Indeed, maybe you shouldn’t fertilize at all. I do not believe that my Dad ever put anything on our lawn. The neighbors never complained that we weren’t keeping up with the Joneses and we kids were thrilled not to have to mow it as often. If you ever pushed a reel mower, you know why.
But, it’s different today – vibrant green and absolutely not one dandelion are apt descriptions of what many folks aspire to. But there is a price to pay. Estuaries across the country are under assault from too much nitrogen and New Hampshire’s Great Bay is no exception. In fact, that is precisely why Great Bay’s waters are officially impaired by the EPA – too much nitrogen. Sewage treatment plants are certainly a source of excessive nitrogen, but our lawn care practices are also a significant contributor – one that all of us can help to drastically reduce.
In New Hampshire, lawns are our biggest crop. But using too much fertilizer, of the wrong type, at the wrong time, in the wrong place, is a major problem. Last year, the state reduced the amount of nitrogen per weight that can be sold to the public. That law was a good start, but the statute does not apply to commercial applicators.
About 40 percent of all Seacoast homeowners use fertilizer. Half of those homeowners farm out the work to lawn-care businesses. In most towns, nitrogen from lawns far out-strips nitrogen run-off from municipal fields, agriculture, and golf courses (where we also need to make reductions in fertilizer use).
Education and awareness will be the keys to reducing nitrogen overuse and misuse in the public and business sectors. To that end, a pilot advertising campaign is underway in SeacoastOnline.com, the online edition of the Portsmouth Herald. The ads will take the reader to a new CLF webpage that lays out the do’s and don’t’s of smart fertilizer use and the very important value of lime. What’s special about this campaign is the fact that several collaborators are sharing the expense with CLF and the Great Bay-Piscataqua Waterkeeper: Coastal Conservation Association of NH, Great Bay Trout Unlimited, Great Bay Stewards, The Nature Conservancy, and NH Audubon.
By reducing home fertilizer use across the region, including at our own homes, we can all make a positive impact for the health of Great Bay.