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A Beautiful Yard with Benefits – It’s Right Around the Corner

By the Prince George's Department of Environmental Resources

We all want a beautiful, green lawn – but did you know that some of our common landscape management practices could cause pollution?  The improper use of lawn fertilizers has the potential to harm our waterways.  Just think, have you ever noticed a pond that was “green” with algae?  Chances are it received an excess of nutrients – perhaps from runoff from a lawn or garden.

But, your yard doesn’t have to contribute to water quality problems; it can have a positive effect on water quality by slowing down and filtering runoff.  It all depends on how you manage water, chemicals and the landscape around your home.  Follow these simple steps to help improve water quality:

1) Fertilize properly – use a soil test to determine if fertilizer is needed.  Many yards already have high nutrient levels from decades of fertilizer application. The soil test will tell you the amount and type of fertilizer (if any) to apply;

2) Water wisely – over-watering is not only wasteful but it can cause nutrients to runoff of your lawn and into our waterways;

3) Use low-maintenance landscaping – choose plants that require less water and fertilizer, and have fewer pest problems; and

4) Maintain a healthy lawn – keep your mower height at three inches, leave the grass clippings on the lawn, aerate your lawn yearly and keep your mower blades sharpened.

Remember, too much of a good thing can be bad for the environment; avoid overusing fertilizers.  To learn more about how to properly fertilize your lawn, visit the following web sites: 

• Landscapes that Help the Chesapeake Bay
http://extension.umd.edu/publications/PDFs/FS701.pdf

• Sustainable Lawn Care
http://plantdiagnostics.umd.edu/documents/mowfeedwaterright_sample2.pdf

• Organic Lawn Care
http://www.safelawns.org

• Maryland Cooperative Extension; Soil Test Information
http://www.hgic.umd.edu/content/soiltesting.cfm

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