The Problem Fertilizers Cause

Fertilizing lawns can create and maintain healthy grass. However, over-fertilizing can harm our environment because excess will run off the surface and into the storm sewers that run directly into our creeks and lakes. In the creeks and lakes, the fertilizers still promote growth, but now the growth means algae and other aquatic plants can grow to abnormal proportions, clogging the creeks and lakes and beginning a chain-event of environmental hazards including foul smelling water, unsightly vegetation, and dead fish.

Fertilizing Without Polluting

Keep three things in mind:

  • Apply fertilizers properly
  • Buy the right type of fertilizer
  • Fertilize only when necessary

Fertilizing Your Lawn

Look for signs that your lawn is nutrient deficient. These signs include yellowing grass or grass that shows little or no growth. The best time to look for these signs is during normally high growth periods (spring and fall).

Types of Fertilizer to Buy

Look for words like "slow-release" and "organic" on the label. Examples of organic fertilizers include:

  • Blood Meal
  • Compost
  • Manure
  • Shrevepost
  • Worm Castings
Both types slow-release and organic deliver nutrients slowly which ensures healthier lawn growth and reduces the likelihood that your fertilizer will end up in run off from your property and therefore in your lakes and streams.

Fertilizer Application

To effectively fertilize your lawn, you need to make sure the nutrients get to the grass and don't simply run off the ground during the next storm event. Never fertilize before a rain event because the rainfall will cause the fertilizer to run off! Follow these four guidelines to ensure effective fertilizing:
  1. Prepare your lawn: loose soil helps your lawn soak up water and nutrients. To loosen the soil, aerate it by punching many deep holes into it, then de-thatch the lawn by raking up dead roots and stems on the soil's surface.
  2. Follow directions: check the product label of the fertilizer you chose. Never apply more than the recommended amount.
  3. Spread correctly: remember we are trying to keep the fertilizer out of the storm sewers. Keep in mind that any fertilizer that is applied onto impervious surfaces such as sidewalks and driveways will simply run off during the next storm event.
  4. Water in: water in the fertilizer with a hose or sprinkler to allow nutrients to get into the soil but be careful not to over water, causing run off.

Other Ways Fertilizer Gets Into the Water Supply

Soil washing off your property can lead to water pollution, because many substances, including nutrients, attach to soil particles. This is good if plants are available to use these nutrients through their root systems, but not if the soil simply erodes or washes off the surface and into the storm sewer where water will dissolve them and aquatic plants will use them to grow excessively. Protect your soil by making sure bare spots are covered by vegetation or mulch.