It may surprise you to know that your yard is the first line of defense to protect Galveston Bay and its fragile coastal environment.  The health of Armand Bayou, Clear Lake, Galveston Bay - and even the Gulf of Mexico - depends in part on how you maintain your landscape and yard.  And you don't event have to live on the water to make a difference.

Stormwater runoff is the reason.  Rain falls on yards, roads and parking lots, then washes into bayous and the bay, carrying pollutants such as fertilizers, pesticides, soil, grease and oil products.  Runoff from such sources is known as non-point source pollution.  Yes, it is a fancy name, but in plain English it simply means that it doesn't come out of a pipe.  However, non-point source pollution has been identified as the most significant environmental problem facing Galveston Bay.

Nitrogen rich fertilizer in runoff can cause algae to become so abundant that oxygen in the water is depleted and fish kills may result.  Toxins found in products as common as household pesticides damage reproduction in shellfish and other marine life  Each year enough oil runs off of Houston streets to equal almost half of the oil spilled in the Exxon Valdez accident!

It's not all doom and gloom.  Your yard is a great place to start cleaning up the runoff that ends up in Galveston Bay.  By following simple practices, homeowners can significantly reduce the amount of pollution that reaches Galveston Bay.  For example, don't over-fertilize your lawn or garden and fertilize only when necessary.  Choose a fertilizer that contains at least half or more of the nitrogen in a water-insoluble or controlled release form.  Grass clippings can be left on the lawn without the build up of thatch provided that the lawn is mowed at proper time intervals.  Annually, these grass clippings will provide nutrients equal to one fertilizer application.

Also, don't assume chemicals are the only answer to garden pests.  Hand picking or simply spraying infested plants with a water hose cab be very effective in controlling many insect pests.  These and other techniques are part of an Integrated Pest Management approach to pest control.

Implementing practices such as Integrated Pest Management will help to improve the water quality of Galveston Bay.  These are just a few of the ideas which will be discussed in upcoming articles as part of the Galveston Bay Yards and Neighborhoods Program.

You can make a difference in protecting Galveston Bay and it literally starts at your door step!

This web site is maintained by Master Gardener Laura Bellmore, under the direction of William M. Johnson, Ph.D., County Extension Agent-Horticulture & Master Gardener Program Coordinator.

All digital photographs are the property of  the Galveston County Master Gardener Association, Inc. (GCMGA) 2002-2006 GCMGA - All Rights Reserved.