30% of water used on the East Coast goes to watering lawns.


Maintaining your lawn not only enhances curb appeal but, if done properly, can be beneficial to the environment. A healthy lawn will require less water and fertilizer while also controlling runoff which in turn improves water quality. Your lawn can also provide a cooling effect as well as oxygen and even trap dust and dirt.  Responsible lawn care is vital to our water quality.

STEP 1:  Have Your Soil Checked

             The first step to a healthy lawn is to have your soil checked. This can be done by purchasing a do it yourself soil test or by contacting your local extension agency. Many agencies will provide you with the tools needed to collect your soil and will test it for you at little or no cost. The agency may even provide you with information on how to correct your soil if it is out of the acceptable ranges for optimal growth. For heavy soils be sure to aerate the soil, you can rent the machine and do it yourself or have a professional do it. Also be sure to add organic material as this is a great way to help break down clay or build up sandy soils.

 STEP 2:  Select the Best Grass for Your Area

            The second step is to select the best grass for your area. There are many different types out there so asking a local garden center which is the best for you area is a wise decision. Sow the seed by following the directions on the bag.

 STEP 3:  Water

            The next step is watering your lawn. Be sure to water your lawn deeply and as infrequently as possible. This will allow the roots to run deep and make your lawn more drought tolerant. When watering, place a measuring cup in the sprinkler area to measure the amount of water that is used over a certain period of time. The ideal amount of rain is 1” per week and the watering cycle should be broken up during the week so as not to water all at once which can lead to run off.

STEP 4:  Mow

           Proper mowing of your lawn is also a critical step in this process. Do not cut your lawn too short, ideally you want to maintain the height between 2.5"-3.5" so the grass does not dry out. Keeping blades sharp is also very important, dull blades tear the grass and leave the tips brown which can lead to diseases. If you have a smaller area
to cut, a reel lawn mower may be the way to go. They have been improved over the years, with no motor they cause no pollution and are great for the environment. The blades stay sharper longer than conventional mowers and they require little or no maintenance. It is also a great way to stay in shape!

STEP 5:  Put Down the Rake

Allowing grass clippings to decompose on the lawn rather than raking or catching and bagging them will decrease the need for supplemental fertilizer applications. Rake the clippings only if they form an excessively heavy blanket and risk smothering the grass beneath them. In addition be sure to control thatch build-up in your lawn. This is often an over-looked step in lawn maintenance. Thatch is the layer of organic material, such as grass clippings, at the soil level of the lawn. This build up of organic material helps to keep the lawn cool and retain moisture which cuts down on the amount of supplemental watering needed. If there is too much thatch it can choke a lawn by not allowing proper air flow and can become a breeding ground for fungus. Aerating the lawn once a year helps to break down the thatch layer naturally. You can rent a de-thatching machine or hire a professional but this should be done only as a last resort as it can pull out a lot of grass which can lead to more weeds in the lawn.

STEP 6:  Control Weeds 

Weed control is also a vital step to a properly maintained lawn. Not only are they unsightly but they rob the soil of important nutrients. If the lawn is well maintained weed presence should be low and easily controlled by hand weeding. If they do get out of control and you need to use chemical then ask your local garden center on which is the best control for your particular weed problem or hire a professional.

STEP 7:  Fertilize with Care

Last and most importantly is fertilizing your lawn. Try to select an organic fertilizer that isn’t high in nitrogen and use in accordance to the directions to avoid runoff. If you must fertilize with traditional fertilizer try and use a slow release formula that is balanced in nutrients. To maintain a healthy lawn, fertilizing should only be done twice a year to minimize over fertilizing and runoff that affects water quality.



  • 30% of water used on the East Coast goes to watering lawns
  • The average suburban lawn received 10 times as much pesticide per acre as farmland
  •  70 million tons of fertilizer and pesticides are applied to residential lawns and gardens annually.

* Statistics are according to the U.S National Wildlife Federation.

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