KC Gardens

A healthy lawn contributes to cleaner water. This is why

A healthy covering of turf will prevent soil erosion and runoff.
A healthy covering of turf will prevent soil erosion and runoff.

Manicured grass lawns began as a status symbol for English aristocrats around the 17th century. For many, the desire for a nice lawn continues to represent pride in your property. But times have changed. A lush green carpet may be the holy grail for some, but not everyone desires the high level of upkeep it requires. Some will even argue that a lawn is of little value.

What constitutes an acceptable lawn? That is an individual choice: Each of us must decide how much fertilizer, water and care we want to provide, and the look we desire. Whether you’re on the high or low end of maintenance, keeping a good cover over the soil is important.

A lawn provides several environmental benefits. Most important, turf covers the soil, reducing erosion and water runoff. Soil erosion is one of the main contributors to impaired water quality. When soil is washed from your yard, it ends up in creeks and streams. Sediment builds up and nutrients like nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium and other elements attached to the soil particles pollute the water.

University research has shown that maintaining a thicker covering on your yard greatly reduces soil erosion. Turf acts like a sponge, absorbing water and reducing runoff. Turf also greatly slows water movement off the property, helping reduce flash flooding.

These are just two reasons the lawn is important. But there can be unintended consequences associated with turf care. These are usually a result of human error.

Lawns get the blame for the fertilizers and chemical nutrients that reach our water supply. While it’s true these are spread on lawns, it’s often improper application practices that cause the problems.

Remember, the turf acts like a sponge. Fertilizers and pesticides applied properly are tightly held and rarely move off the grass. The harm comes from materials scattered onto hard surfaces that wash into the waterways. This problem is easy to fix: Simply sweep or blow all lawn products off driveways, sidewalks and street gutters back onto the lawn.

No matter your level of care, take steps to prevent soil erosion and water runoff from your lawn. Help do your part for clean water.

Dennis Patton is a horticulture agent with Kansas State University Research and Extension. Got a question for him or other university extension experts? Email them to garden.help@jocogov.org or visit KCGardens.KansasCity.com.

Healthy Yards Expo

Homeowners can find plenty of advice on how to achieve a healthy lawn using environmentally friendly practices at the Ninth Annual Johnson County Healthy Yards Expo on Saturday, April 7.

The expo will feature seminars, vendors and kids activities. Experts will be on hand to answer questions, and free soil tests will be offered. Native plants will also be for sale.

The free event runs from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Shawnee Civic Centre, 13817 Johnson Drive in Shawnee. Sponsors are Johnson County K-State Research and Extension, Johnson County Stormwater Management and the cities of Lenexa, Overland Park and Shawnee. For more information, go to johnson.k-state.edu.