Contact: Walker Smith, 651-297-7018 Theresa Gaffey, 651-215-0251 Saint Paul, Minn. -- Now that warmer weather is here, are you itching to till the garden and fiddle about in the yard? If so, here are a few tips to help give your lawn and garden an environmentally-friendly boost. -- Choose the right grass and landscaping
Select grass seed suited to the growing conditions in your yard by considering the amount of sunlight, rain, and wear-and-tear it gets. Better yet, consider planting native grasses in part of your yard (if your neighbors can handle it). Native grasses typically require little or no maintenance and provide habitat for beneficial critters, to boot. Your County Extension Service can advise you on which warm- or cool-season grasses grow best in your area.
-- Longer is better
Sharpen your lawnmower blades and set them up a notch or two so the cut grass is between 2 = to 3 = inches long. The longer grass supports a strong, healthy lawn with a bonus: weeds will have a harder time growing in the longer grass, too! When you leave grass clippings on the ground after you mow, the soil below benefits from the additional nutrients and moisture.
-- Use fertilizers wisely
If your lawn does need fertilizer, always read and follow directions. Remember, you won't get twice the results by using twice as much! Be sure to sweep up and reuse fertilizer that falls on streets, sidewalks and driveways, and if heavy rains are expected, leave it in the bag.
The use of lawn fertilizers containing phosphorus is now prohibited throughout Minnesota. Phosphorus-free fertilizers can help maintain a healthy lawn without contributing excess phosphorus to stormwater runoff. This helps to keep our lakes and wetlands free of excessive algae growth.
-- Compost and mulch
Put your plant clippings and raked-out thatch to work in a compost heap or use them as mulch. Compost piles are easy to manage once you learn the basics. Check with your local extension service or garden center for instructions and tips.
-- Use manual tools
Whenever possible, use quality hand tools to meet your lawn and garden needs. Consider replacing your gasoline-powered mower with a lightweight, quiet, easy-to-use push model. Yard tools with engines fueled by gasoline produce air pollution and noise. Find out what options suit your yard size!
-- Avoid spilling gasoline
If you need to use gasoline-powered tools, use one of the newer-model gas cans that prevent overfilling and spills. Even small gasoline spills evaporate and pollute the air. Use gasoline stabilizer when winterizing your snow-blower (and in gasoline-powered summer equipment stored during the winter).
-- Use pesticides safely
Often, nature provides its own pest control in the form of birds, bats or insects that feed on other insects we consider nuisances. If you must use a pesticide, be sure to find the right product that solves the problem. Read the label carefully and pay attention to warnings. Properly dispose of leftovers - never pour lawn and garden products down any drain.
-- Look beyond your backyard
While you're in a spring cleaning mood, be sure to look beyond your backyard. On your next walk with the dog, take a garbage bag with you and pick up some of the litter that has accumulated during the winter.
-- Find the shade of green that's right for you
Visit the 4th annual Living Green Expo. Minnesota's biggest environmental event will be held the weekend of April 30 and May 1 at the Grandstand Building at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds. Visit more than 220 exhibits, see over 70 free workshops, and enjoy food, entertainment and fun!!
- Composting your organic waste -- www.moea.state.mn.us/campaign/compost/index.html
- Emissions from lawn and garden equipment -- www.epa.gov/otaq/invntory/overview/index.htm
- Bring conservation from the countryside to your backyard -- www.nrcs.usda.gov/feature/backyard/
- Controlling mosquitoes -- www.epa.gov/pesticides/factsheets/skeeters.htm
- Citizens' Guide to Pest Control and Pesticide Safety -- www.epa.gov/pesticides/regulating/disposal.htm