Saturday, April 22, 2017

Home Owners Encouraged to Practice Sustainable Lawn Care

To protect water quality this spring, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) is urging New Yorkers to practice sustainable lawn care by going phosphorus free, using native plants and grasses, and reducing fertilizer use. DEC has launched the “Look for the Zero” campaign to encourage New Yorkers to purchase phosphorus-free lawn fertilizer, as more than 100 water bodies in New York State cannot be used or enjoyed as a result of too much phosphorus.

New York’s nutrient runoff law prohibits the use of phosphorus lawn fertilizers unless a new lawn is being established or a soil test shows that the lawn does not have enough phosphorus.

Generally, only newly established lawns or those with poor soil need phosphorus. Phosphorus applied to lawns that don’t need it will not be used and can cause water pollution. Regardless of the location, excess phosphorus from lawns can wash off and pollute lakes and streams, harming fish and ruining boating and swimming.

Consumers should review bag labels for phosphorus content when shopping for fertilizer. Fertilizer labels have three bold numbers. The number in the middle is the percentage of phosphorus in the product, such as: 22-0-15. The state’s law requires retailers to display phosphorus fertilizer separately from phosphorus-free fertilizer and post signs notifying customers of the terms of the law.

Homeowners have several options to practice more sustainable lawn care. DEC encourages homeowners to choose native plants and grasses, which are adapted to the local climate and soil conditions. These plant species provide nectar, pollen, and seeds that serve as food for native butterflies, insects, birds, and other animals.

Organic lawn care can easily be implemented on any lawn. Safe and effective alternatives exist for most chemical pesticides and fertilizers. Organic lawn care treatments promote deep root systems, natural photosynthesis, and longer grass growth. Visit the DEC sustainable landscaping page to learn more.

Additional recommendations for sustainable lawn care include spreading a quarter inch of compost on the lawn to improve moisture retention and soil texture and add beneficial microorganisms and nutrients. Another suggestion is to allow grass to grow to three inches and then cut no more than one inch off the top. This is the “one-third” rule and helps to develop a deeper root system, which is a natural defense against weeds, disease and drought.

DEC also encourages homeowners to leave lawn clippings on the yard in order to improve the health of the lawn. Grass clippings are 80 percent water and contain 2- 4 percent nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, and other nutrients. Leaving clippings also saves homeowners time while mowing and reduces the amount of garbage thrown out. Grass clippings can account for as much as 10 percent of garbage.

DEC has posted a new video to its YouTube channel that shows how phosphorus and other chemicals can run off lawns and enter our waterways. For more information, visit DEC’s Lawn Fertilizer webpage.

The nutrient runoff law does not affect agricultural fertilizer or fertilizer for gardens.

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10 Responses

  1. Wally Elton Wally says:

    Good Earth Day message. There is so much individuals can do that Trump can’t undo. We have no lawn at all – just groundcovers, shrubs and trees. No mowing with its pollutants and noise. No fertilizing except with compost. I recommend it!

    • Boreas says:

      “There is so much individuals can do that Trump can’t undo.”

      True, but every golf course he builds = a LOT of lawns…

  2. Joe Hansen says:

    All you need to do for a lawn is mow it when you are in the mood,not too short. This approach will look good enough and allow time for more satisfying activities.

  3. Charlie S says:

    “To protect water quality this spring, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) is urging New Yorkers to practice sustainable lawn care by going phosphorus free..”

    What about outright banning this stuff? And what about fungicides and herbicides and whatever cides there are? Wouldn’t it make more sense to just be rid of these things that are poisoning the only home we know? What are they waiting for?

    • Boreas says:


      The chemical industry has one of the biggest lobby budgets in Washington. You can do the math…

      • AG says:

        and many people don’t realize the roots (no pun intended) of a lot of it were chemical weapons experiments decades ago

        • Boreas says:

          If Rachel Carson hadn’t been around we’d still be eating and breathing DDT. They haven’t banned much since….

          • Charlie S says:

            Yes and there’d be less bald eagles, if any. Rachel Carson! An enlightened spirit whose time was short here on earth. This generation would hardly recognize the name were it brought up in a conversation. Thoreau too. Often I put out his name and often the response is “Who?” Oprah Winfrey! They all know who she is. Our education system is indicative of the corporate state of mind….minus soul.

  4. Randy S says:

    Sustainable practices will be much better in the long run. Great read!

  5. Carlos Diago says:

    Great insight guys! Thanks a lot

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