Quarterly Tip

Have a green lawn & comply with the law

Water runoff from fertilized lawns is the primary source of phosphorus contaminants entering the Huron River. During lawn watering or rain storms, unnecessary phosphorus washes into the storm drains, then empties into local streams and the river.

Pittsfield's Lawn Fertilizer Ordinance has been in effect since 2007 and a State Law that prohibits applying fertilizer containing phosphorus took effect January 1, 2012.

On the outside of fertilizer packaging you will see three numbers. The middle number, phosphorus content, on fertilizer bags must read "0″ unless you have completed a soil test of your lawn or are starting a new lawn from seed or sod.

More river-friendly lawn care tips

Apply less fertilizer, preferably in the fall. If you fertilize your lawn once each year, fall is the best time. In the fall, fertilizer can help your lawn repair itself from summer damage and prepare for optimal growth in the spring. In all cases, only apply fertilizer during warmer months when your lawn is no longer subject to freezing temperatures, generally April 1-November 15.

Create a "No Fertilizer" zone

Avoid applying fertilizer within 25 feet of any wetland, stream, waterway or stormwater retention or detention basin.

Put your lawn to work

Maintain the lawn at a minimum height of three inches (Township Ordinance prohibits grass above eight (8) inches) and, when you mow, cut no more than one-third of the height of the grass. Taller grass has a deeper, healthier root system, is more tolerant of drought, and resists weed infestation. When you mow, mulch the clippings back into the lawn. This adds nitrogen and organic matter to the soil, and prevents compaction (thatch).

Make a clean sweep

Keep all fertilizer on the lawn and off hard pavement. Immediately sweep up any spills, especially on sidewalks and driveways, and clean those surfaces with a broom not a hose. Never apply fertilizer right before a rain storm. Fertilizer that washes away from your sidewalks, driveway, and lawn enters the storm drain system, which directly connects to local creeks and the Huron River.

Get your soil tested

Learn what your lawn and garden need for optimum health and growth. In early spring (late March through mid April) you may participate in the Soil Testing Program provided at a low cost through your County Michigan State University Extension agent. It is easy, and agents provide individual recommendations based on your soil test results.

In the Soil Testing program, you dig up soil samples from your yard and drop them off at participating retailers, where they are forwarded to the University Extension service and analyzed. You will receive an analysis of the soil to determine the optimum nutrients needed in a fertilizer for your particular soil. Call your County MSU Extension Agent for a list of participating retailers and current fees. Local retailers also offer soil tests for purchase.

Excess phosphorus, nutrients and pesticides that are washed off fertilized yards along with stormwater causes problems when they make their way into our creeks and rivers. Soil testing also helps watershed residents determine exactly what nutrients are needed, which saves time and money for the homeowner.