It’s that time of year, time to get out into the yard and get your hands dirty. After all, the season is short and we want to make the most of it! As you head out with trowel and hose in hand, remember that how we care for our yards affects the health of our rivers, lakes, and wetlands. Water conservation is not only about using less water, but also about keeping that water clean and free from pollution. Follow these yard care tips for cleaner water:
Keep soil in place! Bare soil from your yard can easily wash away with rain and fill in wetlands, rivers and lake bottoms. In addition to destroying aquatic wildlife habitat, dirt carries phosphorus, the pollutant that turns lakes green with algae. Cover bare areas of your lawn with grass seed or other perennial vegetation to keep the ground covered.
Rake up and sweep up! Grass clippings, tree seeds and leaves are also sources of phosphorus – keep them out of the gutter in the street. After mowing, sweep sidewalks, driveways and streets clean of grass clippings.
Pick up after pets! In addition to containing phosphorus, pet waste contains bacteria which can lead to beach closings. Collect pet waste in plastic bags and place in the trash. Never use storm drains for disposing of pet waste!
Soak up the rain naturally! Natural landscapes soak up rain like a sponge. Converting excess lawn to native plants means longer roots, allowing rain water to soak in. Be sure to direct your downspouts onto your lawn and landscaping so the rain water can soak in instead of running down your driveway into the gutter. If you are adventurous, you can create a raingarden, a landscape bed with a shallow depression designed to capture and soak up rain water.
Catch the rain! Consider installing a rain barrel. Rain barrels catch water during while it is raining, reducing stormwater, plus you can use that rain water later to water your garden during a dry spell. It is a win-win.
Water wisely! If you have a sprinkler system, make sure it is not running when it is raining! It seems simple, but many automatic sprinkler systems run whether it’s raining or not. This not only unnecessary, it also creates additional stormwater. Make sure your sprinkler is watering your lawn and landscaping and not your driveway or sidewalk.
Fertilize with care! Get a soil test before you apply lawn fertilizer this year to see if any fertilizer is needed. Excess fertilizer is picked up by stormwater and carried directly into our lakes and streams.
Everything we do on our lawns, driveways and yards eventually ends up in our rivers, lakes and wetlands. Everyday decisions do matter.
For more information, call the Scott Soil and Water Conservation District in Jordan, (952) 492-5425 or visit www.scottswcd.org.