Lawn Care

Table of Contents

Seal of Approval
Lawn Care
Fertilize Fairly
Mow Masterfully
Watch Watering
For More Information

Seal of Approval

WatershedSOAThe Macatawa Watershed Project launched its Seal of Approval program in 2006, a program aimed at encouraging local businesses and stakeholders in the watershed to use best management practices to protect our environment.

The first group that applied for the Seal of Approval were lawn care and landscaping professionals. Businesses that applied for the program and met the criteria received a special “seal” logo that they can display at their place of business and on their company materials. This designation indicates to the consumer that the company has agreed to and is following a number of best management practices to protect Lake Macatawa’s water quality. For a list of companies involved, click to view the 2016 Seal of Approval list.

Back to Table of Contents

Lawn Care

We all want our lawns to be green and healthy, but our lawn care practices have a direct impact on the quality of water in our area. One of the main ingredients in lawn fertilizer is phosphorus, a nutrient that makes grass and other plants grow quickly. Fertilizer that ends up in our lakes and streams can cause excess aquatic weed growth, making it harder to swim, boat and fish. Every year residents in the Macatawa Watershed contribute thousands of pounds of phosphorus into our water resources as a result of fertilizing lawns.

There are three simple steps you can take to improve our water quality:

  • Fertilize Fairly
  • Mow Masterfully
  • Watch Watering

View our Lawn Care Brochure.

Back to Table of Contents

Fertilize Fairly

Soil Testing

SoilTest1The first step to fertilizing without impacting the watershed is to find out which nutrients and how much your lawn needs. Soil testing takes the guesswork out of fertilizer use, saving you time and money, and allowing you to feed your lawn fairly. Soil test kits are available for a fee at the Ottawa County Michigan State University Extension (MSUE) office at (616) 994-4580. You can also order an MSUE soil test kit online. Once you send in your soil, it will be tested and the results emailed to you. Click here for instructions on how to take a soil sample.

Choose Wisely

Once you determine if you need to purchase fertilizer, look for bags with no phosphorus for established lawns.

Know the Numbers

A series of three important numbers is displayed on fertilizer bags:

  1. The first number tells how much nitrogen (N) is in the fertilizer. Nitrogen helps top growth. It makes the grass to grow green and lush. To get the most for your money and your fertilizer, purchase mixtures with slow-release nitrogen for a steady, controlled feeding. In shady areas, reduce recommended nitrogen by 25 percent.
  2. The second number tells how much phosphorus (P) is in the fertilizer. Phosphorus stimulates roots and seedling development. The majority of soil in the Macatawa Watershed area is already phosphorous-rich, so you don’t want to apply more than is needed. It may be that no additional phosphorus is needed. If you already have an established lawn, look for a no phosphorus fertilizer.
  3. The third number tells how much potassium (K) is in the fertilizer. Potassium is an essential nutrient that aids in many plant functions, including photosynthesis, starch and protein development, enzyme reactions, water movement, and fruit development. Lawns deficient in potassium tend to more susceptible to disease and less tolerant of environmental stresses.

Follow directions

Too much fertilizer is not a good thing. Runoff from bare soil or paved surfaces such as sidewalks or driveways can be a major source of pollution to our lakes and rivers. Do no fertilize until three weeks after green-up in the spring. If you fertilize only once each year, late summer or fall is the best time.

Back to Table of Contents

Mow Masterfully

mowing the lawnMastering proper mowing techniques will encourage your lawn to make its own food, control lawn pests like crabgrass and insects, and reduce the number of times you have to mow. Keep your grass at least three inches high to promote healthier roots and a healthier lawn overall. Cutting the grass too short will invite weeds to invade. Taller grass gets more sun and is better able to make its own food (needing less fertilizer).

Mowing frequency rule of thumb: Mow twice a week in the spring, every two weeks in the summer and once a week in he fall. And, make sure to leave your grass clippings on the lawn (not on the pavement where they can wash down the storm drain and into streams and lakes!).

Back to Table of Contents

Watch Watering

wateringAccording to Michigan State University Extension Office research, lawns generally require about 1 inch of water per week, applied in small amounts throughout the week. Light, frequent watering supports healthy grass and resists disease and pests. The best schedule for watering is 15 – 20 minutes per day between noon and 4:00 p.m. when the grass is under the most stress. If daily watering is not practical for you, then try 30 – 40 minutes every other day. For best results, combine light, frequent watering with grass mulching and slow-release fertilizer applications.

For more information on lawn care in the watershed, please Contact Us.

Back to Table of Contents

For more information:

Michigan Water Stewardship Program – Lots of great resources for residents, youth and educators.

EPA’s WaterSense – Tips for Watering Wisely

Michigan State University – Turfgrass Science

Cornell Cooperative Extension Cayuga County – Green Thumbs for Blue Water, Landscaping for Healthy Streams and Lakes

MU Extension University of Missouri at Columbia – Lawn and Garden Publications

Back to Table of Contents