We all want a beautiful lawn.  But guess what the two biggest pollutants are in the Chesapeake Bay?  That’s right—nitrogen and phosphorous!  The same stuff that's in your fertilizer!  Nitrogen and phosphorous pollution is caused mainly from agricultural runoff and water runoff from lawn fertilization.  Storm water runoff contaminated with chemical pesticides can also be a big problem.  So our pretty lawns may contribute to an ugly bay!  Here are some tips to keep your yard looking fantastic and still help keep the pollutants out of the river. 




Talk to your local Cooperative Extension Agent or Master Gardener on the best river-friendly lawn care practices. 
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Use only the recommended dose of fertilizer.  Contrary to popular opinion, horticulturists recommend that you fertilize in the FALL, not the Spring. This provides the most benefit to your plants, and reduces nutrient runoff during the warmer months when our rivers are most sensitive to algae blooms from excess nutrients.


Aerating your soil with a rented aerator wheel is an easy way to help your lawn without chemicals. 


Talk to your local extension service representative for assistance in getting your soil tested to determine the exact amount and type of fertilizer to put on your lawn.


That bright green lawn comes at a high price to our rivers.  Please Fertilize Responsibly !


Plant native trees, shrubs and plants. This helps in two different ways. First, native species tend to thrive best in the soil, so they will need the least tending and fertilization to grow well. Second, planting a good groundcover helps to reduce soil erosion by encouraging water infiltration and reducing storm water runoff.

Use rain barrels to catch excess storm water from roofs. You can use this water to irrigate your garden or lawn. This saves you money because you don’t have to turn on your sprinklers, and it also helps to prevent erosion from excess storm water flow.

To learn more about rain barrels and how to purchase one from Friends of the Rappahannock, click here!

Plant a rain garden. Plant the garden in low-lying areas that tend to collect storm water runoff. The rain garden will promote water infiltration into the ground, PLUS any pollutants, such as fertilizers, pesticides, grease, oil, or even heavy metals, will be trapped by the rich soil and root system.

Check out the links at the bottom of this page for more information on how to plant your own rain garden!

If you use sprinklers to irrigate, keep them on a timer so as not to waste water.

Use pesticides as sparingly as possible. Below are some alternatives to pesticides

Natural Insect Control—Sometimes insects can be repelled by the types of plants you plant. For example, try planting basil next to your tomatoes. Basil is a natural insect repellent. Want to get rid of flies? Flies don’t like the smell of mint, and will avoid it, so plant some mint around your house. Some plants attract beneficial insects. For example, plant some black eyed Susans and asters in your garden. These flowers attract lacewings, which love to chomp on annoying bugs.

Try some homemade remedies—Homemade remedies can work just as well as the chemical kind, and is safer for the environment and for your health as well. A cayenne pepper mixture does well in keeping away the buggies.

Use traps instead of sprays—If you feel like you must use a chemical, try using a trap instead. The chemical is confined to the trap, instead of getting spread all over the place.

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