Spring is in the air and most of us are going to want to get out and revitalize our winter weary yards back to perfect health. Probably one of the first things you plan on doing is going down to the nearest garden center and buying fertilizer for your lawn. This year, you might want to rethink your strategy and try more natural ways of keeping the lawn green. While it is true that your lawn needs Nitrogen and Phosphorus to look good, those same elements that give that plush green lawn are also affecting our waterways. Fertilizer run off plays a major part in the algae blooms that often plaque us during the summer months.
The problem is so severe that St. Lucie County is banning the use of fertilizers after June 1 of this year. The ban will remain in effect until September 30. This does not mean you should hurry down to your local store and spread heavy coatings of fertilizer on your lawn to beat the ban but rather look at other ways to do it naturally.
One of the least expensive and effective ways to keep your lawn nourished is by the natural decomposing of grass blades. If you use a mulching attachment on your lawnmower and allow some of the grass blades to remain on your lawn after cutting, the grass will start to decompose and the heavy Florida rains will work the nutrients into the soil naturally. Of course the process is slower than a quick boost from a fertilizer product but the positive impact on the environment will make you smile.
It should be noted that even if your county does not have an ordinance on fertilizer use, you should still refrain from using Nitrogen and Phosphorus fertilizers as much as possible. If you have potted plants and use a small amount of liquid food it is not as devastating as when you use a spreader and fertilize an entire lawn.
The rainy season will be starting soon and all this heavy rain will be helping to carry all the chemicals you have used on your lawn to our rivers and streams. This run off in turn is a big contributor to the poor water quality that has been the topic of discussion for the past several years. Another huge contributor is when the rains cause Lake Okeechobee to rise to dangerous levels. When this happens, the floodgates have to be opened and fresh water from the lake merges with the salt water of the Indian River causing major disruptions in the water quality. Along with the fresh water comes fertilizer run off that has accumulated in the lake from the farms and sugar fields that surround the lake.
Helping to control the amount of fertilizer run off that gets into our waterways is a good start to getting our waterways back to a healthy state. If we all start using more natural ways to fertilize our plants and spray for insects, the turnaround will be a success.
Joe Zelenak has more than 30 years experience in gardening and landscape. Send e-mails to firstname.lastname@example.org or visit his website, www.hometowngarden.com.