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Here Comes Spring

Here Comes Spring
Know your lawn before fertilizing

Plant More Plants Tip No. 45Push the memories of snowy days out of your mind because the daffodils and crocuses are here, and that means it’s time to start planning your lawn and garden activities!  Before digging in to your normal lawn and garden routines, askHRgreen.org, the HRPDC's Environmental Education initiative, challenges you to transform your landscape into an eco-avenger by putting every flower, tree, shrub and blade of grass to work.

Before throwing a general fertilizer on your lawn, test your soil to see what nutrients your lawn and garden may be lacking. Fertilizing before knowing what your soil actually needs is a waste of your time, energy and money. Soil tests, available at local Virginia Cooperative Extension offices and garden centers, are easy to use and will provide you recommendations for soil amendments if they are needed.

Over-fertilizing is also harmful to the environment. The excess fertilizer does not get absorbed into the lawn resulting in runoff into local waterways via the storm drain. When it reaches the Chesapeake Bay, the polluted runoff fuels the growth of algae blooms, which are harmful to fish, crabs, oysters and other species.

More ways to transform your yard into an eco-avenger

  • Mow at the proper height. The rule of thumb is that only one-third of a blade should be removed in one mowing and to always mow with a sharp blade.
  • Leave clippings on the lawn. They return nitrogen to the soil, naturally.
  • Don’t rake leaves or yard debris into the street. Bag it instead, so it doesn’t end up entering the storm drain and polluting our waterways.
  • Water at the right time of day. Water when the sun is low, winds are calm and temperatures are cooler to minimize evaporation by as much as 30 percent. The typical lawn only needs 1 ½ “ of water a week.
  • Use natural weed management techniques. Pulling weeds by hand or spraying with a vinegar solution is an inexpensive and safe way to manage most weeds.
  • Select plants that will repel insects. Mint will repel ants, aphids, imported cabbage worm and flea beetle. Marigolds will ward off squash bug, thrips, tomato hornworm and whitefly.
  • Install a rain barrel. Use the rainwater to water your lawn and plants.
  • Plant more plants! Trees, shrubs and perennial beds help to filter excess fertilizer and pesticide and slow the flow of stormwater before it reaches storm drains and local creeks. Plant native species when possible and plan the layout of your garden so each plant is located for optimal growth.
  • Mulch. Use mulch to control erosion, retain moisture, stabilize soil temperature, and reduce weeds.

For more lawn and garden tips, visit http://askhrgreen.org/lawn-and-garden-care/.