Careful landscaping and lawn practices protect water quality


Landscaping and lawn maintenance, while a source of pride and passion for many, can, if not done properly, negatively impact the water quality of Lake Macatawa and of the surrounding Macatawa watershed.

Clarity of the project from the ODC network provides a list of best practices for achieving aesthetic and functional goals without sacrificing the health of our watershed.

These best practices inform the responsible use of water and fertilizers. Excessive water use, which draws more water from the watershed than is needed, also contributes to the spread of fertilizers offsite. The same fertilizers that benefit our lawn plants promote unwanted algae in our waterways, so the longer we can keep fertilizer localized, the healthier our waterways can stay.

The types of fertilizers and the amount applied to your site are also important. Under Michigan’s fertilizer law, the use of phosphorus fertilizers on residential and commercial lawns is restricted, so homeowners and commercial applicators must follow phosphorus application restrictions. To ensure that the correct amount of fertilizer is applied, the lawn should be tested before application.

Also included in the best practices is a commitment to consider green stormwater infrastructure such as native plants, waterfront landscaping, rain barrels, or irrigation timers or sensors where applicable .

Local landscaping and lawn care professionals who commit to following these best practices earn the title of “Watershed Partner”. These companies have every reason to do anything that will produce satisfied customers, and yet they have chosen practices that are also good for the environment.

This program was previously managed by the Macatawa Watershed Project under the Macatawa Area Coordinating Council, which launched its “Seal of Approval” program in 2006. The program was renamed “Watershed Partners” in 2018 and is now managed by Project Clarity.

One participating company, Good Sweet Earth, is an all-organic soil amendment and fertilizer company that helps homeowners and gardeners build healthy soil using natural ingredients. He has participated as a watershed partner since rebranding in 2018 and joined because best practices are aligned with business goals and existing practices.

“We started our business with Planet Care at the forefront,” said owner Steve Veldheer. “The only fertilizer we use is slow-release plant-based fertilizer, and we encourage our customers to mulch their grass clippings, water their lawns conscientiously, and set their mowers higher for longer grass.”

Whether you hire a watershed partner or do your own landscaping, these best practices are simple to implement without reducing the effectiveness of your efforts.

For the full list of 2022 participating watershed partners, a list of best practices, and to learn more about lawn care for water quality, visit the Macatawa Area Coordinating Council website.

— Sarah Irvin is a naturalist with ODC Network and has a bachelor’s degree in earth science and environmental studies.

About this series

the MiSustainable Holland Column is a collection of community voices sharing updates on local sustainability initiatives.

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