Enhancing Your Garden on DC’s Dime

by Shilpi Paul

Photo by Randy Pertiet

Patient homeowners in the District can fill their yard with hydrangeas, butterfly weed and inkberry bushes on (mostly) the city’s dime.

Launched in 2006 by the District Department of the Environment (DDOE), RiverSmart Homes subsidizes native species gardens, plants shade trees, and installs rain barrels on residential properties in the city. The paved-over District has a significant stormwater run-off problem, with rain flowing on impervious surfaces and picking up pollutants and toxins on its way to streams and rivers. The RiverSmart Homes program is one attempt to create more permeable surfaces and ultimately bring the Anacostia and the Potomac back to health.

After filling out an application on the DDOE site and waiting for a couple of months, interested residents will be visited by a city landscaper.

From the DDOE website, an explanation of what the visit will entail:

Inspectors conduct audits to assess what landscape enhancement(s) – shade trees, rain barrels, BayScaping, rain gardens or pervious pavers – will be appropriate for your property.

[The inspector] presents an informational packet on the RiverSmart Homes program to you, and asks for a brief tour of your yard. The inspector will then walk your property on their own, taking down measurements and notes.

After the visit, homeowners typically have to wait (DDOE estimates 6-8 months) for a local contractor to come install the flora, and the owners will have to assume 10 percent of the cost of the goods that they receive.

Here is a quick rundown of costs:

  • For $30, DDOE will install a rain barrel
  • For $50, they will plant a shade tree
  • For around $100, a landscaper will fill the yard with native flowers, grasses and other vegetation.

DDOE told UrbanTurf that since the program’s inception, the following have been accomplished:

  • 2,175 audits completed
  • 1,300 rain barrels installed
  • 1,000 trees planted
  • 150 rain gardens installed

This article originally published at http://dc.urbanturf.com/articles/blog/riversmart_homes_will_enhance_your_garden/4407


  1. Owen said at 4:07 pm on Friday October 21, 2011:

    Does Virginia offer any similar program?

  1. Kim said at 4:52 pm on Friday October 21, 2011:

    they came out here this morning!  it’s really a cool program.  they will cover up to $1200 of the costs and will work on 120 square feet of your yard. they said $1200 is enough to get the project of your choice completed, so you shouldn’t have to go over that if you don’t want to- but my guess is most folks probably will.  120 square feet isn’t very much, even for a small rowhouse, and while they’re there, mind as well do the whole thing, right?  not complaining mind you..  i think this is really cool for folks like me who have no idea what they’re doing and can use a little help. i’ll get a jump start on my lawn and do it eco-friendly, which is something i knew nothing about before.  win-win.

  1. Joy said at 5:36 pm on Monday October 24, 2011:

    This is a fabulous program, and a great perk for DC residents. My rain barrel is going in this weekend, and I am meeting with the landscaper to pick my flowers for my rain garden and bayscape this week as well. It didn’t take long to get through the process at all, since I just signed up in February.

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