Believe it or not, the first day of spring is less than a month away. Soon we will be turning our attention to tidying up our yards after being buried in snow for months.
At the Chautauqua Watershed Conservancy, we are thinking about feeding our lakes, streams and groundwaters.
We all live in a watershed.
When starting your spring yard work this year, consider how it may affect our area waterways.
What runs off our yards with and in precipitation, what we place on our yards, what drips out of our vehicles, and what we put down our drains and our toilets is what we feed to our lakes and streams.
Our county's inland lakes are all challenged by the symptoms of excess nutrients.
Plants and algae need nutrients especially phosphorus and nitrogen compounds in order to grow.
Too many nutrients gives us too much algae and too many aquatic plants!
The Gulf of Mexico and Lake Erie are suffering from "dead zones," oxygen devoid areas thought to be the result of excess nutrients. These are the ultimate receiving waters of the watersheds of the region.
So, how can you and I feed our waters less? Let's start in the kitchen.
First, don't dispose of food wastes down a garbage disposal.
Second, reduce your family's consumption of animal products. Animal wastes are a major source of nutrients fueling water quality problems across the globe.
Third, conserve energy! The burning of heating fuels and gasoline releases nutrients into the atmosphere that land on our watersheds and run into our waters.
Next, let's move outside. Chances are your yard flows to a road ditch or storm drain that joins to a stream or directly to a lake. Regarding our yards:
If you don't use fertilizers and pesticides on your lawn, don't start.
If you feel that you must fertilize your lawn, first have a knowledgeable landscaper evaluate your lawn, take a soil sample and have a thorough nutrient analysis and acidity test of the samples.
(Test kits are available through Cornell Cooperative Extension.)
Minimize your fertilization only to that necessary to sustain your lawn.
Don't subscribe to a multiple chemical treatment service for your lawn unless it is based on a thorough evaluation including an actual laboratory nutrient analysis. Some firms prescribe four or five pesticide and fertilizer treatment a year without a laboratory analysis of your soil. Most established Western New York lawns have plenty of phosphorus two or three times the concentrations needed to grow healthy turf without additional phosphorus.
Leave an unfertilized strip between your lawn and ditches, waterways and streets that carry runoff from your yard. Sweep fertilizers off paved surfaces.
Better yet, don't fertilize your lawn and instead over-seed it in the fall with fescue grass varieties that can survive without fertilization and require less frequent mowing.
This will save time, gas and money!
Disconnect roof down spouts from pipes leading to storm sewers and ditches.
Send nutrient-laden rainwater onto your lawn, where the nutrients can be enjoyed by your grass rather than the lake's plants and algae.
Remove pet wastes deposited on your lawn and flush them down the toilet or place them in the trash.
Reseed bare sports in your yard to reduce and prevent eroding soil runoff.
Don't "roll" your lawn. Instead, have it "core-aerated" to help it absorb oxygen and rainwater.
Please join the Chautauqua Watershed Conservancy in addressing the root causes of the sedimentation, plant and algae problems affecting the health and enjoyment of our waterways. The Chautauqua Watershed Conservancy is a local nonprofit organization that is dedicated to preserving and enhancing the water quality, scenic beauty and ecological health of the lakes, streams, wetlands and watersheds of the Chautauqua region. For more information, call 664-2166 or visit www.chautauquawatershed.org or www.facebook.com/chautauquawatershed.