One of 20 garden templates available in the tool. Each template can be designed as a Conservation Landscape or a Rain Garden.With the arrival of spring, the Alliance has launched a new online Yard Design Tool that helps property owners in the Chesapeake Bay watershed create personalized planting plans for their properties. The tool can be found at

The step-by-step, user-friendly tool walks homeowners through a series of questions about their yards and the type of garden they would like to plant. Users can choose to design either a Conservation Landscape or a Rain Garden. A Conservation Landscape is similar to traditional landscaping, but focuses on plants that are native to the Chesapeake Bay region. Rain Gardens use native plants too, but focus more on capturing water and infiltrating it into the ground. Rain Gardens are also more labor-intensive to design and plant. Does your yard have sandy, silt, or clay soils? This is one of several steps the tool walks you through while designing a Conservation Landscape.The design tool is part of the Alliance’s “Reduce Your Stormwater” project, which educates citizens about stormwater pollution and inspires them to take action. The Reduce Your Stormwater website contains a wealth of information on steps anyone can take in their daily lives or on their properties to reduce stormwater. Steps range from cleaning up after your pet, to installing a rain barrel, to using pervious pavers instead of asphalt or concrete. Planting a Conservation Landscape or Rain Garden helps by soaking up stormwater, filtering the air and water, requiring less fertilizers and pesticides, and attracting wildlife.

The tool is designed for use by anyone in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. However, homeowners in two sub-watersheds (the Yellow Breeches watershed in Pennsylvania and the Middle James River watershed in Virginia) may be eligible to receive up to 80% off planting materials for their gardens after using the tool. Visit the tool to find out if you live in either of these watersheds. Whether or not you do, we hope you enjoy designing a beautiful native garden for your yard! You’ll be making a difference not only for yourself, but for your local streams and the Chesapeake Bay. Flowering Dogwood (Cornus florida) and Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta) are two of the native plant species the tool may recommend for your yard.