LAND AND LANDSCAPE CLEAN WATER PRACTICES
Your landscape is one part of a large system involved with watersheds. Watersheds are large areas that drain into common lakes, rivers or oceans. A rainstorm or excessive irrigation can wash pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers from your landscape, onto streets, into the storm water system, and even the public water supply.
Many homeowners use more fertilizers than may be necessary. Fertilizers contain nutrients that may contribute to low oxygen levels in the water.
First get your soil test done to see if your lawn or garden even need fertilizer or lime! Choose a fertilizer blend that provides the balance of nutrients recommended by the soil test results. Keep in mind that warm season grasses such as centipedegrass, bermudagrass, St. Augustinegrass or zoysiagrass are usually used in lawns in the midlands of South Carolina. These grasses generally require less fertilizer than others. When you shop, look for fertilizers that state that they are for southern lawns and apply them per label directions. You may also choose to use organic slow-release fertilizers such as well-composted manure, corn meal, cottonseed meal or other organic mixes. Use a mulching mower and leave grass clippings to decompose into your lawn.
Homeowners can get their soil sampled at Clemson Extension for $6 and this will tell you exactly what kind and how much fertilzer is needed for your yard and garden. This will save you valuable time and money as well as protect water quality.
Consumer pesticide products are readily available. But unless the product is formulated for the pest you have, and you apply them in the right way and at the right time, you could be wasting your money and causing more harm than good.
The first step is to identify your pest. Then choose the right pesticide for it, apply the minimum amount at the proper time, and follow all instructions and warnings on the label. Keep in mind that pesticides generally will kill most insects including beneficial ones. Unless specifically stated otherwise, should not be used near water bodies or storm water drains. You may find it simpler to contract with a landscape service which is licensed to apply pesticides. Often professional formulations are more effective than those available at retail outlets.
Many homeowners can't tolerate weeds in their lawns, but excess herbicide application may create intolerable conditions in our watershed!
Many common herbicides have been implicated in harmful effects in aquatic systems and particularly frogs and other amphibians and unless specifically stated otherwise, should not be used near water bodies or storm water drains. Commercial fertilizers may also contain herbicides as in "weed and feed" formulations. If you feel you need to use herbicides, just as with pesticides, identity the type of weeds you have, choose the right herbicide for them, apply the minimum amount at the proper time, and follow all instructions and warnings on the label. You may find it simpler to contract with a licensed landscape service.
Make your watering or irrigation effective.
Most lawns in the midlands of South Carolina are warm season grasses such as centipedegrass, bermudagrass, St. Augustinegrass or zoysiagrass. Most of these grasses grow best with about 1 inch of water per week. In the case of no rain, apply 1/2 inch every three to five days. Too much water may wash fertilizer, herbicides, pesticides and pet waste into the storm water system. Too much water will also cause increased growth so you will have to mow more often, and it may allow diseases to develop in your lawn. You can even let your lawn go dormant during drought saving water and money. If you have an irrigation system, it should be tuned to provide the correct amount and flow of water on the proper schedule.
A turfgrass lawn is not your only option!
You've probably heard 'If you can't grow grass, turn it into a natural area.' You can do that with areas or your entire lawn by utilizing low-maintenance ground cover plants, natural mulch materials, native plant materials, and other landscaping techniques. You could also explore a xeriscape which simply means a sustainable, drought-resistant landscape that does not require additional water.
For more information about water-friendly lawn and landscape management, see the following web sites:
Carolina Clear's YardStick Workbook shows you how to create attractive and healthy yards by working with South Carolina's environment, rather than against it. Covers lawn and landscape design, installation and maintenance from A-Z! - YardStick Workbook
Clemson Cooperative Extension Service Richland County Offices
Clemson Cooperative Extension Service Soil Testing Fact Sheet
Home soil test kits are available commercially: GoodSearch link
The Clemson Cooperative Extension Service has specific fact sheets
available for most southern grass types detailing year-round maintenance.
Clemson Cooperative Extension Service Watering Lawns Fact Sheet
Clemson Cooperative Extension Service Xeriscape Gardening
Clemson Cooperative Extension Service Selecting A Lawn Care Service
Natural Resources Defense Council on Organic Lawn Care
Any mention of commercial products is for information only; it does not imply recommendation or endorsement by Gills Creek Watershed Association.
Revised Aug 23, 2016.