Spring is here and winter is behind us. Finally we are able to get outside and spend some time in the yard. Along with all the barbeques, games of catch, and playing with the dog comes yard maintenance. Remember that how we care for our yards affects the health of our rivers, lakes, and wetlands. Water conservation is not only about using less water, but also about keeping that water clean and free from pollution. Follow these yard care tips for cleaner water this spring:
- Sweep up extra salt! If there are places where there is dry salt on the sidewalk left over from winter, sweep it up and save it for next year. If left on the sidewalk, this salt will get washed away by rain into local waterbodies where pollution from salt is a growing problem.
- Pick up after pets! In addition to containing phosphorus, pet waste contains bacteria which can lead to beach-closings. Bacteria from animal waste is a growing water quality concern, and pet waste is a large contributor. Collect pet waste in plastic bags and place it in the trash. Pet waste does not just disappear. When left on the lawn, rain water will break it apart and carry it to the stormdrain.
- Clean up grass clippings! When mowing, keep grass clippings off of sidewalks, driveways, and streets. If clippings do stray, blow or sweep them back onto the lawn to be used as mulch. Please don’t hose them into the gutter and stormwater system! This wastes water and adds phosphorus to our local water bodies.
- Soak up the rain naturally! Natural landscapes soak up rain like a sponge. Converting excess lawn to native plants means longer roots, allowing rain water to soak in. Be sure to direct your downspouts onto your lawn and landscaping so the rain water can soak in instead of running down your driveway into the gutter. If you are adventurous, you can create a raingarden, a landscape bed with a shallow depression designed to capture and soak up rain water.
- Catch the rain! Consider installing a rain barrel. Rain barrels catch water during while it is raining, reducing stormwater, plus you can use that rain water later to water your garden during a dry spell. It is a win-win.
- Water wisely! If you have a sprinkler system, make sure it is not running when your lawn already has enough water! Many automatic sprinkler systems run whether they need to or not. This not only unnecessary, it also creates additional stormwater. Most lawns need just one inch of water each week, including rainfall, so water less if it has recently rained, or if rain in the forecast. Also, make sure your sprinkler is watering your lawn and landscaping and not your driveway or sidewalk.
- Keep soil in place! Bare soil from your yard can easily wash away with rain and fill in wetlands, rivers and lake bottoms. In addition to destroying aquatic wildlife habitat, dirt carries phosphorus, the pollutant that turns lakes green with algae. Cover bare areas of your lawn with grass seed or other perennial vegetation to keep the ground covered.
Everything we do on our lawns, driveways and yards eventually ends up in our rivers, lakes and wetlands. Everyday decisions do matter.