Chesterton Tribune

IDEM urges be green as you green your lawn

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The Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) is urging Hoosiers to follow the following tips for a healthy, environmentally-friendly lawn and garden.

•Use fewer and better pesticides and fertilizers. Residential users apply more pounds per acre of synthetic pesticides and fertilizers than farmers. Routine watering or a rainstorm can wash away the chemical excess, wasting money and endangering nearby waterways. Apply pesticides and fertilizers according to the label’s directions, and use only the recommended amount.

•Use no-phosphorus or low phosphorus fertilizers. Excess phosphorus in storm water run-off can cause algae growth in Indiana lakes and poor water quality. The good news is that established lawns do not need extra phosphorus to stay green. The numbers on the fertilizer bag represent nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. When buying fertilizer, look for the middle number on the bag to be zero for no phosphorus or four or lower for low phosphorus. While nursery or landscape retailers should have phosphorus-free fertilizers in stock, chain stores may not carry them. Customers can call ahead to check on items that are stocked and request no- or low-phosphorus fertilizer.

•Avoid over-watering the lawn. Watering too heavily or too often weakens your lawn and causes erosion and runoff pollution. When needed, water one inch, once a week. To measure, place an empty 6-ounce tuna can on your lawn and stop watering when it is full. Watering in the morning will save water from being evaporated by the midday heat. That will save you money on your water bill, too.

•Use an electric lawn mower. For each hour of operation, one gas-powered lawn mower emits 11 times more air pollution than a new car. Gas-powered garden-tool emissions account for an estimated 5 percent of the nation's air pollution. Using an electric lawn mower instead can save you 73 percent in total energy cost.

•Leave grass clippings on the lawn. Allow grass clippings to remain on the yard after mowing; they can act as a slow-release fertilizer to your lawn while helping to retain moisture in the soil. This reduces the need for watering and could eliminate the need for fertilizer. Plus, it helps keep fertilizers out of storm drains and as a result, out of rivers, lakes, and bays.

•Pickup pet waste. Pet waste contains bacteria that can run off of your lawn and contaminate streams, lakes, and rivers. Always clean up after your pet. Consider reusing plastic grocery bags to scoop up pet waste.

“With more than 6 million Hoosiers living in Indiana, our individual actions at home will add up to a huge collective impact,” IDEM Commissioner Thomas Easterly said. “This spring, let us commit to making a difference by being backyard stewards.”

More tips and information can be found on the Hoosiers Care website at

Hoosiers Care is a statewide campaign designed to teach Hoosiers about simple daily actions for saving money and the environment. Visitors to the site can take a pledge that will help them improve air and water quality; conserve water and energy; and reduce waste.

Posted 4/30/2012