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Lawn Care

Lawn maintenance can make a house and yard a beautiful home. But what we do to maintain our lawns could be detrimental to the environment. Remember, anything mixed with rain becomes storm water pollution.

Algae growing in surface water
 Over-fertilizing your yard can lead
 to algae blooms in our creeks


When fertilizers and pesticides are over-used or sprayed on impervious surfaces like driveways and sidewalks, they are no longer doing the job they were intended for. Since the plants aren't using them, they end up running off into the storm drain system. Pesticides and fertilizers can destroy aquatic habitats with algae blooms, vegetation degradation and fish kills.

It's not just rain that causes storm water pollution. Water from garden hoses and sprinkler systems can just as easily pick up pollution from surfaces and take it to our creeks and lakes. Lawns need about one inch of water a week (about the size of a tuna can) and that includes rainfall. Stick to that rule of thumb to avoid over-watering and increasing runoff. 

  • Reduce the amount of fertilizers you need to apply by soil testing your yard first
  • Apply fertilizers and pesticides exactly where you want them. Avoid over spraying them onto sidewalks, driveways, or streets
  • Adjust sprinklers so that you're not watering the street or sidewalk. It will conserve water and reduce runoff.
  • Put autumn leaves in the compost or in clear plastic bags for curbside pickup on garbage day.

Yard care fact sheet

Good Housekeeping Tips

  • Sweep up yard debris instead of washing it away.
  • Increased runoff leads to increased storm water pollution in our creeks and lakes. Avoid over-watering your yard and keep the water off the streets and sidewalks
  • Consider alternatives to pesticides and fertilizers. There are many natural ways to get rid of pesky pests.
  • Blow leaves and grass clippings back into your yard instead of leaving them in the street to wash down the storm drain. Insist that your landscaper do the same.
  • Soil testing kits are free. The results tell you exactly how much or how little fertilizer will keep your lawn or garden happy and green.
  • Turn off your sprinkler system when it's raining. Let nature water your lawn for you.
  • Keep pesticides and fertilizers in areas that are covered to avoid mixing them with rain.
Are there pesticides available that will not harm the environment?
There are certainly alternatives to pesticides that can reduce environmental damage to almost nothing. But most commercial pesticides have some sort of detrimental effect to water quality and should be used cautiously/sparingly.

Why should I test the soil in my yard or garden before I apply fertilizers?
A soil test report gives you precise nutrient requirements for the soil type and plant type in your situation. Think of the money you'll save by only adding the fertilizer you really need!

Dead fish in surface water
Excess pesticides and fertilizers
wash into our streams, killing fish

Soil testing kits are free. Contact NC Cooperative Extension at 704-336-2561 or Mecklenburg Soil & Water Conservation District at 704-336-2455 to receive a kit.