Low Impact Turf Care

Man mowingA carpet of green grass is a satisfying feat, but can require the use of fertilizers, watering and pesticides.

How you take care of your lawn is important for clean waters. When fertilizer is spilled or washed into the street and down storm drains, it can harm our lakes, wetlands and streams. The same is true for lawn clippings, fallen leaves and pesticides. When these materials wash into our waterways, they bring with them excess nutrients and pollutants that can cause algae or other damage.

How can you take care of your lawn and protect our waters? 

Properly dispose of all chemicals (and oil). Don’t dump it down the storm drain

In most urban and suburban areas, the strom drain on your street connects to nearby lakes, wetlands and streams. Unlike a sanitary sewer, this water is NOT treated before entering the waterways.

Use grass clippings and mulched leaves as a “natural” fertilizer for your lawn

When mowing, simply leave the grass clippings on the lawn. They act as a natural fertilizer and reduce the need for chemicals such as nitrogen fertilizer by up to 50% a year!

Sweep up spilled fertilizer, pesticides, grass clippings and leaves

Be sure to keep an eye on where your grass clippings, leaves, pesticides and fertilizer end up. Make sure that they are swept up from paved surfaces, not hosed off, so they don’t end up going into the storm drain.

Fertilize in the fall or not at all

Most lawns don't need fertilizer. Due to the excess phosphorus in our lakes, rivers, and streams, Minnesota has made it the law that you must use 0-phosphorus fertilizer. Follow the directions on the bag to ensure you are not overusing chemicals. Using compost is another great way to introduce nutrients back into the soil. The best time to fertilize is mid-to-late October.

Reduce or eliminate pesticide use

Pesticides can be harmful to children and pets. One way to reduce pesticide use that would benefit the entire ecosystem is "integrated pest management". It uses a variety of techniques to manage insects and diseases while reducing the use of harmful chemicals. 

Reuse or recycle leaves

Never rake leaves into a street. If your leaves fall into the street, rake them out, otherwise they will be washed into the storm drain and end up in a nearby lake, stream or wetland. Composting leaves is an ideal choice. You can use fallen leaves as winter mulch around rose bushes and landscape plants. You can also bag up your leaves for disposal by your municipality - most cities compost bagged leaves.

Recycle rainwater

When watering your lawn or garden, try using water from a rain barrel. Rain barrels sit under a drain spout and collect rain and runoff from the roof of your home.

Use water wisely

Most lawns do not need to be watered very frequently, unless extremely hot and dry conditions persist.

The best time of day to water your lawn is from 4 a.m. to 8 a.m. Water loss due to evaporation drastically increases with the higher temperatures. Avoid watering late into the night - it could encourage lawn diseases.

If the color of your lawn has changed from a lively green to a duller gray-green color and/or if your footprints remain visible as you walk across your lawn, your lawn needs watering.


Keep your lawn between 2-3 inches in height

Cutting grass too short can weaken turf and invite pests and weeds. If your grass is particularly long, cut back gradually to reduce stress on the plants.

Seed or sod your lawn in the spring or fall

Fall is the best time to repair lawns. Try to complete any seeding activities by mid-September.

Clean up pet waste

Pet waste can carry disease-causing bacteria that make water that flows off your property and into nearby waterways unsafe for swimming and drinking. Throw pet waste in the trash, flush it down the toilet or bury it.

Wash your car on the lawnThe water, soap and dirt from your car when washed on paved areas flows through a storm drain to an area lake, stream or wetland. By washing your car on the lawn, you not only water your grass, you allow the soil and plants to filter out the soap and dirt.

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