What's the issue?
Storm drains found in our streets and our yards empty into our lakes and streams. So, when we fertilize our lawn we could also be fertilizing our lakes and streams. While fertilizer is good for our lawn, unfortunately it's bad for our water. Fertilizer in our lakes and streams causes algae to grow. This can cause large algal blooms to form, using up oxygen that fish need to survive. With a majority of the 1.5 million homes in Southeast Michigan fertilizing their lawn, all of us need to be aware of the impacts of our lawn care practices.
What can you do?
Here are some simple steps you can take to help keep our water clean. Give them a try. A few simple changes can make a big difference! Plus, you'll save time and money in the process. The Southeastern Oakland County Water Authority (SOCWA) Healthy Lawns and Gardens program has a wealth of information for homeowners.
Select an organic or slow release fertilizer. Check the label. A slow release fertilizer has at least half of the nitrogen in water insoluble form. These fertilizers gradually release nitrogen to plant roots. This provides a steady supply of plant nutrients over an extended period of time. Because you need less fertilizer, you will save time and money.
Select a fertilizer with low or no phosphorus. Most lawns already contain enough phosphorus. Excess phosphorus is the primary culprit of algal blooms in our lakes. The SOCWA Healthy Lawns and Gardens Technical Committee has developed a list of recommended fertilizers.
Make your lawn cheaper and easier to maintain by mowing high (three inches is recommended). Tall grass promotes root growth and shades out weeds. Let short clips fall back on the lawn. Clippings recycle nitrogen back into the soil, so fertilizer can be reduced by 25 percent or more.
Fertilizer left on sidewalks and driveways will easily wash into storm drains. So, save money and our lakes and streams by sweeping fertilizer back onto the lawn.
A soil test will tell you what, if any, fertilizer is needed in your yard. Contact the Oakland County Michigan State University Extension office at 248-858-0902 or click here for more information.
Make fertilizer-free zones
Keep fertilizer applications at least 20 feet away from the edge of lakes, streams or storm drains. There are many ways waterfront property owners can protect our waterways. Learn more about the Healthy Habits for Clean Water.
Select a lawn service that uses organic fertilizers or offers a slow release nitrogen, low phosphorus option. SOCWA has developed a guide for selecting a lawn service.