Spring is here and the grass is greening up! Water-friendly lawncare practices start with awareness and good habits, and spring is a great time to take a closer look for a fresh start. What might you try out this year to add to your yard routine? Here are 12 easy strategies for improving your lawn's impact on the watershed:
1. Keep grass cut at a height of 3" or more. This reduces erosion and evaporation on the lawn by allowing grass to shade the soil and grow deeper roots. Deeper roots create more water holding capacity before the soil becomes saturated. Once saturated, lawns contribute to runoff that carries sediment and nutrients into streets, wetlands, and lakes.
2. Cut only 1/3 of the blade at a time. Even if the lawn was neglected for a time, cutting extra short to make up for lost time stresses the grass and its ability to hold water.
3. Watch for over-watering. Grass that's mushy underfoot or has a musty odor are signs of over watering.
4. Visit a commercial car wash which sends wash water to a treatment plant. Unlike a car wash, washing at home sends soap, oil, salt, and grime directly to a lake or wetland. To be experimental, try washing cars on the lawn or use rolled-up towels to divert runoff away from the street and into grass or gravel.
5. Water plants and grass early in the morning or in the evening to reduce evaporation.
6. Set sprinklers and irrigation systems to not spray onto pavement.
7. Direct downspouts to point to grassy areas instead of pavement. This can be an easy fix in areas with no basement, or could mean extending to longer downspouts to keep drainage 10' away from the foundation.
8. Divide the typical watering time in half, and water twice. Two short water sessions prevent water from running off the lawn, helping the lawn hold the water by giving it some time to soak in.
9. Look for a sprinkler that keeps water low to the ground. Sprinklers that also disperse water in a stream rather than a mist help to reduce evaporation and save water.
10. Be mindful of the season. As the season goes from early to late summer and into fall, rain patterns also change. Adjust irrigation systems weekly according to rainfall, and cut back on days of watering as temperatures decrease.
11. Wait for fall to fertilize. Fall is when the grass will absorb more of the fertilizer, reducing runoff. Grass needs it more at this time to prepare for winter. In many cases, mulching fall leaves into the lawn is a sufficient dose of fertilizer for the year.
12. Plant or install your own custom project. Using native plants/perennials or installing a rainbarrel or raingarden are great ways to beautify your yard while supporting the watershed. See VLAWMO's grant programs to get started!
Thank you for learning about water conservation at home - your strategies help us use water wisely now and into the future! To take your yard care to the next level, check out adopt-a-drain.org to join thousands of families and residents who are adopting their nearby stormdrain to benefit water quality.
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