With cooler temperatures, more moisture, and plenty of sunshine the soil is still warm enough to germinate seeds, but the cool air invites grass to grow a strong root system. This is why Fall is the best time for seeding and feeding your lawn. It will look great in the spring, and will be better able to resist weeds and summer stresses.
Lawns and gardens add beauty, provide habitat for many plants and animals, and can help protect the environment by filtering out pollutants and reducing soil runoff. How we care for our lawns and gardens directly impacts the quality of our water, both the water we drink and the water in our lakes and streams. Fertilizers can harm the environment if not applied properly. If nutrients are not absorbed by the ground, and used by the grass or plants, the nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium that are in fertilizers can wash off your lawn and into the stormdrains, which ends up in our lakes, rivers, streams or ground water.
Here are some tips to help you maintain your lawn and protect our water:
1.You can reduce the need for fertilizers through healthy lawn care practices.
Mow at 3” height; longer grass absorbs more sunlight and shades the soil, making it grow stronger and thicker and allowing less evaporation. Leave the clippings on the lawn to naturally fertilize it.
Minimize your watering. Over-watering can cause excess water and nutrients to move through the soil or run off into storm drains and lakes. For healthy root growth, apply enough water to moisten the soil 4-6 inches. You can measure this by placing a clean, empty tuna can in the yard and running your sprinkler until it is almost full.
Adjust your watering schedule throughout the year: a lawn needs less water in June than in the heat of August.
2.Get your soil tested to find out how much fertilizer your soil needs. You can get what you need for a soil test at any county Extension office. Here in Idaho, the standard test is $35 and should be done before a new lawn or garden is installed, for lawns once it has taken root, and then again once every few years.
– Use zero phosphorus products unless your soil test shows you need it; it is rare that N. Idaho soils need phosphorous. If you do need it, use no more than a 3:1 nitrogen to phosphorous ratio.
-Use slow release nitrogen so that it will stay in your soil longer.
-Be careful with potassium application; too much Potassium (K) can increase soil salts.
-Apply according to the directions on the product, and apply smaller amounts over the course of the year.
Over-fertilization is one of the primary causes of lawn problems. Diseases and insects show up more frequently in intensively managed lawns. The combination of large amounts of fertilizer, too much water, and watering at the wrong time of day sets up the perfect environment for many lawn diseases.
3.Keep Fertilizers out of our waterways.
Load your fertilizer spreader on the driveway or other hard surface so you can easily sweep up any spills. Any fertilizer that spills should be swept up and applied to your lawn or garden at the right time and in the right amount. If you are using liquid fertilizer on your grass, add fertilizer to the spray tank while it is on the lawn. This way, if you spill the fertilizer, it will be used by the plants and not run off into surface waters.
When finished, Store fertilizers in a locked dry cabinet.
It is nearly impossible to get pollutants out of water once they get there. The best choice for clean water is a properly maintained lawn. By making good choices you can have a healthy beautiful lawn and protect our beloved water ways.