More Lawn Choices
After you have eliminated phosphorus fertilizer from your yard, consider other water-friendly lawn care practices like those outlined below. This publication from the US Environmental Protection Agency is also a great guide to managing your yard for water quality.
- Care for your lawn naturally
- Leave grass clippings on the lawn; contrary to popular belief, it will not contribute to thatch build up. Instead, the clippings will decompose and release nutrients and organic matter back into your soil. You will also save time by not having to bag the clippings.
- Install plants that are suited to your site instead of trying to grow grass in unfavorable conditions. Growing grass in shady, wet, or sloped areas requires a lot of extra work (and often extra chemicals, too). Instead, plant native species that appreciate those conditions. It will be better for the environment and less work for you.
- Overseeding can improve your lawn. Instead of using more and more fertilizer to thicken thin grass areas, aerate in the fall and then overseed them. Raking in a thin layer of compost can also improve lawn quality.
- Compost your yard waste
- Instead of bagging yard waste, compost it. Collect tree and shrub trimmings, leaves, old flower stalks, and other yard waste in a compost pile or bin. You can also add kitchen scraps like vegetable peels, egg shells, and coffee grounds (but never meat or dairy products). You will reduce the amount of waste sent to the landfill and create a free soil amendment you can use in your yard or garden. Here is a great Compost 101 for more information.
- Practice water conservation
- Watering your lawn and landscaping too much can be just as harmful as watering it too little; lawns typically only need an inch of water per week. Direct sprinklers away from waste areas (like pavement, ponds, and saturated sites) and use soaker or drip irrigation in landscaping and gardens. Watering early in the day is also beneficial. If you water mid-day, much of the water is lost to evaporation, and watering in the evening can encourage mold and disease development.
- Adopt holistic pest management
- Many times when we see insects on our plants or weeds in our yards, our first instinct is to get out the pesticides. However, these pests might be indicators of an underlying problem; be sure you need the pesticide before you use it to avoid polluting our water and killing beneficial organisms. Keep your soil healthy with compost and mulch, pull weeds before they set seed, and remove diseased plants promptly so the disease does not spread. Identify insects and plants before you kill them – they might actually benefit your lawn by eating insect pests or controlling erosion. Give traps, weed pullers, and landscaping fabric a chance before turning to chemicals. If you find you must use a pesticide to solve your problem, always read and follow product directions.
- Consider clover
- Clover and compost mixes can be incorporated into sod or seed mixes, and can help reduce runoff and nutrient loss--meaning less nutrients end up in our waterways. Learn more about microclover and reducing runoff.
Another excellent alternative to a traditional yard is a vegetable garden. Growing your own fruits and vegetables--without the use of pesticides--is a great way to conserve, to eat healthy, and to reduce the use of lawn fertilizer.
If you can't grow your own, shopping locally is almost always a more eco-friendly choice--and it helps put more money back into the local economy. Check out www.ShopLocalSaveLand.com to find farms and farm markets in your area.