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Fertilizer: Use the right stuff, less of it or none at all!

Tuesday, April 2, 2024

TWF Posted by: TWF

Did you know that one of the major culprits behind water pollution in our area is phosphorus runoff from lawn fertilizers? Yep, those products we use to keep our lawns looking lush can have some unintended consequences for our aquatic environments. That’s why it’s crucial to understand why choosing phosphorus-free fertilizers is just so important. And sometimes we can choose to use less fertilizer or none at all!

So, why ditch the phosphorus? Well, while phosphorus is great for helping plants grow, too much of it can cause serious problems for our lakes and streams. Picture this: excess phosphorus in the water acts like a turbo boost for algae growth. And while algae might not sound like a big deal, when it explodes in population, it can turn into harmful algal blooms. These blooms not only make the water look gross, but they can also release toxins that are bad news for aquatic life, animals, our pets and even us humans. Plus, as the algae die off, they suck up oxygen during decomposition, creating oxygen-depleted zones where fish and other critters struggle to survive. It’s a domino effect that messes with the whole ecosystem.

But don’t worry, there’s good news! There are plenty of phosphorus-free fertilizers out there that work just as well for keeping your lawn healthy. Lyn Crighton, executive director for The Watershed Foundation, recommends looking for fertilizers labeled as “phosphorus-free.” or look for the “zero in the middle” of the N-P-K ratio on the bag.

And hey, if you’ve got a lawn care service, don’t hesitate to ask them to go phosphorus-free too. It’s all about making informed choices that benefit not just our lawns, but our local ecosystems too. Here are some handy tips from The Watershed Foundation to keep your lawn looking great while being eco-friendly:

Soil Testing: Get in the habit of doing regular soil tests to figure out exactly what your lawn needs. That way, you can apply fertilizers more strategically and minimize any excess runoff. If your lawn doesn’t need any at all, you’ll save time and money.

Proper Application: Always follow the instructions on your fertilizer bag and try to avoid overdoing it, especially right before it rains. We don’t want all those nutrients washing away into our waterways!

Of course, there is another option: don’t fertilize at all. You can actually have a healthy lawn by opting not to fertilize. By leaving the lawn clippings on the lawn to decompose, valuable nutrients are returned to the soil. Mowing at a taller height (3-3.5 inches) can also reduce pest problems, such as weeds, insects, and diseases.

By taking these steps and choosing phosphorus-free fertilizers, we can all do our part to protect the lakes and streams that make our region so special. Let’s be good stewards of our environment and keep our waterways clean for future generations to enjoy.