Chesapeake Bay Foundation
“Ten Steps to a Bay-Friendly Lawn”
To help protect and restore the Chesapeake Bay watershed,
here are some simple steps you can take:
1. Test the soil
Find out what level of nutrients your lawn already has and what it needs before you consider using fertilizers or chemicals. Many people apply fertilizer to the lawn that isn’t needed or used, and unfortunately, it often ends up running into the nearest Bay tributary and damages its health. Your local university cooperative extension service has soil test kits available at a very low cost. (see Resource List below)
2. Fertilize only when and where necessary
Many people over apply fertilizer to their lawns, which contributes to nutrient loading that pollutes the Bay. After testing soil,use minimal amounts of fertilizer only if needed and be sure to keep it off of pavements, sidewalks and driveways. If fertilizer is needed, it is usually not needed more than once per year; fall is the best time to fertilize. Never use fertilizer for any other purposes such as de-icing.
3. Leave grass clippings on the lawn
As an alternative to chemical fertilizers, leave grass clippings on your lawn to provide the soil with many nutrients. It is also a great way to recycle the grass with very low maintenance.
4. Use compost as fertilizer
Another fertilizer alternative for the garden is to create a healthy compost pile that reuses food waste, grass clippings, yard waste, and other natural ingredients to make a nutrient and mineral-rich compost that can be added to garden soil to increase productivity and health of the soil. You can also purchase compost in bags from garden centers.
5. Mow the lawn at the proper height
Set your mower blade height to 3-inch and make sure the blades are kept sharp. Many people cut their grass too short, which never allows the grass to get ahead of the weeds or develop a strong root system to sustain through drought. A general rule of thumb is to never cut more than one third of the blade. If you allow your grass to stay higher, you will shade out many weeds and develop healthy roots system. Consider using a push mower in place of a motorized mower.
6. Reduce use of pesticides and herbicides by at least 50%
Toxic chemicals such as pesticides and herbicides can poison your yard’s balanced ecosystem by killing the natural predators and native plants that help your yard maintain a healthy diversity of living organisms. Take the time to monitor the natural systems in your yard so that you will understand what kinds of problems might occur and can take appropriate action for that specific problem. Adopt integrated pest management strategies around your home so that you can reduce or eliminate your use of chemicals. Make sure that you or your lawn care professional only use chemicals when all other options have been exhausted and then use the minimal amount needed. Other alternatives to chemicals include using beneficial insects and attracting natural predators to your yard.
7. Plant native trees and shrubs
A diversity of native plants will help your yard have less pests, disease, and weed problems as well as provide valuable food, shelter, and cover for all kinds of critters. Ask your local nursery to provide you with a list of native trees and shrubs they offer or get advice from the cooperative extension service.
8. Provide wildlife habitat
Wildlife such as hummingbirds, hawks, chipmunks, fox and other birds and small mammals need a source of food, water, and shelter, particularly in areas that we’ve lost so much habitat as in urban and industrial areas. Plant trees and shrubs that provide a food source, especially in the winter, and provide a water source. Make sure there is adequate tree and shrub cover around food and water sources.
9. Reduce lawn size
How much lawn area do you really need? Assess your lawn use and reduce the grassy area to the minimal amount needed. Plant buffers of native trees, shrubs, and gardens in the remaining yard that will soak up excess nutrients and prevent soil erosion.
10. Water lawn properly
Grass lawns naturally go dormant during the drier summer season. When wet weather returns, so will your lush green lawn. If you do choose to water your lawn, water rarely and thoroughly until water can no longer be easily absorbed by the soil.
In Maryland, to order free publications on lawn care, lawn renovation, “Lawns and the Chesapeake Bay,” contact the University of
Maryland Cooperative Extension (Home and Garden Information Center), 800-342-2507, www.hgic.umd.edu
To order soil test kits:
University of Maryland Cooperative Extension (Home and Garden Information Center) has a list of regional laboratories who will do
soil tests at cost, 800-342-2507, www.agnr.umd.edu/SoilTesting
Pennsylvania Cooperative Extension Services, contact your local county extension office or search the directory
Virginia Cooperative Extension Services, contact your local county extension office or search the directory www.ext.vt.edu/offices
Meadows and Warm Season Grasses:
Chesapeake Native Nursery (301- 270-4534, 326 Boyd Avenue # 2, Takoma Park, MD 20912), native plants propagated from
indigenous seed sources, mail order, nursery location in Riva, MD. Owner Sara Tangren. www.chesapeakenatives.com.
Ernst Conservation Seeds (800) 873-3321. 9006 Mercer Pike, Meadville, PA 16335. Seeds of native and non-native grasses,
wildflowers, wetland plants and shrubs; live stakes for streambank restoration, www.ernstseed.com
Prairie Nursery Inc., P. O. Box 306, Westfield, WI 53964, 800-476-9453 (800-GRO WILD), source for mid-western native and nonnative
meadow seeds and plants, information on starting a meadow, plant selection, http://www.prairienursery.com
Native Plant Information:
Delaware Native Plant Society, www.delawarenativeplants.org , 302-674-5187
National Arboretum, 3501 New York Avenue, NE, Washington, DC 20002, (202) 245-2726,
Maryland Native Plant Society, P.O. Box 4877 Silver Spring MD 20914, www.mdflora.org
Maryland Department of National Resources, State Forest Tree Nursery, www.dnr.state.md.us/forests/nursery 1-800-TREESMD
Pennsylvania Native Plant Society, P.O. Box 281 State College PA 16804-0281 www.pawildflower.org
Virginia Native Plant Society, 540-837-1600, www.vnps.org/
USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, http://plant-materials.nrcs.usda.gov
US Fish and Wildlife Service, Maryland native plant lists to download: www.nps.gov/plants/pubs/nativesMD/
USFWS, “Native Plants for Wildlife Habitat and Conservation Landscaping,” Chesapeake Bay Watershed. This color guide provides
planting requirements and uses for 400 native plants. Write to: USFWS, 177 Admiral Cochrane Drive, Annapolis, MD 21401 or call
Mary Cordovilla, 410-573-4591.
Chesapeake Bay Foundation
6 Herndon Avenue
Annapolis, MD 21403
CBF Bay-Friendly Landscaping
To print a PDF of Ten Steps to a Bay-Friendly Lawn from the Chesapeake Bay Foundation click below
Information came from the Chesapeake Bay Foudation website http://www.cbf.org/
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