Soil & Water Conservation District


Keep your yard green and our waterways clean

Green grass and landscaped yards can be seen on every street corner, but how green are these yards? Traditional lawn care products use harmful chemicals and fertilizers to enhance the look of your yard. When it rains, these chemicals are picked up by rainwater as it flows over your yard and into the nearest storm drain. Just like the fertilizer feeds the grass in your lawn, the fertilizer feeds algae and aquatic plants in streams, lakes, and rivers.

Composting: Composting is a great way to put the leaves and other woody debris found in your yard to good use. Compost is the natural process of decay that changes food waste and yard debris into a material that feeds the soil your plants grow in. Healthy soil, good foundation, will create beautiful flowers and vegetables, and turf grass. Information on how you can start composting can be found below.

Leave the leaves: Instead of racking and bagging your leaves, leave your leaves on the lawn. Use your lawn mower to create nutrient packed mulch for your lawn. As the mulched leaves break down over the winter, nitrogen and other useful compounds will fertilizer your grass, saving you time and money in the spring.

Soil health check: Some soils may have enough nutrients to produce vibrant flowers and juicy vegetables while other may lack these vital nutrients. It’s important to know which soil you have in your yard before applying fertilizer. For more information on how to give your soil a health check, contact our office at 812-926-2406 ext.3.

Shrink your lawn: Another way to promote a healthy yard is to reduce the amount of turf grass you have to take care of. One way is by planting a native plant garden. Native plants are perennial plants adapted to your area so once established, they require little care and maintenance. Since native plants thrive in your yard’s soil, the need for fertilizer is reduced. They also crowd out weedy species so no need for herbicide. Native plants also attract beneficial insects, which will help keep pesky insects away and limit the need for pesticides. Native plants require less water, provide food and shelter for wildlife, add interest and curb appeal. Information on Shrinking your Yard and Native Plants can be found below.

Cover Crops: Cover crops help to retain the soil, lessen erosion, and decrease the impact of rainfall on the garden by slowing the runoff of the rainwater. They also reduce soil compaction, suppress weed growth, and reduce the leaching out of nutrients from the soil. Cover crop top growth adds organic matter when it combines with the soil. The root system also provides organic matter and opens passageways that help improve air and water movement in the soil. Scientific studies have shown that cover crops actually drill down into the soil, some as much as six feet. When they decompose, the next crop planted will follow the rooting network laid out by the cover crop.

You can plant cover crops for summer cover in any unused garden space. Colorful cover crops such as bachelor’s buttons and crimson clover will not only improve soil, they'll beautify your garden beds as well. Cover crops planted to winter-over will protect and enrich the soil over winter months. More information on cover crops can be found below and if you're interested in using cover crops in your garden, please contact our office for information on our cover crop program. 

Rain Barrels: Rain barrels capture water from a roof and hold it for later use such as on lawns, gardens or indoor plants. Collecting roof runoff in rain barrels reduces the amount of water that flows from your property. It's a great way to conserve water and it's free water for use in your landscape. The SWCD sometimes has rain barrels for sale or rain barrel programs. Check out upcoming events or upcoming sales to see if the SWCD is offering rain barrels currently. Other sources include online retailers, local home and garden supply stores.

Note: Remember that as rainwater flows over a roof surface it can pick up pollutants such as bacteria from birds and other animals, and chemicals from roof materials - factors to consider when thinking about using rain barrel water on edible plantings.

Rain Gardens: Rain gardens are an attractive feature that can be planted in your yard to help reduce the amount of rainwater runoff leaving your yard. By capturing runoff, rain gardens allow water to soak into the ground. As the water drains through the rain garden, pollutants and other contaminates filter out. This helps reduce the amount of pollutants entering the storm system and ultimately our streams, lakes, and other water ways.

Rain gardens should be installed in a low spot or a spot that holds water in your yard. These are areas where water will naturally flow and puddle. A variety of native plants and rocks can be used to make your rain garden. Information on how to install a rain garden can be found below, but if you'd like to discuss your plans for your rain garden installation, feel free to give us a call.

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Soil & Water Conservation District
10729 Randall Ave
Aurora, IN 47001
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  • Phone: (812) 926-2406 x 3
  • Fax: (855) 391-1912
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  • Office Hours:
    Monday - Friday 8:00am - 4:00pm
    Due to the nature of the work performed by the SWCD staff, occasionally there are times when no one will be in the office.
    Please call before making a special trip to the office.

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