Lawns and Yards
Here’s the problem:
Too much phosphorus carried in by polluted runoff is causing problems in Snohomish County lakes. Lawns and yards can be a big source of phosphorus from a variety of sources like fertilizers, pet waste and bare soils, which are already rich in phosphorus.
Be LakeWise for your lawns and yards
You make a difference. By making a few simple changes in your lawn and yard practices, you can improve water quality and get LakeWise Certified. Just follow the Clear Choices Checklist for Lawns and Yards.
One simple change you can make: Use a mulching mower and leave grass clippings on the lawn.
Unchecked surface water runoff picks up phosphorus as it flows to the lake below.
If you use fertilizers, make sure they do not contain phosphorus.
By making these small changes you can protect your lake and the health of family:
1. Properly dispose of dog poo
Scoop it, bag it, throw it in the trash
This isn't Las Vegas. What your dog does in your yard doesn’t stay in your yard.
More than 157,000 dogs live in Snohomish County. Every day, they produce the same amount of untreated waste as 40,000 people -- the population of Edmonds.
As a pet owner, what can you do?
Scoop the poop, bag it, put it in the trash. That's the safest way to ditch the poop.
- Burying the poop isn’t good since bacteria can survive for years in the soil and may contaminate nearby wells.
- Composting poop at home doesn’t work since household bins don’t get hot enough to kill hazardous bacteria.
Visit our Pet Waste page for additional resources and to learn more about preventing pollution from poop.
2. Attend a natural lawn care workshop
Have a beautiful yard the natural way
By switching to natural lawn care techniques, you can have a yard that’s beautiful, easier to maintain and safe and healthy for your family, pets and lake.
- Tools to have a healthy lawn without extra pesticides and chemicals.
- Tips to deal with moss, moles and other pests the natural way.
Want to learn more about natural yard care?
Click to download the “Natural Lawn Care” (PDF) guide or visit our Natural Yard Care page for additional resources on soils, plants, watering and composting. The Grow Smart, Grow Safe website is also a great resource for learning about getting your yard to a natural state.
3. Skip lawn fertilizer or go phosphorus-free
You don't need to add phosphorus to have a healthy lawn
Whatever product you use, follow the label instructions and don’t apply more fertilizer than recommended. Clean up any extra fertilizer.
The Snohomish Conservation District’s Healthy Soils Program offers soil testing and consultations to improve soil health. They’ll even help you throw a neighborhood compost and lawn aeration party. Follow the link to learn more.
4. Stabilize your slopes
Cover bare soil areas and fix erosion problems
Bare soils and dirt patches are pretty common in our yards. While seemingly harmless, exposed soils are easily carried away by rainfall. The extra dirt means extra phosphorus and more algae in your lake. The problem is especially bad on eroding hillsides.
Rainfall and surface water runoff will pick up phosphorus in the soil and deposit it in your lake.
Unchecked erosion can cause serious damage to your landscape and harms water quality.
Runoff water flows across bare soil and carries phosphorus into the lake below.
For bare soil areas in your yard, cover with mulch or plants:
- Mulch - Apply a layer of suitable mulch and reapply in subsequent years. See “Growing Healthy Soils” for mulch recommendations.
- Plants - For a long-term solution, plant the area with evergreen groundcover or other plants suitable to the site conditions. Space plants so that at maturity they cover the soil so you don’t need to mulch.
Live stakes are branches cut from woody shrubs and trees that root quickly in wet soil.
Straw spread over bare soil will minimize potential erosion.
Tubes of straw, called wattles, can be staked into hillsides to stabilize soils.
Evergreen ground covers such as kinnikinnick will help stabilize slopes and limit erosion.
Use wood chips to cover bare soils. Wood chips also act as a mulch for plants and reduce the need for irrigation.
Plant the area with woody plants that will establish an underground network of roots to hold soils in place. This can be done in conjunction with temporary erosion controls.
- ACF West, 15540 Woodinville-Redmond Road, Bldg. A-400, Woodinville. 425-415-6115; www.acfwest.com
- Cenex Co-op, 2901 State St., Everett. 425-259-5571
- H.B. Jaeger Co., 1830 16th St., Snohomish. 360-568-5958; www.hbjaeger.com
- Plant “live stakes” into the hillside and cover the surrounding area with straw or fiber mats.
- Live stakes are a cutting of a woody shrub that roots quickly in wet soils. Plants include salmonberry, snowberry, red twig dogwood, willow, cottonwood and nine bark.
- If you have had a LakeWise visit, Snohomish County may be able to provide free live stakes. Otherwise, check online for live stakes sellers.
- Build a retaining wall. Snohomish County Assistance Bulletin #40 provides retaining wall information, including permit information.
- Choosing the Right Plants for a Beautiful, Trouble-Free Garden
- Composting Yard and Food Waste at Home
- Grow Smart, Grow Safe
- Growing Healthy Soil
- Natural Pest, Weed & Disease Control
- Smart Watering
- The Plant List