Please Don’t P on your Lawn

We would like to remind FLOW readers that a law prohibiting the application of phosphorus fertilizers in most circumstances went into effect in 2012. The use of nitrogen-containing fertilizers with less than 15 percent “slow-release nitrogen” is also restricted.

The reason for the law is that phosphorus and nitrogen are plant nutrients which feed algal blooms in waterways. The Vermont fertilizer law was passed to reduce the instance of lawn over-fertilization, which can result in phosphorus and nitrogen runoff to surface waters; in particular Lake Champlain. Residents can still create a beautiful lawn, and also keep “P” from polluting water, by using P-free fertilizers and following these tips for a green lawn, not a green lake:

  1. Take a soil test for the best lawn you can possibly have to ensure that the lawn’s exact nutrient, pH and organic content needs are met.
  1. Fertilize only with phosphorus-free fertilizer and nitrogen fertilizer compatible with Vermont law. Most northeastern lawns and 75% of Chittenden County lawns tested by UVM had enough phosphorus (P).
  1. Water if desired, in early morning when there is less than 1 inch per week of rain. Grass will survive droughts without watering by going dormant.
  1. Plant Grass Seed on existing lawns in the fall and spring to out-compete weeds and leave legumes such as common white clover, among the grass to add nitrogen, which will naturally fertilize your lawn.
  1. Mow to maintain a height of 3-4 inches and cut off no more than 1/3 of grass blade. Leave clippings on lawn to add nutrients and organic matter, but be sure to sweep the clippings off pavement.
  1. Weeds will be discouraged by following these healthy lawn tips! Just pull any that are left by hand.

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(Excerpts from the Lawn to Lake Group’s “Don’t P on your Lawn brochure”)