RiverSmart Homes Will (Eventually) Enhance My Garden

by Shilpi Paul

Photo by Randy Pertiet

After writing about RiverSmart Homes last year, DC’s garden subsidy program that can cover about 90 percent of landscaping costs for your yard, I decided to put myself on the list. I recently completed the “stormwater audit,” which involves a visit from an environmental specialist from the District Department of the Environment.

Here’s what I learned:


It takes about three months to get to the top of the list for an audit. I signed up shortly after we bought our home in early November and got a response from the city in early February. Getting on the next list for the actual planting, either in the spring or fall, adds a few more months to the process.


The environmental specialist outlined a number of options:

  • BayScaping. BayScaping — the planting of vegetation that is native to the Chesapeake Bay region — works best on steeply sloping yards. Ours wasn’t eligible.
  • Rain Garden. These small gardens aimed at collecting, storing, and absorbing stormwater runoff can be installed in flatter, smaller or oddly shaped yards – many are eligible. Ours was.
  • Rain barrel. The barrels collect water from your downspout and feed your rain garden. Our house worked, but we will have to move the spout to make space for the barrel and to position it closer to the garden.
  • Pervious pavers. The city installs these to replace existing impervious paving that keeps rainwater from seeping into the ground. We don’t have paving to replace.
  • Shade trees. District homeowners can have shade trees planted on their property at a rate of $50 per tree. There is not a limit to the number of trees that can be planted. We were eligible.


The city works with local landscaping companies to install the gardens, and Casey Trees takes care of the tree planting. You can receive up to $1,200 in landscaping funding (the costs are outlined here). Since this program has become popular, the timeline has gotten a little crazy: the soonest Casey Trees could plant a tree for us was Spring 2013! I am in the process of deciding which other measures I’d like to pursue and will provide an update when those decisions have been made.

See other articles related to: riversmart homes, green real estate dc, green real estate

This article originally published at http://dc.urbanturf.com/articles/blog/riversmart_homes_will_enhance_my_garden/5230


  1. Jenny said at 11:54 am on Friday March 2, 2012:

    You can always take advantage of the tree rebate!  Purchase and plant the tree yourself and then apply for a rebate through Casey Trees: http://caseytrees.org/planting/rebate/

  1. notlawd said at 2:34 pm on Friday March 2, 2012:

    This is pretty consistent with my experience as well. I am still waiting for my report though, had the evaluation last week. A year seems a bit long for the tree planting. They must only be doing one every 3 months.

  1. scott said at 4:01 pm on Friday March 2, 2012:

    We waited for about eight months to get our garden planted (since they plant them in the fall). We got a rain barrel and a large BayScaped garden on a flat lawn, filled with about two dozen native plants and it looks great. Our dogwood will be planted in two months to complete the process. I guess I should be glad we got in while we did—sounds like the wait is a lot longer now.

    This has to be one of the best resources available to DC residents. Just tremendous.

  1. Citi said at 9:38 pm on Friday March 2, 2012:

    Are only single family homes eligible?  I live in a newer small condo building (9 units).  We have a very limited reserve - not enough funds for landscaping.  The builder did not finish and left empty flowerbeds and perimeter spaces.

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