10 Tips for a Bay-Friendly Lawn

Crofton Village Garden Club invites and encourages members and other Crofton area residents to consider these suggestions from the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, as we all care for our lawns throughout the summer:

  1. Test the soil – Find out what level of nutrients your lawn already has and what it needs before you consider using fertilizers or chemicals.  Many people apply fertilizer to the lawn that isn’t needed or used, and unfortunately, it often ends up running into the nearest Bay tributary and damages its health. Your local university cooperative extension service has soil test kits available at a very low cost.
  2. Fertilize only when and where necessary – Many people over apply fertilizer to their lawns, which contributes to nutrient loading that pollutes the Bay. After testing soil, use miniCrmal amounts of fertilizer only if needed and be sure to keep it off of pavements, sidewalks and driveways. If fertilizer is needed, it is usually not needed more than once per year; fall is the best time to fertilize. Never use fertilizer for any other purposes such as de-icing.
  3. Leave grass clippings on the lawn – As an alternative to chemical fertilizers, leave grass clippings on your lawn to provide the soil with many nutrients. It is also a great way to recycle the grass with very low maintenance.
  4. Use compost as fertilizer – Another fertilizer alternative for the garden is to create a healthy compost pile that reuses food waste, grass clippings, yard waste, and other natural ingredients to make a nutrient and mineral-rich compost that can be added to garden soil to increase productivity and health of the soil. You can also purchase compost in bags from garden centers.
  5. Mow the lawn at the proper height – Set your mower blade height to 3-inch and make sure the blades are kept sharp. Many people cut their grass too short, which never allows the grass to get ahead of the weeds or develop a strong root system to sustain through drought. A general rule of thumb is to never cut more than one third of the blade. If you allow your grass to stay higher, you will shade out many weeds and develop healthy roots system. Consider using a push mower in place of a motorized mower.
  6. Reduce use of pesticides and herbicides by at least 50% – Toxic chemicals such as pesticides and herbicides can poison your yard’s balanced ecosystem by killing the natural predators and native plants that help your yard maintain a healthy diversity of living organisms. Take the time to monitor the natural systems in your yard so that you will understand what kinds of problems might occur and can take appropriate action for that specific problem. Adopt integrated pest management strategies around your home so that you can reduce or eliminate your use of chemicals. Make sure that you or your lawn care professional only use chemicals when all other options have been exhausted and then use the minimal amount needed. Other alternatives to chemicals include using beneficial insects and attracting natural predators to your yard.
  7. Plant native trees and shrubs – A diversity of native plants will help your yard have less pests, disease, and weed problems as well as provide valuable food, shelter, and cover for all kinds of critters. Ask your local nursery to provide you with a list of native trees and shrubs they offer or get advice from the cooperative extension service.
  8. Provide wildlife habitat – Wildlife such as hummingbirds, hawks, chipmunks, fox and other birds and small mammals need a source of food, water, and shelter, particularly in areas that we’ve lost so much habitat as in urban and industrial areas. Plant trees and shrubs that provide a food source, especially in the winter, and provide a water source. Make sure there is adequate tree and shrub cover around food and water sources.
  9. Reduce lawn size – How much lawn area do you really need? Assess your lawn use and reduce the grassy area to the minimal amount needed. Plant buffers of native trees, shrubs, and gardens in the remaining yard that will soak up excess nutrients and prevent soil erosion.
  10. Water lawn properly – Grass lawns naturally go dormant during the drier summer season. When wet weather returns, so will your lush green lawn. If you do choose to water your lawn, water rarely and thoroughly until water can no longer be easily absorbed by the soil.

Visit the Chesapeake Bay Foundation website for more information about restoring and protecting the Chesapeake Bay and its tributary rivers.  Even though Crofton is a long way from the Bay, our landscape management practices do impact the streams and rivers that feed into the Bay.

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