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Homeowners Lawn Care Water Quality Almanac

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March             Inventory Time

Conduct a landscape water quality assessment
How much do you care about your lawn?

  • Site PlanHow good does it have to look? (Perfect or just okay)
  • How much time will you invest? (Just mow or make applications as well.)
  • How much money are you willing to invest? 
  • What are your limitations, including equipment? (Does your mower have height adjustment?)
  • Will you use fertilizer? (Poorly fertilized turf increases runoff.)
  • Will you water your lawn? (Well-designed, in-ground systems are best.)
  • Will you use pesticides? (You will use more if you don’t grow healthy plants.)
    How much wear do you expect? (Will you be running, walking, or working in your yard?)

Areas to note and take care of

  • Streams, creeks, rivers, ponds, or lakes
  • Shady areas
  • Areas of direct sunlight (southwestern exposure)
  • Bare surface areas
  • Locations of weeds
  • Compacted areas (try to put a knife in the ground)
  • Exposed tree roots
  • Areas of poor drainage or standing water
  • Areas of wear
  • Steep slopes
  • Impervious surfaces
  • Storm drains

Know how your property and choosing the right grass can protect water quality:
  1. Selecting a grass appropriate to your site will lead to rapid establishment, preventing runoff and erosion from bare areas.
  2. Appropriate grasses will form a dense stand of turf better able to fight off disease and weed encroachment.
  3. A vigorous lawn will require less pesticide input, reducing the potential for polluted runoff, leaching into groundwater, and accidental spills.

Learn about Lawn Grasses

Kentucky Bluegrass    Perrenial Ryegrass

  Kentucky Bluegrass  Perennial Ryegrasses  Tall Fescue  Fine Fescue
Growth habit  Rhizotamous  Bunch  Bunch  Bunch
Leaf texture (blade width)  Medium–Fine  Medium  Coarse  Very Fine
Establishment from seed  Slow (approx. 30–90 days)  Fast (approx. 14–21 days)  Fast to Average (21–30 days)  Average (21–50 days)
Seeding rate  1 to 2 lb./1,000 ft.2  5 to 9 lb./1,000 ft.2 5 to 9 lb. /1,000 ft.2 3 to 5 lb./1,000 ft.2
Annual nitrogen fertilizer  3 to 4 lb./1,000 ft.2 2 to 6 lb./1,000 ft.2 2 to 4 lb./1,000 ft.2 1 to 2 lb./1,000 ft.2
Drought tolerance  Poor  Poor  Some  Some
Shade tolerance 
(min. 4 hr. of direct sun) 
Poor  Poor  Good  Excellent
Wear tolerance (traffic)  Good  Good  Good  Poor

Tall Fescue    Fine Fescue

General Seed Recommendations
Use the landscape water quality assessment described above to identify unique conditions on your property. More varied conditions require blends or mixtures to optimize stand diversity.

General Seed Recommendations

Many improved cultivars are available. See Cornell Cooperative Extension turfgrass species and cultivar guidelines. (More info on choosing lawn grasses.)

March is a good time for

  • Spring cleaning: Rake leaves and winter debris (which are loaded with phosphorus) away from paved surfaces and storm sewers.

  • Soil sampling: Sample soil every three years to determine the availability of nutrients to the plants. Take approximately 1/2 cup of soil from several locations, mix together, and contact your local Cooperative Extension office for information on where to send the sample. Use this information as a basis for fertilizing.

  • Investigating seed sources: Be sure to review the seed label for best cultivars. “Variety Not Stated” = buyer beware!


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This page last updated on
November 05, 2000

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