Resource Management Good Water Usage Conservation Essays     Eco-Solutions

Lawn and Garden Conservation Practices

The Chesapeake Bay is the largest estuary in the United States. However since it is one of the most productive in the world, its continual decline due to nutrient over-enrichment is of concern. Over thirty years of research illustrated that the main concerns of the Bay were nutrient over-enrichment, dwindling Bay grasses, and toxic pollution. Land can be used and developed in ways that minimize impact on water quality improve water quality and allow aquatic life to flourish.

A tremendous area of concern is non-point source pollution from the 5 million lawns in the Bay since excessive lawn fertilizing is a significant source of nutrient pollution. So developing and implementing home nutrient reduction strategies is critical. Better managed lawns would reduce the amount of excess nutrients entering the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries, thus improving water quality.

Nationwide we spend annually $350 million on grass seed and manage over 30 million acres of lawn. Each year Americans apply 100 million tons of fertilizer and over 80 million pounds pesticides to their yards.

Another source of nitrogen pollution comes from air emissions mowing and collecting these clippings. Roughly, 40 hours per year the average homeowner spends behind his power mower using 10 gallons of gas emitting ten times more hydrocarbons then a typical car. Grass clippings consume a large part of landfill space during the growing season requiring further cost to transport and dispose of this valuable material.

Finally, 30 percent of the water on the East Coast goes to watering lawns. A 10,000 square feet of turf uses 10,000 gallons of water per summer.

How you better manage your yard and design it makes a difference since collectively our lawns impacts of on the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries. If you rely on a lawn service to maintain your lawns or landscaper please request them to become more mindful of these conservation practices or help them become better stewards. Enjoy your efforts to make you yard and the world a better place to live!

Suggestions for Better Lawn and Garden Maintenance Practices

Routine Maintenance Practices
How often do you fertilize your lawn?
You can lessen your storm water run-off with better fertilizer practices by the following:
Before you fertilize your lawn,
  1. Conduct a soil test to determine your exact fertilizer needs or if you need lime.
  2. Use nitrogen application guidelines for pounds used per square feet. You will see three numbers on the fertilizer package (e.g. 10-10-10) representing nitrogen-phosphorus-potassium by weight representing 10 percent of each. (refer to Cooperative Extension or local hardware store). Never apply more than one pound of soluble fertilizer per 1,000 square feet (multiply length by width to get square feet area).
  3. Check the weather forecast to avoid fertilizer being washed off by rain.
Finally, keeping your lawn healthy will reduce the need for pesticides and better prevent disease, insects and weeds. To get a darker green lawn you may alternatively use iron on a periodic basis instead of nitrogen.

Use a slow release fertilizer! It is best for the homeowner to use a slow release fertilize. Most of the commercial fertilizers that are purchased through lawn and garden stores are slow release fertilizers or WIN (water-insoluble nitrogen, sulfur coated urea, natural organic nitrogen, etc)

Do avoid spreading fertilizer on impervious surfaces such as driveways and sidewalks and streets! It is not recommended to apply fertilizer by hand. Check the application setting to insure proper application rate. Apply fertilizer uniformly by using either drop-type or rotary spreader and adequately overlap. People must avoided spreading fertilizer on impervious surfaces. By avoid spreading fertilizer on impervious surfaces such as driveways, streets or sidewalks excesses.

Do check for soil moisture before watering and/or fertilizing your lawn or garden! Check for soil moisture.
    watch for signs of wilting or browning ( do not fertilize when brown).
  1. use a stick to check soil for depth of moisture.
Think about your typical mowing practices.
  1. Set blade according to season types of grasses.
  2. Cut -2-3 inches for cool season grasses; 1-1.5 inches for warm-season grasses.
  3. Don't mow or fertilize when grass is wet or under stress.
  4. Typically leave clippings on the lawn will reduce nitrogen by as much as one-third (if the grass clippings clump, spread them over the lawn with a rake or compost.
  5. You can also collect clippings for use in the garden, etc.
When using a chemical insecticide,
  1. First see if you can use natural controls, such as beneficial insects or disease resistant vegetation.
  2. Next, attempt to remove infested areas by clipping by hand.
  3. Also, attempt to first use a less-toxic pesticide.
  4. Check weather conditions such as predicted rainfall.
Before deciding to use a chemical weed control,
  1. Assess whether you are willing to tolerate a limited number of weeds.
  2. Adjust mowing heights to all grasses overwhelm weeds.
  3. Attempt to pick weeds by clipping by hand.
  4. Attempt to first use a less-toxic herbicide.
  5. Check weather conditions such as predicted rainfall.

Landscape Design:

Design for Less - Take steps to replace underutilized lawn areas, or areas where grass has not grown well, with other vegetation or mulch or even rocks.

Take steps to replace underutilized areas (including mulching and planting alternative vegetation)

Think about the last time you added or replaced a significant area of landscaping. Did you design for nature or for less work for you?
  1. Draw a plan of your yard noting trouble spots, available light, etc.
  2. Select native species of vegetation over introduced species.
  3. Group plants according to watering, light, and care needs.
  4. Design for less water use and consider a rock garden.
Increase the amount of water kept on your property (allow it to soak into the soil) as opposed to letting it runoff into a gutter?
  1. Add a perforated rain pipe to a downspout.
  2. Replace impervious surfaces, such as concrete, with flagstone, gravel, brick, etc.
  3. Terrace slopes or planting beds to retain water.
Making an effort to increase the amount of water kept on your property can help.

Problem Areas in the Landscape:

Have areas of your lawn been prone to soil erosion (bare spots in the lawn or garden that experience soil loss during rainfall)?
  1. Plant erosion-resistant vegetation in the place of failing vegetation.
  2. Establish measures to prevent water from rooftops from eroding soil (i.e., adding a splash guard or perforated pipe attachment to you downspout).
  3. Terrace or regrade steep areas of the landscape.
  4. Use your compost to lessen run-off.
Have areas of your landscape experienced soil compaction (from play areas, construction activity, poor soil conditions, etc)?
  1. Add organic or composted matter to the lawn.
  2. Aerate the soil.

Copyright Rob Arner - All Rights Reserved.
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