Landscapers & Gardeners

Use Best Practices for Lawn Care & Landscaping:  The same rain that helps turn your lawn green and maintain your beautiful landscape plants and flowers also washes excess fertilizers, pesticides, and other pollutants into the nearest creek, turning the water green, or worse. Much of it makes its way downstream to the Chesapeake Bay.

Keep your natural areas green and our waters blue by following these best practices for lawns and landscaped areas:

  • Plant Natives.
    Native plants grow naturally and thrive in the region where they evolved, based on regional characteristics such as soils, moisture, sunlight, temperatures, and the other plant and animal species in the region. This makes them particularly well-suited for landscaping, restoration, and even livestock forage. In addition to having natural resistance to local diseases and insects, and needing less fertilizer and extra watering, native plants also help to maintain the unique ecological characteristics of an area, support the habitat needs of pollinators and local wildlife, and protect our water resources by conserving water and stabilizing. To learn more about regional native plants, click here.
  • Manage soil nutrients and fertilizer use by testing soil
    Fertilizer consists of plant nutrients that help plants grow and reproduce. If more fertilizer is used than the plants can take up, the excess fertilizer washes off lawns and gardens into streams, rivers and other bodies of water. There, these nutrients feed naturally occurring algae, leading to massive algae blooms, particularly during the warm summer months. These increases in the algae population turn the water green, shutting out sunlight needed by bottom-growing plants. As plants and algae decay, they use up the oxygen needed by fish, oysters, crabs and other aquatic creatures. To avoid the over-application of fertilizer (helping the environment and saving money), have your soil tested to determine how much, and what type of, fertilizer you really need to apply. Virginia Tech, through the Virginia Cooperative Extension (VCE) will test your soil for $7.00. In Albemarle County and the City of Charlottesville, VCE can be contacted at (434) 872-4580. For more information on soil testing, click here.
  • Apply fertilizer in the fall when it is most beneficial to cool season grasses and least likely to end up in runoff.
  • Avoid leaving fertilizer on hard surfaces such as sidewalks and driveways where they are most likely to be washed into a storm drain, where it will end up in a stream. Sweep fertilizer off hard surfaces onto the lawn or into the garden.
  • Avoid applying fertilizer just before a rain storm.
  • Use all lawn care products (fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, etc.) as instructed on the product labels. Less is always more when it comes to water quality.
  • Avoid applying any lawn care products near drainage ditches, storm sewers, or waterways.
  • When mowing your lawn, don’t cut the grass too short. Leaving grass at least 2 or 3 inches tall is best for the health of a lawn. Keeping it even longer helps prevent erosion, filters out pollutants that can be washed into storm drains and streams, and keeps it healthier during the drier and hotter days of summer.
  • Leave grass clippings on the lawn to reduce the need for fertilizer and reduce the amount of waste disposed of in landfills.

Check out the following resources for lawn and garden care:

Read Your Weeds: A Simple Guide to Creating a Healthy Lawn – Complete with a chart of various weeds that can help you diagnose any  deficiencies affecting your lawn, this pdf document discusses the most common problems and the best way to solve them in an environmentally friendly manner.

A Virginian’s Year Around Guide to Lawn Care (3.3 MB) Tips and techniques for healthy gardens. Published by the Department of Conservation and Recreation and the chesapeake Bay Program.

Some posters for spreading the word about best lawn care practices: