Nitrogen pollution impacts the health of our bays and drinking water source. The #2 source of nitrogen pollution is fertilizers (#1 is septic systems.) In an effort to protect the water that sustains us, we offer some healthy lawn care tips.
1) Timing is important. Fertilizer should not be applied before April and after mid-October. Nor should it be applied during the hottest summer months when grass is dormant and cannot efficiently absorb fertilizer.
2) A little goes a long way. If fertilizer is applied, its use should be minimized. Especially on a well-established lawn, no more than one-third to one-half the amount recommended on the fertilizer bag should be used. A low nitrogen fertilizer developed especially for Long Island’s fragile ecosystem should also be considered.
3) Precision is key. Equipment used to spread fertilizer should be calibrated for a single application rate of a maximum of 0.6 pounds of total nitrogen per 1,000 square feet at least once annually or each time fertilizer products are changed. Calibration directions are available on the Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County website.
4) Grass clippings should be left on the lawn. Mulching mowers finely chop grass into small pieces which get deposited into the lawn and decompose quickly. It is like adding a little bit of fertilizer after every mow, and allows the property owner to lessen, or eliminate, chemical fertilizer application. As a general rule, no more than a third of the grass blade should be removed during a single mowing. And it’s also good practice to keep the height at least three inches high, which encourages deeper, healthier roots.
5) Consider a smaller lawn area. One of the most effective ways Long Islanders can do their part to protect local water resources is to replace their lawn or a portion of it with less water-intensive landscaping like meadows or “xeriscaping.” Xeriscaping makes use of native plant species, requires little to no fertilizer and can help to absorb and filter rainwater.
For more information, please visit the following resources: NYS DEC Lawn Fertilizer webpage