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What Are You Feeding Your Lake?

At the Chautauqua Watershed Conservancy, we think about what we humans feed our lakes, streams and groundwaters. We all live in a watershed. What runs off our yards with and in precipitation, what we place on our yards, what drips out of our vehicles, what we put in our dishwashers, down our drains and in our toilets is what we feed to our streams and lakes. The exhaust from our vehicles can contribute nitrogen compounds onto our roads and roadsides – more food for plants and algae.

Our county’s inland lakes are all lakes challenged by the symptoms of excess nutrients. Plants and algae need nutrients – especially phosphorus and nitrogen compounds – in order to grow. Too many nutrients give us too much algae and too many plants! The Gulf of Mexico and Lake Erie are suffering from “dead zones,” oxygen devoid areas thought to be the result of excess nutrients. These are the ultimate receiving waters of the watersheds of the region.

So, how can you and I feed our waters less? What are we feeding our yards? In the case of our yard, it drains to a stream which flows a few hundred yards to deliver its load to Chautauqua Lake, which flows to the Chadakoin River and on to Conewango Creek. Chances are that your yard flows to a road ditch or storm drain that joins to a stream or directly to one of these above waterways. Regarding our yards:

¯ If you don’t use fertilizers and pesticides on your lawn, don’t start.

¯ If you feel that you must fertilize your lawn, first have a knowledgeable landscaper evaluate your lawn, take a soil sample and have a thorough nutrient analysis and acidity test of the sample. Test kits are available through Cornell Cooperative Extension.

¯ Don’t subscribe to a multiple chemical treatment service for your lawn unless it is based on a thorough evaluation, including an actual laboratory nutrient analysis of your soil. Most established western New York lawns have plenty of phosphorus (sometimes two or three times the concentrations needed to grow healthy turf) and need no phosphorus added at all. See www.gardening.cornell.edu/lawn as a good source of information.

¯ Bluegrass varieties require annual nitrogen fertilization, at least in the fall, to flourish. If you desire to fertilize your lawn, use only phosphate-free fertilizer.

¯ Minimize your fertilization only to that necessary to sustain your lawn.

¯ Leave an unfertilized strip between your lawn and ditches, waterways and streets that carry runoff from your yard. Sweep fertilizers off paved surfaces. Better yet, restore these strips to “buffers” of native plants.

¯ Consider overseeding your lawn this fall with fescue grass varieties that can grow without fertilization. Some fescue mixes such as Eco-Lawn† have the added advantage of growing much slower than bluegrass, reducing the frequency of mowing. This saves time, gas and money!

¯ Don’t rob your lawn of nutrients by using a bagging mower. Use a mulching mower, and leave your grass clippings on the lawn to recycle nutrients.

¯ Remove pet wastes deposited on your lawn and flush them down the toilet or include them in household garbage.

¯ Re-seed bare spots in your yard. Eroded soils deposited in our lakes provide conditions conducive to excessive plant growth.

Please join the Chautauqua Watershed Conservancy in addressing the root causes of the sedimentation, plant and algae problems affecting the health and enjoyment of our waterways. CWC offers landscaping technical assistance to landowners through its LakeScapes program. For more information on this email Carol@chautauquawatershed.org or visit our website.

The CWC will be featuring Urban Forester Vincent Cotrone as its speaker at its annual meeting on August 11. For more information on these and additional events, go to our website at www.chautauquawatershed.org/events-2 or our Facebook site. CWC is a not-for-profit, member-supported organization. Please contact us to learn how you can help!

The Chautauqua Watershed Conservancy is a not-for-profit organization with the mission to preserve and enhance the water quality, scenic beauty and ecological health of the lakes, streams, wetlands and watersheds of the Chautauqua region. For more information, visit chautauquawatershed.org and follow us on Facebook and Instagram.

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