Unless you have a water-front home, you may not realize that your lawn maintenance can impact Tampa Bay, its estuarine system and even your drinking water. That’s because all of Florida’s water, the aquifer beneath us, lakes, streams, springs, rivers and ponds, is interconnected in an intricate network. What we do on land can have far-reaching and long-lasting consequences.
August is National Water Quality Month, so it’s the perfect time to take steps that can nurture nature and our lawns.
Let’s get to the root of the issue – your plants’ roots, that is. Nutrients and water you add to your lawn and landscape are only effective when they are kept in the root zone of those plants.
That is a lot easier said than done during a summer downpour. Fertilizer nutrients washed away by heavy rains or leached into groundwater may eventually show up in springs, estuaries and bays, polluting water and causing harmful algae blooms. But there are best management practices you can employ to nurture your lawn and protect nature.
- Avoid chemical fertilizers in the summer. Consider fertilizing in the spring and fall, when heavy rains are less prevalent. When you do fertilize, use slow-release fertilizer that includes potassium and little or no phosphorous. Watch the weather and never fertilize before rain.
- Higher Grass, Deeper Roots. Encourage a more extensive root system by maintaining higher grass. For example, many types of St. Augustine grass should be mowed at 3.5-4 inches tall to encourage deeper roots. To determine your grass’s Florida-recommended height, go here.
- Boost the Iron. If you are seeing yellow patches in your lawn, it may have an iron deficiency caused by high pH or high phosphorous. Test the lawn’s pH, then if needed, add a soluble or chelated iron supplement. Iron will help green your lawn without increasing growth in the summer.
- Manage stormwater. Slow the movement of water off your property to minimize runoff across your lawn and landscape. Use swales, French drains, or low retention areas to allow water to soak into the ground, thereby reducing the amount of stormwater runoff.
- Mulch Keeps It Moist. Mulch reduces evaporation and runoff, reduces weeds and maintains moisture when it’s dry. Keep a 2-3-inch layer of mulch in plant beds and over tree and shrub rooms. Use organic mulch to reduce the need for fertilizer.
Employing even one of these best management practices can improve your landscape and help protect the Tampa Bay regions’ ecosystem.
Need to Know More?
There are numerous resources for maintaining a sustainable lawn and protecting Florida’s waterways. Following are just a few: