Think Twice Before Fertilizing

Jeff Barnum

Most all of us have lawns or landscapes to maintain around our homes – and even if we don’t, we make use of public green spaces like parks and playing fields. Perhaps we do not give much thought to how all of those grassed areas are managed, but we should! They should be free of contaminants that could be harmful to our families and the environment.

How we grow, treat, and maintain turf is gaining much attention.  What we put on our grass affects water quality in ways we do not yet fully comprehend. Certainly excessive nitrogen has a negative effect on local waters like Great Bay, but too much phosphorous is a real issue for freshwater bodies like Lake Champlain. And, we are only beginning to take a close look at both the low-dose effects of pesticides and herbicides on humans, and their effects in water.

In my most recent Portsmouth Herald column, I discuss the organic fertilizer approach over the more conventional synthetic method utilized by most homeowners, municipalities, and agriculture today. Instead of treating the symptoms of a poor-looking lawn, maybe we need to address the real problem: soil health. Our conventional approach with multi-step applications of synthetic fertilizers infused with herbicides and pesticides is simply misguided. Check out our great resource for lawn care tips.

More and more folks everywhere care about protecting local waters and are looking to do the right thing. On the evening of May 4, the Great Bay-Piscataqua Waterkeeper and the Exeter Healthy Lawns-Clean Water committee will be co-hosting a lawn care forum from 6 to 8:30 at the Exeter, New Hampshire, high school. Three fine speakers will be offering alternatives to the synthetic approach to lawn care: Chip Osborne of Osborne Organics in Marblehead, MA; Jay Feldman, executive director of Beyond Pesticides in Washington, D.C.; and John Bochert of Eldredge Lumber in York, Maine, a company that has stopped selling pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers that are all too universally used today. Make sure to mark your calendar!

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