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Here in Northeast Ohio we take pride in our lush green lawns, but did you know that your lawn care practices could be contributing to pollution in our streams and rivers? This pollution contributes to Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs) and unsafe levels of bacteria in Lake Erie as well as poor water quality in streams and rivers. Luckily, with a few simple changes we can help our lake and still have a beautiful lawn.

The cornerstone of green, water-friendly lawn care is healthy soil. Get your soil tested every 3-5 years in the spring or fall to determine if your soil requires amending. Soil tests are available at your Local Soil and Water Conservation Districts and Cooperative Extension offices. The results of your soil test will determine if you need to fertilize your lawn and what specific nutrients it needs. If needed be sure to use a low or no phosphorus fertilizer on your lawn.

Another way to reduce lawn care pollution is by reducing or eliminating pesticides. Many pesticides kill not only the bad bugs, but also the good bugs in your lawn. Learn to identify good and bad bugs in your lawn. A healthy population of good bugs can help keep the bad ones in check. If you do have a problem with pest insects consider natural alternatives like neem oil, garlic oil and milky spore. Products like these, when used correctly can manage pests and are safe around children and pets.

One of the easiest changes that can be made to your lawn care routine is to mow high and let it lie. Mowing your lawn to a height of 3-4 inches reduces weeds and improves the health of your lawn. Grass clippings left on the lawn break down quickly and help to nourish the soil, reducing the need for fertilizer. Never leave grass clippings, yard waste or fertilizer pellets on the sidewalk, driveway, storm drain, stream or ditch they can clog drainage ways and contribute to HABs.

The heat of summer can cause your lawn to turn brown. Watering deeply one or twice a week in the morning or evening is all your grass needs to stay green. Or consider not watering your lawn. Brown grass is not dead, just dormant and will become lush and green again in the fall.

If you want low-maintenance landscaping choose native plants. Native plants are perfectly adapted to our climate and require little to no fertilizer and minimal water. They have the added benefit of deep roots which can help reduce the amount of run-off and wet spots. Native plants are also wildlife magnets, attracting butterflies, birds and gentle native bees.

Native landscaping is beautiful, low-maintenance and helps keep waters clean.

Be a Conservation Crusader today. For more information about green lawn care contact your local Soil and Water Conservation District or visit www.neohiostormwater.com/neopipe

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