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Penn State: Responsible Yard And Garden Care Can Protect Water Quality

The growing season began early this year in Pennsylvania, so that means that many of us have already been hard at work preparing yards and gardens for the impending warmer weather.
           From a water quality standpoint, it is important to remember that anything that you put on the ground – from pesticides, to fertilizers, to manure – has the potential to impact local waterways, the creatures that live there, or the people that use them for drinking water or recreation.
            Each time it rains, water runs over the ground and carries with it anything that is not being readily used by the plants or soil. Over-application of pesticides and fertilizers won’t help to make your garden greener, and will ultimately waste money and cause excess chemicals and nutrients to enter waterways.
            This pollution that impacts local streams and rivers each time it rains is called non-point source pollution, meaning that it cannot be traced to one particular source and comes from water moving over a large area of land.  
            To be sure that you are only using the amount of fertilizer that is needed in your lawn or garden, Penn State offers soil testing to homeowners – do-it-yourself kits are available at your county Extension office. Pesticide use also requires some planning ahead. 
            By knowing exactly what pests you want to treat, and a little about their lifecycle and habits, you can find out exactly what kind of pesticide is needed to control them and also explore more environmentally-friendly alternatives. 
            Penn State has a pesticide education website to help in pest identification and making responsible pesticide choices.  
            Finally, if you have a private drinking water well, take special care when applying pesticides and fertilizers to your yard or garden. 
            The area within a 100 ft. radius around your well is known as a wellhead protection area. Anything that happens within this radius has the potential to immediately impact your drinking water supply, so don’t apply in this area or use non-toxic alternatives. 

(Reprinted from Penn State Extension Watershed Winds newsletter, written by: Susan M. Boser, Water Quality Educator, Penn State Extension/Beaver County Conservation District)


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