Fall Gardening Practices to Protect the Lake
Leaves will be falling soon, and area residents will be outside getting their gardens and lawns in shape for next season. As they do so, the Lake George Association (LGA) reminds property owners in the Lake George watershed about lake-friendly actions they can take this fall to protect the Lake’s water quality.
“Most importantly, people need to remember that it is now illegal to apply phosphorus fertilizer in the village and town of Lake George. We have more complete information here at the LGA and are always available to help a homeowner when they have questions,” said Emily DeBolt, director of education. “While fall is the best time to fertilize, we strongly urge people to use only phosphorus-free fertilizer, no matter where a property is located within the watershed, and to only fertilize if necessary,” she said.
Property owners can follow these lake-friendly steps:
• If planting new grass seed, or creating a new garden, minimize the amount of time when the soil is bare. Exposed soil can affect water quality by increasing erosion and runoff, carrying excess soil nutrients or contaminants into water bodies. Fall is also an ideal time to patch any bare spots on your lawn. September is pretty much the end of the time frame for seeding in our area.
• The best window for fall application of fertilizer is after top growth stops, usually after 10 days with average daily temperatures below 50° F. (This should also be about 2 weeks after the last mowing.) This can be anywhere from Halloween to Thanksgiving. Roots will continue growing and taking up fertilizer until the ground freezes.
• For higher maintenance lawns, fertilizer applications can be made around Labor Day and/or Memorial Day, but avoid early-spring applications. Research shows that these applications do not really enhance spring green-up compared with late-fall applications.
• Nitrogen is all that grass needs to achieve dense vegetation. (Potassium can lead to an abundance of dandelions.) New recommended concentration levels are lower than before: 3/10 – 5/10 lbs per 1000 square feet. (NOT what the fertilizer bag says.)·
• Leave legumes, like white clover, in your lawn to add nitrogen, naturally.
• Rake or blow leaves and clippings away from storm sewers, streams and the Lake. Leaves and clippings are loaded with phosphorus. Algae blooms can flourish in waterways overloaded with phosphorus and decomposing plant materials lower the levels of dissolved oxygen in the water, which can be fatal to fish and other aquatic organisms. Consider shredding the leaves and mulching them into the turf to decompose. Alternatively, compost leaves and grass clippings away from roads, streams or shorelines. Mix a ratio of one part clippings to three parts leaves.
• Call your local department of public works if you see a basin or culvert clogged with leaves. They need to flow freely to protect water quality. The LGA Catch Vac can also assist in this effort.
• Consider replacing an asphalt or concrete paved patio, walkway or driveway with permeable pavers. The pavers allow stormwater to infiltrate directly into the soil, minimizing runoff, the formation of ice in the winter, and the need to apply salt and sand. The LGA has demonstration pavers on its grounds that you can visit.
For more information about how to create lake-friendly landscapes, or to receive on-site technical support, the public can contact the LGA at 518-668-3558.