Carbon Gardening for Cleaner Water Ways

Pipevine Swallowtail butterfly; by Melissa MastersWhether you’re an active member of a community garden, a homeowner or a property manager, there are simple steps you can take to help protect urban wildlife and water quality in Windsor’s creeks and the Russian River. These practice also help remove greenhouse gases from the atmosphere to mitigate climate change.

1. Plant native species.

Native plants create vital habitat for butterflies, bees and other urban wildlife. Choose California varieties that are adapted to Windsor’s climate. Native perennials grow deep root systems that require less irrigation and help sequester carbon from the atmosphere more effectively than non-native annuals. Check out the Calscape Garden Planner from the California Native Plant Society for ideas to suit your garden.

2. Reduce or eliminate chemical use.

Pesticides, herbicides and artificial fertilizers can be carried by rainwater or irrigation water into our streams. It’s important to apply the principles of integrated pest management (IPM) to help protect our community and urban wildlife from water and soil contaminated by toxic chemicals. Visit Our Water, Our World for low-toxin or no-toxin practices to manage pests around your home and businesses. Our Water Our World

person planting a small bush in a mound of soil3. Plant trees.

Trees provide a natural canopy that slows down the flow of rainfall and runoff. They stabilize the soil to help prevent erosion and naturally purify rainwater as it falls, allowing it to run down the trunk and soak into the soil. The right trees in the right location can provide cooling shade, improve air quality, and increase property value. If your home or business is along a stream, trees can help improve stream flow and prevent streambank erosion.

4. Apply organic mulch.

A 2-3 inch layer of organic mulch in your garden will help reduce weeds, improve soil quality and infiltration, help prevent soil erosion, provide habitat for beneficial organisms, increase carbon sequestration, and significantly reduce evaporation. By applying mulch annually, your garden will require fewer pesticides and less irrigation water. To protect our water ways and obtain the most benefits for your garden, be sure to select a plant-based mulch and avoid artificial material such as rubber or plastic.  

5. Slow it. Spread it. Sink it.

Runoff from your roof, driveway or parking lot typically flows down the street and carries oil, chemicals and other pollutants out to the creeks and the Russian River, negatively impacting wildlife and increasing erosion downstream. There are several things you can do on your property to slow down the flow of runoff and help remove the pollutants. Check out the guide, Slow it. Spread it. Sink it. Store it!, from Sonoma Resource Conservation District: Slow-it-Spread-it-Sink-it-Store-it.pdf (

Landscapers and serious gardeners—you can dig deeper! 

Read the Russian River Friendly Landscape Guidelines from the Russian River Watershed Association

View the Carbon Gardening webinars from Daily Acts: 

Carbon Gardening 1: Healthy Soils and the Climate - Daily Acts

Carbon Gardening 2: Local Models for Replication - Daily Acts