Using Fertilizer Safely
Before you call a landscaper or head to the local garden store, take a minute to think about how caring for your lawn may impact our environment.
Phosphorous is found in some lawn fertilizers. When used properly, it is a valuable nutrient for plants and grass. If applied incorrectly, however, phosphorous can be harmful to our waterways.
Phosphorous is often suggested when fertilizing new or distressed lawns. For most lawns, however, the recommendation is to use 12-0-12 fertilizer for lawn maintenance - unless you have a soil test suggesting your lawn needs phosphorous. Keep in mind that 12-12-12 fertilizer is for gardens NOT lawns.
Steps you can take to for a healthy lawn and to protect the environment:
- Feed your lawn at least once each year and don't mow your lawn too short (three inches). Dense, healthy lawns hold soil and nutrients in place better than thin, unhealthy grass. Less frequent mowing allows for deeper roots and a healthier, more drought-tolerant grass.
- Do NOT apply fertilizers (including those containing phosphorous) to drought-stressed, dormant or frozen grass/turf as it may run off.
- Choose "lawn fertilizers" not "general purpose fertilizer" and only apply phosphorus when needed like when planting new grass or when grass is in poor condition, yet still actively growing.
- During mowing, recycle lawn clippings; do not bag them.
- Keep lawn clippings, fertilizer and other lawn and garden debris (such as tree leaves and vegetable waste) out of drainage ditches, gutters, storm sewers, streets and any surface waters. An easy way to do this is to sweep or blow any fertilizer or clippings off of driveways and sidewalks and back onto the lawn.
If we all do a little and are attentive, we can help our environment while still maintaining a nice-looking lawn!
For more detailed information about caring for your lawn, visit the Purdue Turf Science website; you can also sign up to be alerted for timely information called "Turf-Tips." Read the detailed article, "Facts About Phosphorus and Lawns"
Take the Phosphorous-Free Pledge!
Do your part in protecting your water quality. Take the Phosphorous-Free Pledge today! Several local organizations, including Citizens, local watershed groups, and the Indiana Wildlife Federation, encourage property owners to use Phosphorous-Free fertilizers on their lawns. Most Indiana lawns have sufficient amounts of phosphorous and excess phosphorous runs off into our waterways. This runoff can feed algae blooms and have a negative impact water quality.