Spring has finally arrived and if you’re like me, you have a long list of things to do outside.  High on many lists is lawn care.  As you head out to enjoy the sun and your wonderful yard, take some time to think about downstream water quality.

Everything we do on the land affects the quality of water leaving that land.  Water is cleanest leaving land with lots of deep rooted plant cover.  Trees, shrubs, and perennial plants have deep roots that hold soil in place and collect nutrients like phosphorus and nitrogen, keeping it in your yard and out of the water.  They also absorb a lot of water during the growing season, slowing the flow of water out of your yard.  Increasing the amount of deep-rooted long-living plants around the yard will go a long way to keeping downstream waters clean.

Lawn and turf don’t provide these water cleaning services as well as perennial plants, but there are maintenance approaches that can reduce the amount of nutrients and soil leaving your lawn when it rains.  Lawn-to-lake.org has lots of tips on lake-friendly lawn care practices:

raise the blade

From Lawn-to-Lake.org


  • Lawn fertilizers – here in Vermont, lawn fertilizer is required by law to be phosphorus and nitrogen -free.  You are allowed to apply fertilizer if a soil test shows phosphorus concentrations are too low.
  • mowing height – raising your blade to 3 inches keeps more grass on the lawn, increases lawn health, and promotes healthy soil
  • leave the clippings – nutrients, minerals and carbon found in the clippings are essential for grass growth.  Leaving them in place means you don’t have to buy fertilizers and increases soil health over time.