The goal of our Lake-Friendly Living Guide series is to engage the public in action-oriented ways to protect Lake Hopatcong. In this installment, we present Smart Lawn Care, simple ways to work smarter (not harder) when it comes to lawn care and reducing pollution. Check in each week to learn more about what you can do for our lake!
When it comes to yards, more natural areas absorb more rainfall than lawns, so an excellent way to reduce the pollution running into our lake is to plant more trees and shrubs. For the areas covered in grass, however, your lawn care practices can have a big impact on water quality and the environment.
What is smart lawn care?
Smart Lawn Care is lawn care focused on long-term soil health by reducing chemical use and reducing the amount of pollution, particularly phosphorus, that reaches our waterways.
Fertilizers, leaves, grass clippings, animal waste, and eroded soil are all sources of phosphorus. When they are swept or washed into the street or the nearest storm drain, they end up in a nearby stream or in the lake. Phosphorus is a natural element and an essential nutrient for plant growth but is found only in small amounts in lakes and streams. Even small increases in phosphorus can have a devastating impact on the water quality of Lake Hopatcong by stimulating algae and excessive plant growth.
Here are some tips for smart lawn care with water quality in mind.
Use only lake-friendly fertilizer (fertilizer that has zero phosphorus). Or better yet, skip the fertilizer altogether! Apply fertilizer at the recommended rate and time. Never fertilize before a storm. Never apply to frozen ground.
Yard waste can contribute significant amounts of phosphorus to waterways. Keep soil, leaves, and lawn clippings out of the street, ditches, storm drains, streams, and the lake by bagging them, composting them, or leaving them right on the lawn as a natural fertilizer.
Set your lawn mower higher and keep your grass length between 2½ – 3 inches. It is healthier for your lawn and means mowing less often!
Pick up pet waste
Pet waste can contain harmful bacteria as well as phosphorus. It is best disposed of in the garbage or flushed in the toilet.
Build healthy soil using compost and other natural amendments. Healthy soils are more resistant to disease and insect problems. Composting adds nutrients to the soil, providing plants with essential food for growth. This cuts down on the amount of fertilizer needed for maintaining a lush, green yard.
Integrated Pest Management
Use pesticides sparingly not as a ‘routine maintenance plan’. Integrated Pest Management involves carefully selecting pesticides that will do the job and “be the safest for other organisms, and for air, soil and water quality.” Learn all about Integrated Pest Management HERE
Smart lawn care does not need to be complicated or extensive. Small changes can make a big difference in reducing the overall amount of pollution entering Lake Hopatcong and other waterways.
Lake-Friendly Living Guide posts
This online series of Lake-Friendly Living Guide posts were funded through a grant from the Watershed Institute.