By Susan Gale
Just about every day homeowners use their yards. Whether it’s for fun, mowing and cleaning, or septic systems, yards are a big part of our lives.
Unfortunately, yards can also contribute greatly to pollution through runoff that gets into our water including rivers, ponds, bays, oceans, and even the water we drink. But there are steps you can take with your own yard to protect our water.
How to use your yard sustainably
The most recent National Water Quality Inventory reports that runoff from urbanized areas is the leading source of water quality impairments to surveyed estuaries and the third-largest source of impairments to surveyed lakes. According to the report, 46% of river and stream miles, 18% of coastal and Great Lakes waters, and 32% of wetlands are in poor biological condition due to contaminants.
Here are tips from Save The Bay to help you use your lawn to improve our water:
Make your yard a sponge
Runoff from your yard combines with others and causes problems down the line. It’s best to direct runoff from your roof and driveway onto grass and planted areas so it can be absorbed and filtered. Keep your grass at least three inches high to reduce runoff and soil evaporation.
You can collect rainwater from your downspouts in rain barrels and use this to water your yard and garden. Use pervious, or porous, materials, such as pavers, for driveways and walkways to allow runoff to soak into the ground underneath. If you have a septic system, have it inspected annually and pumped every three-to-five years.
Fertilize your lawn with care
One of the best ways to fertilize your lawn is to leave grass clippings on it. This free, natural fertilizer can provide up to one-third of your lawn’s nutrient needs. It’s also suggested that you use up to a ½-inch of compost as a fertilizer to top-dress your lawn or garden.
If you must use chemical fertilizer, test your lawn first because if the pH is too low the grass won’t absorb the fertilizer no matter how much you use. Use fertilizer sparingly. Fall is the best time to fertilize, before October 15. If you must fertilize in spring, wait until your lawn greens up. Don’t fertilize in the summer when your lawn is naturally dormant.
Don’t apply fertilizer immediately before or after a rainfall, which washes it off your lawn and into storm drains. Choose slow-release fertilizer that releases burtirnets over time and are less likely to run off or burn your lawn. Look for “water insoluble nitrogen” on the bag.
Scoop the Poop
Pick up after your pet in your yard and other’s yards. Dog poop can take over one year to decay and the bacteria and parasites can linger in the soil and seep into groundwater. One gram of dog poop contains 23 million coliform bacteria and can also transmit e. coli, salmonella, parvo, and tapeworms. Always carry a plastic bag and paper towel with you to make sure you can scoop the poop and don’t leave the bag of poop on the ground.
Live litter free
Bring an empty bag for trash wherever you go and don’t let any trash, especially bottlecaps, straws, and cigarette butts end up on the ground. Use a portable ashtray if you smoke. Be careful that items such as fishing line do not end up in the environment as it is extremely hazardous to the health of wildlife. And finally, speak up when you see someone else littering!
Susan Gale is CEO of Gale Force Communications with publishes Kidoinfo.com.