Many homeowners continue applying fertilizer, weed prevention and other chemicals throughout the spring and summer. But there are some drawbacks and potential negative impacts from this approach. As the summer thunderstorms begin occurring, often with heavy rainfall and downpours, those chemicals can get washed into the storm sewer system and downstream where they can have harmful effects on waterways and the birds, fish and animals that depend on that water.
If you fertilize your lawn once a year, September certainly is the best month to do so: there are cooler temperatures, ample rain, and weeds are dying back. For the greatest benefit to your lawn be sure to use a “slow release” fertilizer; this long-lasting type is also more likely to stay in the root zone rather than washing off to local waters with the next rainstorm.
Here are a few other tips to minimize the effect that fertilizers have on our water resources:
- If you fertilize more than once a year, consider cutting back just to September.
- More is not always better! Use only the amount directed.
- Check the weather forecast, and don’t apply fertilizer when rain is predicted.
- Clean up any spills by sweeping the product back onto the lawn. Never sweep fertilizer toward a paved surface or a stormdrain!
Also - please remember to avoid blocking storm drains and curb inlets with yard waste! Grass, weed and leaves that get swept into storm drains can cause blockages which may result in storm drains backing up and flooding! While these are organic materials, they will not decompose quickly enough to avoid clogging drains. Grass clippings especially also contain an excess amount of nitrogen which can cause algae blooms in ponds. Algae blooms deplete the oxygen supply when the algae die off and harm aquatic plants and wildlife who depend on this water!
Please consider the impacts of your actions when working in your yard. The impacts can often be felt quite a distance away.
If you have any questions, please e-mail us or call 703-771-2790. If you see a storm drain that is blocked with grass or leaves, please report this to the Street Division by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org.