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Nanticoke Tributary Action Team


Commission Tackles Urban
Nutrient Management

How's your lawn doing?  Lush, good-looking lawns are a goal for homeowners, but many of us aren't really sure how much fertilizer we need to get that nice, green, well-manicured yard that we want to have.  The Delaware Nutrient Management Commission would like to help you answer that question, and many more, about urban nutrient management.

Overuse of fertilizers isn't just something that farmers have to worry about.  It can happen just as easily on your local golf course, at your neighborhood park, or on your own lawn or garden.  According to Bill Rohrer, the Delaware Department of Agriculture's administrator for the Commission, "More than ten thousand tons of commercial fertilizer are sold to non-agricultural entities, such as homeowners and lawn care companies, in Delaware each year.  They then apply this to their lawns, gardens, shrubs, and trees.  A residential lot might be less than a quarter of an acre, but there may be hundreds of lots in a subdivision.  If all of the owners in the development are applying fertilizers improperly, the local groundwater, rivers, streams, lakes, and ponds will become polluted due to excess nutrient runoff."

Working with several other state agencies, partners, and the Tributary Action Teams, the Nutrient Management Commission is reaching out to homeowners and lawn service companies, educating them on the best practices for lawn and garden nutrient management.  Their brochure, Managing Nutrients for your Turf Grass and Lawns (Click here to get the free Adobe Acrobat Reader 130kb), provides a wealth of basic information that you can use to care for your property more efficiently.  Funded by the partners, it helps guide you in reducing your impact on the environment and the waterways in your area.

If you have a lawn larger than ten acres, Delaware's Nutrient Management Law requires you to develop a formal plan for managing nutrients.  To make to process easier, the Department of Agriculture has a planning checklist that you can use to guide your efforts.  If your property is smaller, you won't need to have a formal plan, but these resources can help guide you to a healthy lawn with minimal environmental impact.

Soil testing is an important step in determining the amount of fertilizer your lawn actually needs for optimum growth and health.  The brochure provides guidelines on collecting samples from your lawn and garden and you can get soil sample kits from the University of Delaware Soil Testing Program at the Department of Plant and Soil Science. Sample bags and pertinent information are also available from your county Cooperative Extension Office.  With a little care, you'll not only be helping improve water quality in your area, but you'll also be saving money!

Many of Delaware's lawn care companies have met with the Nutrient Management Commission and are working to improve their practices...and help their bottom lines.  Commissioner Bud O'Neill says, "The lawn care companies in Delaware have been very cooperative with the Commission and are helping by fine-tuning their nutrient management practices."  With their help and yours, we're improving water quality in your community.

For more information, you can contact the Department of Agriculture's Nutrient Management Section at (302) 698-4500 or by e-mail.  They're looking forward to working with you.


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