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Lawns + Lakes = Trouble

Large lawns threaten lakes! It has been common knowledge for a number of years that the same nutrients that we feed our lawns are what makes aquatic weeds and algae flourish as well. Most of New Jersey's lakes suffer from too many nutrients. Our Pinelands lakes are the last to have water that is not nutrient-rich, but the picture is changing. Many people move to "the woods" and feel that they need large turf grass lawns. That thinking will eventually permanently alter our lakes in undesirable ways.

What to do?

1. Limit planting of non-native vegetation.

2. Use as little fertilizer as possible.

3. Use organic fertilizers. These compounds are applied only occasionally because they are gradually released over time as soil microorganisms break them down. Inorganics require frequent application and kill beneficial soil microorganisms.

A great example is WOW! Plus, an organic fertilizer plus corn gluten meal (a corn syrup by-product used in pet foods).

It only needs to be applied once in the Spring and once in the Fall, but it feeds the lawn all season long. Corn gluten meal prevents weed germination, so the product must be applied at the right time:

Spring: when the forsythia bloom. It prevents broadleaf weeds like dandelions.

Fall: six weeks prior to frost (August 15 through September 15). It prevents weed grasses like crabgrass.

By the end of the third year of use, your lawn will be 90% weed-free. And it's non-toxic. Wow! Plus is available by mail order from Gardens Alive! (1-812 537 8650), or locally from The Wild Bird Center, in the Marlton Crossing Shopping Center on Route 73.

4. Gradually limit the size of your lawn by planting ground covers. They need no fertilizers and they don't attract geese as does turf grass.

5. Minimize the use of toxic pesticides. Poisons that are designed to kill insects and ticks also kill beneficial insects and songbirds. Many have a devastating effect on aquatic organisms. Read the labels! Remember - everything that washes down a road ends up in a stream or lake. Some of the rest ends up in the groundwater.

6. Pure water is becoming a precious commodity. Using thousands of gallons to maintain a large, green lawn should make us pause to think about priorities.