Believe it or not, practices in your yard can have a major impact on area waterways. Leaves, grass clippings, and fertilizers are sources of phosphorus that can cause algal blooms. Chemicals used to control weeds and pests on land will become toxic to plants and animals in the waterways. Healthy lawns can mean cleaner surface waters in our community.
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Did you know that your lawn plays and important role in protecting our air, soil, and water resources? A healthy stand of turfgrass is groundcover that is able to stabilize soils against water and wind erosion. In fact,studies have shown that runoff increases as turfgrass quality and growth declines.
Tips for a healthy lawn:
- Mow grass to a height of 3+ inches as this creates a healthier plant with a more robust root system.
- Never remove more than 1/3 of the grass blade at a time.
- Use a sharp mower blade to prevent tearing of grass leaves.
- Mulch the grass clippings so that they decompose and return their nutrients right back to the lawn.
- Test soils before fertilizing. Applying unnecessary chemicals is a waste of time and money.
- Do not apply fertilizers that contain phosphorus unless a soil test indicates it is necessary.
- Apply fertilizer in the fall since this is the most beneficial time for the turfgrass.
- Use a spreader to evenly distribute the product and prevent over application.
- Sweep up any fertilizer that has landed on the sidewalk, driveway, or street.
- Watering Practices
- Avoid overwatering your lawn. Aim for 1" of water a week, including rainfall.
- Water close to the ground and use sprinklers that create large drops rather than a fine mist to prevent water lost to wind and evaporation.
- Water early in the day (4-8am) since less will be lost to evaporation.
- Water slowly, deeply and less frequently as this encourages deeper root growth.
- Water only the lawn. Water landing on sidewalks and driveways will runoff into nearby lakes and streams.
Every fall the majority of homeowners will spend a day or two dealing with leaves on their property. Minnesota state law bans leaves from entering landfills and burning facilities. Olmsted County residents are able to take their leaves (and grass clippings) to the Olmsted County Yard-Waste Compost Site at no charge. Another option is to use the leaves as mulch or compost them on the property since they can prevent weed growth, hold moisture in the soils, maintain soil temperatures, and return nutrients to the soil when they decompose.
Tips for dealing with fall leaves:
- Keep leaves off hard surfaces, including the curb and street, so that they do not wash to waterways. Once in the water, these leaves will decompose into nutrients that can fuel algae blooms.
- Use leaves as mulch around trees and shrubs or in vegetable gardens.
- Compost the leaves onsite.
- Use a mower to mulch the leaves back into the lawn.
- Minnesota Pollution Control Agency: Grow a Healthy, No-Waste Lawn and Garden
- Olmsted County: Yard-Waste Compost Site
- University of Minnesota: Soil Testing Lab
- University of Minnesota - Extension: Lawns and Turfgrass Management
- University of Minnesota - Extension: Composting and Mulching