with pests. We applaud Jesse and other landscapers for helping our communities grow green lawns that keep Casco Bay blue.

Autumn BayScaping tips you can take this fall that will pay off next spring:
Let your soil breathe. Aeration allows water and nutrients to reach the grass’s roots. Seeding and composting on top of freshly-aerated soil can be done until the end of the growing season. Take away leaves soon after they fall.
Lower lawn mower height. Gradually reduce your mowing height to 2 to 2.5 inches before the first frost to help prevent snow mold.

Casco Bay begins in your backyard

Friends of Casco Bay has been a strong advocate for municipal ordinances to reduce the use of lawn care chemicals.

As the grass turns green, we are celebrating a series of milestones in our effort to protect the Bay from pesticides and fertilizers:

  • The City of South Portland Pesticide Use Ordinance goes into effect for private properties on May 1, 2018. As a resource for its residents, the City of South Portland launched an informative website and education plan on how to grow a healthy yard–even if you do not live in South Portland, you may find this resource useful: http://www.southportland.org/departments/sustainability-office/grow-healthy-south-portland/

  • The City of Portland Pesticide Use Ordinance goes into effect on July 1, 2018 for city property and January 1, 2019 for private property.

  • With the help of Friends like you, we helped defeat bad bill in the state legislature that would have taken away the power of towns to pass ordinances to restrict the use of pesticides.

  • The Town of Falmouth is in the process of developing a pesticide and fertilizer ordinance.

We applaud the steps these communities are taking in order to protect public health and the health of the Bay! With the return of spring, be sure to use the BayScaping tips above to help grow green yards that keep Casco Bay blue. You can read more about BayScaping here.

Fireside Gardening: Winter BayScaping Tips

 

OK, there’s snow on the ground where you really want to be digging in the garden.

Instead, you can spend those carefree hours creating a beautiful BayScape in your mind!

You can incorporate ecological lawn care strategies into planning a new look for your yard, one that will require less maintenance and less expense than the outdated, overrated, “perfect” lawn of old.

 

Reflect on what you have now and design your ideal yard

Ask yourself, “What would I like my yard to do for me?” Are there areas of your lawn that demand more attention, maintenance, or chemicals than you would like? Are there views from inside your home that you could enhance by planting different vegetation?

Sketch a map of your yard and its features, preferably on graph paper. Include:

  • Buildings, driveway, walkways, and borders: neighboring yards, brook, street
  • Garden beds, water gardens, lawns, trees, and shrubs
  • Current uses, such as, sitting areas, playscapes, sports areas, gardening work area, or vistas for visual enjoyment

Highlight with yellow marker those areas of your lawn where you have turf challenges: areas that receive little sunlight, experience heavy foot traffic, or are poorly drained. Perhaps you should think of alternatives to grass such as patios of permeable paving stones or ground cover such as bunchberry, partridgeberry, or Canada mayflower. In wet areas, consider placing rain barrels, rain gardens, or bushes that can help prevent runoff.

Now create another map that has all the elements that you would like to have in your yard.

 

Ask the experts

Bring your ideal yard map to a nursery or garden supply store to learn more about native plants, low maintenance grass seed mixes, and ecological lawn care. The staff will love the company, and they’ll have more time to brainstorm with you. You will appreciate seeing some lush greenery.

 

Don’t pile snow on the lawn

This promotes snow mold disease in the grass.

 

DO put a BayScaper sign in your yard

Come in and pick up a free sign that announces to your neighbors that a green yard and a blue Bay will be the “in” colors for Spring! Request a BayScaper informational packet, a yard sign, or a presentation for a neighborhood association or garden club within the coastal Casco Bay area. Reach us at Friends of Casco Bay, 43 Slocum Drive, South Portland, keeper [at] cascobay [dot] org, or (207) 799-8574.

 

Download our BayScaping documents: