With summer upon us, many Oklahoma City residents are turning to fertilizer to grow lush, green lawns. Unfortunately this stimulant can impair the health of the City's lakes and streams when it's allowed to wash down neighborhood storm drains.
"Local studies indicate that many homeowners unknowingly over apply fertilizer on their lawns," environmental protection manager Raymond Melton said. "This can lead to polluted waterways."
According to the EPA, nitrogen and phosphorus are at excessive levels. Twenty-seven percent of the nation's rivers and streams have excessive levels of nitrogen, and 40 percent have high levels of phosphorus. Too much nitrogen and phosphorus in the water—known as nutrient pollution—causes significant increases in algae, which harms water quality, food resources and habitats, and decreases the oxygen that fish and other aquatic life need to survive.
Here are some other helpful tips when fertilizing:
• Have your soil tested. Use the results to identify your lawn's needs to maximize productivity and identify deficiencies. Adjusting your soil pH and fertilizer application will result in a healthier lawn.
• Apply fertilizer during dry weather and wet the ground using controlled watering.
• Fertilize on a day with little or no wind to reduce drift, sweep any excess fertilizer out of the street and back into your grass.
• Bag or mulch excess yard trimmings from sidewalks and driveways to reduce fertilizer and pesticides attached to the clippings from blowing into the storm drains or washing away during the next rain.
• Avoid overwatering. Overwatering can increase the nitrogen loss by 5 to 11 times compared to slow delivery rates.
• Consider mulching to reduce the need to fertilize. Grass blades decompose quickly and can contain about 4 percent nitrogen, 1 percent phosphorus and 2 percent potassium.
• Store unused fertilizer in a dry area not exposed to rainfall or runoff.
• Consider alternative grass such as buffalo grass.
• Never throw grass clipping into curblines, storm drains, channels or creeks. Improperly disposed plant materials can cause serious water quality problems and may clog storm drainages.
• Recycle your leftover fertilizer and pesticides at the Household Hazardous Waste Facility at 1621 S. Portland.