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Healthy Yards, Healthy Lawns, Healthy Environment

I. Mission:

The mission of the EPA Region 3 Healthy Yards, Healthy Lawns, Healthy Environment campaign is to support and promote environmentally sound lawn care and landscaping practices across the region that are economically viable and socially responsible to improve water quality.

The program's vision is for residential households to use lawn and garden practices that minimize the impact on human health and the environment, resulting in cleaner air, water and soil while enhancing wildlife habitat and the community.

II. Background:

Residential lawns and landscapes are living spaces. They provide aesthetics, a place to enjoy the outdoors, recreational areas and add value to our homes. However, they are also a potential source of pollution. Residential lawns in the United States total approximately 17.7 million acres. 80% of all households have access to private lawns while 84 million households engaged in lawn and garden activities in 2003. In 2003 alone, homeowners spent $38 billion on landscaping activities. According to a 2004 survey by the National Gardening Association, 66 million U.S. households used chemical pesticides and/or fertilizers on their lawns and gardens.

These landscape practices impact water resources, wildlife and environmental health. Harmful landscape practices can damage the environment and pose risks to homeowners, children, pets, waterways and wildlife.

Responsible lawn care and landscaping practices that are sensitive to the environment and public health can provide a variety of environmental benefits to our homes and communities. For example, healthy and environmentally friendly lawn and landscape practices can:
1. Reduce dust and air pollution from the air.
2. Reduce high temperatures and noise levels in urban areas.
3. Create critical shelter and food for wildlife.
4. Reduce energy use for the heating and cooling of buildings.
5. Filter pollutants.
6. Reduce erosion, stream sedimentation, flooding and runoff of pollutants into local waterways.
7. Provide for a safe play area for children.
8. Reduce the risk of pesticide exposure to children, adults, pets and wildlife.
9. Build healthy soils.
10. Attract wildlife and beneficial insects.

Changes in attitude and landscaping practices have the potential to conserve resources, improve public health and the environment and accrue economic benefits.

II. TEN TIPS TO PROTECT THE ENVIRONMENT WHILE ENJOYING A HEALTHY YARD:

1. Know Your Yard
Learn about the soils, plants, climate and wildlife around your home.

2. Choose The Right Plant For The Right Spot
Avoid invasive species. Know the requirements and ultimate size of the plant. Select species that require less water, fertilizers, pruning and pesticides.

3. Be Water Wise
Water lawns only when needed but to the depth of the root zone, cover bare soil with mulch and use drip irrigation for trees and shrubs. Consider using drought tolerant ground covers.

4. Know Your Pest
Make sure the pest is correctly identified and use the most appropriate method to the control the problem. Contact your local Cooperative Extension service for help.

5. Prevent Pollution Possibilities
Prevent fertilizer, pesticides, yard debris and pet waste from entering water sources or waste water systems. Use pesticides only when and where they are needed.

6. Read And Follow The Label
Before using pesticides or fertilizers, know the do's and don'ts. The label is the law. Keep children and pets away from pesticides. Store and dispose of pesticides properly.

7. Go Natural
Create wildlife habitat at home. Consider using native plant species and remove invasive exotic plants.

8. Pile It On
Build a compost pile with grass clippings, leaves and other organic material. Use compost as mulch or natural fertilizer to improve soil health.

9. Take It To The Max
Cut your lawn at the highest recommended mower setting and leave clippings in place.

10. Respect Your Neighbors
Regardless of whether you have a traditional lawn or a more indigenous landscape, keep your yard safe, clean and well maintained to add beauty to your neighborhood.

IV. TEN TIPS FOR FERTILIZING YOUR LAWN:

1. Get Tested
Have your soil tested for pH levels and the need for additional nutrients. This will help determine which fertilizers and supplements are needed.

2. Buy What You Need
Buy organic or synthetic fertilizer. Don't use a weed and feed product unless you have widespread weed problems in your yard. Instead, use straight fertilizer and spot treat or pull weeds. Ask the Cooperative Extension Service or your local garden center for specific guidance.

3. Slow It Down
Select lawn-grade fertilizers that include Slow Release Nitrogen to prevent lawn burn, reduce runoff and leaching of nutrients into groundwater.

4. Be Well Read

Read and follow all label directions when applying fertilizer. Incorrect application such as spilling onto paved surfaces can result in fertilizer being washed down storm sewers and ending up in our waterways.

5. Chill Out
Grass will not use fertilizer when it is not actively growing. To prevent runoff pollution of lakes and streams, never apply fertilizers to frozen ground or pavement.

6. Spread It Out
Be sure your spreader is working and adjusted properly. Read and follow the spreader setting instructions on the fertilizer label so that your spreader applies the correct amount of fertilizer.

7. Recycle Your Lawn
Leave the height of your grass long when mowing and leave clippings on your lawn to decompose. "Grass-cycling" is a great source of nitrogen and saves water and fertilizer.

8. Recycle Your Yard
Compost leaves, yard debris, and non-meat food scraps. They make great mulch for the garden.

9. Slenderize Your Yard
Keep your yard healthy by controlling how much fertilizer it gets. Follow recommended rates for lawns in your area.

10. Protect The Borders
When applying fertilizers, maintain a buffer strip or fertilizer-free zone around the edges of lakes and streams.

V. TEN TIPS TO MAKE YOUR YARD AND COMMUNITY A HEALTHIER PLACE

1. Meet Your Yard
Learn about the soils, plants, climate and wildlife around your home.

2. Be Plant Perfect
Avoid invasive plants and those not adapted to local conditions. Perfect plants are suited to their location requiring less water, fertilizer, pruning and pesticides.

3. Be Water Wise
Water lawns only when needed, but to the depth of the root zone or about six inches. Consider replacing irrigated turf with drought tolerant ground covers.

4. Be A Pest Pro
Identify pests correctly. This allows for the most appropriate control method. Contact your Cooperative Extension Service or your local garden center for help.

5. Police Pollution
Prevent fertilizer, pesticides and animal waste from entering water sources or wastewater systems.

6. Be Well Read
Read the label, it's the law. Keep children and pets away from pesticides. Store and dispose of pesticides according to label directions.

7. Go Native
Create wildlife habitat at home using native plant species. Remove invasive plants that may threaten or destroy native habitat.

8. Make A Pile
A compost pile recycles grass clippings, leaves and other organic material. It is a great natural fertilizer too.

9. Recycle Your Lawn
Leave the height of the grass long when mowing and leave the clippings in place. This saves water and fertilizer. Never mow more than 1/3 of the height of the grass at any one mowing.

10. Share The Joy
Whether you have a flawless lawn or a native landscape, keep your yard safe and well maintained to add beauty and value to your neighborhood.

VI. Links:

Landscapes
http://www.epa.gov/greenscapes

http://www.epa.gov/reg3esd1/garden

Pesticides
http://www.epa.gov/pesticides/index.htm

http://www.epa.gov/reg3wcmd/pesticides.htm

Integrated Pest Management (IPM)
http://www.epa.gov/pesticides/factsheets/ipm.htm

Lawn & Garden
http://www.epa.gov/pesticides/controlling/garden.htm

http://www.epa.gov/reg3wcmd/pesticideslawn.htm

VII. For Further Information:

The Healthy Yards, Healthy Lawns, Healthy Environment (H3) campaign provides educational outreach to the residential communities of EPA Region 3. This includes the states of Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia and the District of Columbia. This outreach informs and educates the public about responsible lawn care and landscaping practices.

For further information, contact:
John J. Butler       Phone: 215-814-2127       Email: butler.john@epa.gov

EPA - Region 3
Land and Chemicals Division
Pesticides/Asbestos Programs & Enforcement Branch
1650 Arch Street (3WC32)
Philadelphia, Pa. 19103-2029
Fax: 215-814-3113

Region 3 The Mid-Atlantic States


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