Healthy Lawn, Healthy Lake

Monday, April 25, 2016 - 2:49pm

Spring is finally here! But before all the summer fun begins, you might be considering some yard work in preparation for many beautiful days outside. Did you know that your lawn care choices can affect the lake? One of the issues facing our lakes is the amount of chemicals used in maintaining an “ideal” lawn. The effort, cost and products needed to keep lawns green, luscious and free of weeds is not only stressful, but completely avoidable!   

At TWF we have brainstormed a few ways for you to have a knock-out lawn, while not knocking out summer fun in the water! So what can you do to make sure your lawn care does not harm our lakes and your health? Follow these basic guidelines to green up your lawn, and not our lakes.

1) TEST YOUR SOIL. Lawns do not automatically need fertilizing, so it is important to get a soil test to tell you if you need to fertilize or lime your soil. Excess nutrients that cannot be utilized by the soil will run off into our waters and will fertilize the weeds and algae.

2) MOW HIGH. Set your lawn mower at 3" and keep your blades sharp. Taller grass crowds out weeds, and encourages deep roots, resulting in a healthier lawn that needs less water.  You may consider leaving the clippings on your lawn too. Why bag up all of those natural nutrients that can help keep your lawn green without extra chemicals? Plus-mowing less and leaving the clippings leaves more time for fun!

3) CONSIDER YOUR SHORELINE and do not fertilize or mow to the edge of the lake. A taller buffer along the lakefront helps prevent pollutants like phosphorus, nitrogen, and herbicides from washing into the lake.You can also plant a buffer of native grasses and wildflowers along the shoreline that will add beauty, provide food for pollinators and prevent geese from loitering on your lawn. 

4) FERTILIZE AT THE RIGHT TIME and only when the lawn is actively growing and able to take up nutrients, like in the spring and fall. Be sure to remove all fertilizer from walkways and driveways before it can wash off into storm drains and into our lake and streams. In the case of fertilizer – LESS is better!

5) AVOID FERTILIZERS WITH PHOSPHORUS. Most mature lawns do not need fertilizers at all, particularly fertilizer with phosphorus in it.  If you choose to use fertilizer, use slow-release Nitrogen fertilizer that will be better for your lawn and the lake.  Remember one pound of phosphorus running off into the water can grow 10,000 pounds of weeds and algae. 

Simple decisions on the land affect the health of our waters. Before putting chemicals on your lawn, ask yourself if you or your kids would want to be swimming in them. Water that runs off the land carries everything from bacteria-laden pet waste, to those nasty herbicides and pesticides.  If it can kill the bad things, it can hurt the good pollinators, fish and plants too! 

Make a pledge at to use less fertilizer, pick up your pet’s poo, and use native plants to help keep our lake safe and clean. You will add your name to a long list of people in Indiana and across the country who are promising to help keep our waters healthy.