Protecting & Restoring Long Island's Peconic Bays

Create a Peconic Friendly Yard

Help reduce pollution in our bays by installing rain barrels, reducing fertilizer use, and planting natives in your yard.

Native Plant garden planted through the Homeowner Rewards Program.
Native Plant garden planted through the Homeowner Rewards Program.

Planting a native plant or rain garden or installing rain barrels can mitigate stormwater runoff into our bays. Reducing your fertilizer use can also reduce the amount of nitrogen entering our bays and groundwater.

Stormwater filtered through the soil, sand and gravel within rain or native plant gardens is dramatically cleaner when it enters our groundwater, nearby bodies of water and storm drains. Rain barrels offer an opportunity to catch rainwater from roof runoff for reuse in gardens rather than letting the water flow over paved surfaces and into storm drains, nearby bodies of water and groundwater.

We need everyone to do their part to keep our bays healthy!

If you live within the Peconic Watershed, homeowners can earn up to $500 to offset the expense of installing green infrastructure on their properties including rain barrels, rain gardens, and native plant gardens. Learn more on the Homeowner Rewards Program Page.

If you do not live within the Peconic Watershed, we hope you will still install rain barrels and a native plant or rain garden on your property.

The Interactive Yard Tool can help you visualize your Peconic-friendly yard and launch your planning process!

We hosted a Native Plant Virtual Workshop with the Long Island Native Plant Initiative and Group for the East End. Check out the workshop recording to learn the ins and outs of native plant gardening.

Feel inspired after watching the workshop? Here is a great list of resources to help you get started: Long Island Native Plant Initiative (LINPI) Native Plant Resources

PEP partnered with the Long Island Regional Planning Council (LIRPC) to develop a “Reduce Nitrogen Pledge” for the Long Island Nitrogen Action Plan. Check out 10 ways you can reduce your personal nitrogen inputs and take the pledge to be recognized as a leader in helping to combat nitrogen pollution in our community!

Follow the Long Island Nitrogen Action Plan (LINAP) nitrogen fertilizer recommendations on your property. See more information below.

What is Stormwater and Why Does It Matter?

Stormwater is rain or melting snow that flows over roads, parking lots, driveways and lawns entering a storm drain system or discharged directly into nearby waterbodies. Stormwater carries pollutants like motor oil, sediment, pet waste, garbage, fertilizers and pesticides that can be harmful to aquatic life and create human health risks. Harmful algal blooms, restricted shellfish harvest, and marine life die-offs have been linked to an excess of nutrients and other harmful chemicals in the Peconic Bay. Rain gardens and rain barrels reduce the amount of nutrients and chemicals that enter bodies of water.

Reducing Fertilizer Use

The Long Island Nitrogen Action Plan (LINAP) has developed nitrogen fertilizer recommendations to balance the need to significantly reduce nitrogen loads to Long Island’s waterbodies and to have a green, lush lawn. After working with the LINAP Fertilizer Management Workgroup, recommendations were developed that will allow fertilizer users to do their part to help improve water quality issues plaguing their waters. These recommendations are all backed by scientific studies and experts in the field.

LINAP Recommendations

The recommendations were written to cover the full spectrum of fertilizer matters that apply to homeowners, landscapers, golf courses, and industry. Below are the recommendations for homeowners to follow:

  • If you like the way your lawn looks, don’t apply any fertilizer! This will help improve water quality and also save you time and money.
  • Only fertilize lawns between April 2 and October 31. Typically, the soil doesn’t’ fully thaw until the late March and starts freezing by the beginning of November. Fertilizer is likely to sit on top of the soil and then be flushed into waterways if applied while the soil is frozen.
  • Only apply lawn fertilizer to grass. Do not apply fertilizer on any impermeable surfaces (such as driveways, sidewalks, frozen ground, parking lots and storm drains), where there is standing water on turf, or within 20 feet of any surface water (except where there is a continuous 10-foot wide natural vegetative buffer).
  • Use a fertilizer containing at least 50 percent slow-release nitrogen. This type of fertilizer releases the nitrogen slowly over time so the grass can take up the nitrogen as needed. You can find the percent slow release on the back of the bag.
  • When applying fertilizer, a maximum of 0.6 pounds nitrogen per 1,000 square feet should be applied in a single application, with an annual maximum application of 1.8 pounds nitrogen per 1,000 square feet.
  • Within 24 hours of a fertilizer application, the fertilizer needs to be watered in with a ¼ inch of rain or light irrigation.
  • Keep grass clippings on your lawn. The clippings are a great source of natural, slow-release nitrogen. By leaving the grass clippings on the lawn, you can reduce the amount of fertilizer you apply by 25 to 50 percent, which will protect the water and save you money.
  • Irrigation systems should be set up to provide the lawn with the correct amount of water needed. Make sure that you are only applying up to 1.5 inches of water per week beyond rainfall and do not water between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.. Also, irrigation systems should not operate when it is raining and should be equipped with a rain sensor, water sensor, or an EPA Water Sense approved smart controller to easily avoid this from happening.
  • Fertilizer spreading equipment should be calibrated at least once annually to spread the right amount of fertilizer. (Resources are available online from organizations, such as Cornell Cooperative Extension, to properly calibrate your type of spreader equipment.)

Native Plants and Habitats

Bee enjoying the New York Aster flower.
Bee enjoying the New York Aster flower.

Native plants are naturally found in a particular geographic region and have been growing in that area for thousands of years. They are naturally adapted to the type of climate, soil, rainfall and availability of pollinators, like bees and butterflies and require low maintenance and do not require fertilizers. Additionally, native plants can survive native pest attacks better than most non-natives. Invasive, non-native plants are not naturally found in the region. Once they arrive, they threaten native plant species because they grow quickly and aggressively.

Search the Peconic-Friendly Plant Database

By using native plants you are promoting a healthy natural ecosystem and providing essential habitat to local butterflies, birds and bees.

Learn More!

Screenshot from the Peconic Estuary Program Interactive Yard Tool.
Peconic Estuary Program Interactive Yard Tool

Interactive Yard Tool – Use this tool to plan your Peconic-friendly yard!

Peconic-Friendly Plant Database – This plant database helps you browse Long Island Native plants to select for your yard based on type, light, soil, and moisture requirements.

Healthy Soils – Maintaining healthy soils will keep your yard productive and reduce pollution to local waterways.

PEP’s Demonstration Rain Garden – Learn about the PEP’s rain garden on Heidi Behr Way in Riverhead.

PEP’s Homeowner Rewards Program – Details and instructions on how to apply for the Peconic watershed rebate program for native plantings, rain gardens, and rain barrels.

Environmentally-friendly fertilizer use and pest management-Alternative techniques can save you money, effort, and eliminate potential risks to the environment, including impacts on groundwater.

USEPA National Stormwater Calculator– A free software application to estimate annual rainfall and frequency of runoff to help determine the appropriate size of your rain garden.

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