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Environmental Guidelines for Responsible Lawn Care and Landscaping

Posted on January 8th, 2009 by Andy

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From U.S. EPA Pesticide Environmental Stewardship Program

The National Lawns and Environment Initiative began in 2002 with the goal of encouraging environmentally-responsible lawn and landscaping practices in residential landscape design and maintenance. The U.S. EPA is a member of the steering committee, along with USDA, the Center for Resource Management, the San Antonio Water System, the National Gardening Association, the University of Florida, Audubon International, Professional Landcare Network, and Golf Course Superintendents Association of America.

In 2005 the Initiative produced the Environmental Guidelines for Responsible Lawn Care and Landscaping (28 pp, 428 K, about PDF). These practices include appropriate uses of pesticides, fertilizers, water, plants, and stewardship principles that will enhance the value and benefits of residential landscapes to homeowners, communities, and wildlife.

The Initiative’s mission is not only to develop consensus-based guidelines, but also to encourage the public to adopt them. It has supported demonstration projects in EPA’s Region 3 and the San Antonio Water System. These projects will measure their success in comparison to neighborhoods that do not undergo public education campaigns.

The final document contains a strong environmental message and practical advice for homeowners. Each organization on the steering committee signed an agreement form for the Proclamation of Ten Guiding Principles for Responsible Lawn Care and Landscaping (1 pp, 372 K, about PDF). These principles and practical tips or examples include the following :

Ten Principles for Sound Landscaping Practices

1.    Learn About Your Site or Yard

         •    Have soil tested to determine if nutrients/amendments are needed.

         •    Identify sensitive areas such as wildlife nesting places.

         •    Identify problem spots that can be improved with proper landscaping.

2.    Choose the Right Plant for the Right Spot

         •    Select locally adapted species that require less water, fertilizer, pruning and pesticides.

         •    Choose the right plant for the right spot that meets the plant requirements for sun, water, and climate


         •    Avoid growing invasive plant species.

3.    Learn About Your Site or Yard

         •    If a fertilizer is needed, choose an organic or conventional product that best fits the needs of your plants and

                   soil conditions.

         •    Always read and follow the label directions and never apply more than necessary.

4.    Reduce Waste and Recycle Nutrients

         •    Leave grass clippings in place to provide nitrogen to the lawn.

         •    Make compost that can be used as a natural fertilizer and can add organic matter, microbes and earthworms

                   to the soil.

5.    Attract and Protect Wildlife

         •    Choose plants that can provide food and shelter for birds and other wildlife.

         •    Consider a backyard pond to provide water for wildlife.

         •    Add flowering annuals and perennials that can attract birds, butterflies and bees, which are important


6.    Manage Yard Pests Responsibly

         •    Correctly identify any pests and the type of problems they may create.

         •    Change conditions that invite pest problems such as over watering, improper mowing, etc. If problems persist

                   choose an organic or conventional product that best fits your situation; spot treat for problems and don’t

                   use a weed and feed lawn product unless your problem is widespread.

         •    Always read and follow label directions.

7.    Use Water Wisely

         •    Choose plants that are locally adapted or drought tolerant.

         •    Irrigate lawns infrequently but deeply to the depth of the root zone.

         •    Make sure irrigation systems are adjusted properly and repair any leaks.

         •    Consider drip systems to gardens, shrubs and trees.

8.    Mow and Prune Responsibly

         •    Cut your lawn at the highest recommended mower setting leaving it about 3 inches long for lawns in the

                   north and 1-2 inches in the south.

         •    Keep mower tuned up and blades sharp.

         •    Prune properly to retain a tree, shrub or plant’s natural form and reduce dead or diseased material.

9.    Prevent Landscape Pollution

         •    Prevent fertilizers, pesticides, yard debris or pet waste from entering water sources or waste water systems.

         •    Use pesticides and fertilizers only when and where needed.

         •    Dispose of oils, paints and other toxic materials in the proper community waste management system and not

                   down storm drains.

10.    Reduce Storm Water Runoff

         •    Slow the rate of runoff and increase soil permeability by adding organic mulch to soil and landscape             plantings to intercept runoff.

         •    Minimize soil erosion by designing the landscape to spread water flow across the ground surface.

         •    Set mower height high to help prevent storm water runoff.

Filed under:Seattle Irrigation Services, Seattle Landscape Design, Seattle Landscape Maintenance, Seattle Lawn Care | |

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