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When I fertilize my lawn, am I adding to the problems in the Lake?

If applied properly, no.

A homeowner needs to follow some basic rules:

  • Proper application time. Fertilizer should be applied just prior to watering your lawn.  The nutrients in fertilizer need to attach to soil particles to become available to the plant.  Damp soil, a heavy dew, or a light watering help facilitate this binding.  Application before a heavy rainfall means most of your fertilizer will wash away and be of no benefit to your lawn.  
  • Do not exceed manufacturer application recommendations. The theory that if a little is good, then more is great does not apply here.  Apply only what is needed, any amount in excess of this will waste your money and not provide any measurable benefit to your lawn.  Also, apply the appropriate fertilizer.  Lawn ‘starter’ fertilizers contain phosphorus since this is required to get a new lawn established.  In contrast, in an established lawn phosphorus is not required for improved vigor and plant health.
  • Stay off sidewalks and driveways. Any fertilizer that does not make contact with the soil will ultimately be lost to run off. Be careful when you are spreading your fertilizer; avoid leaving granules on driveways and sidewalks.  Some newer spreaders have guards to help prevent this misapplication.  

The idea is to keeping the appropriate fertilizer available in the soil for the turf grass to use. Otherwise you are wasting your money and potentially contributing to the problems we are seeing in Lake Erie.

Cheryl Rice, USDA – NRCS

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