Wetlands near the Elk River in Cecil County, Md.

Estimated water quality in the tidal Chesapeake Bay has reached a near-record high. Wetlands, like those seen here near the mouth of the Elk River, can slow the flow of pollution into rivers and streams.  

Both the Chesapeake Bay (and other waterways) and your own lawn will thrive with the proper use of fertilizers. Your lawn will be at its best when the turf is strong and properly fed. Strong, healthy turf feels good underfoot and is a pleasant part of outdoor living in the summer.  Beautiful lawns that are well managed and not over fertilized are also significant contributors to healthy local rivers, streams and lakes.   

Moreover, because we are in the Chesapeake Bay watershed, our well-managed lawns contribute to the overall health of the Chesapeake Bay –the largest estuary in the United States and the third largest in the world. 

With some care and guidance, we can avoid adding too many nutrients to waterways, preventing the depletion of oxygen and enabling the water to support fish and aquatic life. 

One option for affordable lawn care guidance that is environmentally responsible is to invite local experts in to test, measure and review your lawn. The Fauquier County Master Gardeners, the Virginia Cooperative Extension, and the John Marshall Soil and Water Conservation District work together and with Virginia Tech to bring to county residents a service that results in a prescription for your lawn based on its size, your soil condition, your goals, and the condition of your lawn. 

A Master Gardener team will visit your home to collect this information and will work with Virginia Tech to develop an easy-to-follow plan specific to your lawn’s needs in a couple of weeks. 

Once you have your lawn’s prescription, you can invite a lawn service to follow the customized plan or many choose to follow it yourself.  The plan accompanied by the use of some best practices will produce results, such as the following:   

  • Follow the plan – the fertilizer recommendations for your lawn are based on your soil test results and the square footage of your lawn areas and the type of grass you are growing.  Adhere to the plan and your turf will improve and the Chesapeake Bay and local rivers and streams will benefit greatly. 
  • Mow high – lots of grass is cut too short but does best when moved at three inches or more. 
  • Recycle grass clippings and leaves – it is like a little dose of fertilizer for your lawn. 
  • Water deeply, infrequently, and early in the day (or not all.) 

To learn more about the “Green Grass” program or to sign up for a visit go to www.demetersoft.net/soilsample/register.asp.  The program costs $40.

Your lawn and the Chesapeake Bay will thank you. 

Sue Bromley is an Extension Master Gardener volunteer. The Virginia Cooperative Extension office located in Warrenton serves Fauquier and Rappahannock Counties. Contact them at 540-341-7950.   

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