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Miss Floribunda: Friends befriend greenscaping

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Posted on: June 6, 2024

Dear Miss Floribunda,

I live in the Hyattsville Hills neighborhood, in a house on the side of a grassy hill. My next-door neighbors complain that whenever it rains heavily, a lot of water floods their patio and even gets into their basement. We’ve been neighbors for over two decades and have been on pretty good terms, but the rains of the last few years have gotten torrential, and this has put a damper on our relations. When I suggested they get a sump pump, they told me with real annoyance that they already had two! I realize I have to find a viable solution at my end if I want to keep their friendship, but I have no idea how to divert the water from my property away from theirs.

At Loggerheads on Livingston Street

Dear At Loggerheads,

You do not have to divert water away from your neighbors. Even if you could, it would cause problems elsewhere – perhaps ending up via storm sewers in the Chesapeake Bay, toxic lawn chemicals and all. There are a number of stormwater management practices that would significantly reduce the runoff from your property, and they have the added advantage of beautifying your property and creating a habitat for wildlife.

One way is through ‘greenscaping.’ You can replace your fussy turf grass with sedges, native groundcovers and flowering perennials, as well as small native trees and shrubs that when placed near the base of your hill are especially effective for absorbing rain before it reaches your neighbor’s property. This would also benefit birds, butterflies, bees and other pollinators.

If you’d like to get more ambitious, an excellent way to capture runoff is by contouring a rain garden. These gardens are designed to capture water and hold it while it slowly absorbs into the surrounding soil. There are some excellent examples beside the parking lot in Driskell Park. Another effective practice would be to terrace your slope to slow the water down and give it time to soak into the soil.

You might also consider collecting rain during storms, before rainwater can course down your hillside. Rain barrels have become a popular way of collecting rain runoff from rooftop gutters to use later during periods of drought. The more expensive barrels feature connections to downspouts, as well as spigots on the sides to make it easy to divert the water to hoses or watering cans, but if you’re handy, you can make your own from industrial discards. The City of Hyattsville has an excellent guide to installing rain barrels on its website.

I realize that these suggestions can seem daunting if you have never ventured beyond conventional gardening practices, so I asked my native plant and landscaping advisor, Dave Greenfingers, to suggest resources that could provide you with support and counsel. He informed me that you can sign up for an Audubon Wildlife Habitat visit. An advisor will visit you and help you plan the transformation of your property into a wildlife habitat which would include rainwater collection and management. If you’re interested in such a visit, you can make an inquiry to au********************@gm***.com.

If you worry about the expense of implementing changes, Dave advises you to take advantage of proffered rebates for rain barrels; rain gardens; planting of specific native trees; pavement removal and replacement with permeable paving; cisterns; and green roofs. The Chesapeake Bay Trust, in partnership with Prince George’s County Department of the Environment, will provide rebates of up to $6,000 to homeowners who engage in practices that reduce runoff and lead to improving water quality. This is done through the Prince George’s County Rain Check Rebate Program (cbtrust.org/grants/prince-georges-county-rain-check-rebate). See p. 11 for more details on the rebate program.

Fortuitously and fortunately, an upcoming garden tour on Saturday, June 15, can show you just how your neighbors elsewhere in Hyattsville have created pollinator-friendly habitats incorporating stormwater management practices. This tour is being co-sponsored by the Hyattsville Horticultural Society, the Prince George’s Audubon Society, the City of Hyattsville, the Chesapeake Bay Trust, and the county’s Rain Check Rebate Program.

You’ll get many useful ideas to implement on your own property, as well as a peek into some of Hyattsville’s most charming hidden havens. The tour will have two components: a guided tour and a self-guided tour. The guided portion will be led by rain check program staff and will focus mostly on their projects. The self-guided tour will cover all of the properties. If you’re interested in taking the guided tour, you’re encouraged to register at bit.ly/hyattsvilletour.

Otherwise, just come to Driskell Park at 10 a.m. for orientation. I hope to see you there.


Miss Floribunda writes about gardening for the Life & Times. You may email her at Fl*********@gm***.com.

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