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Be a Smarter Gardener

As the weather gets warmer and the sunshine stays out longer, people in CDA start getting excited about their gardens and lawns. Rightfully so, as the flora and greenery of North Idaho is unmatched. there are some unique problems associated with lawn and garden care that we need to be aware of, especially concerning our beautiful lakes and rivers. Fertilizers are great for lawns and flower beds, but not so great for our waterways. The soluble nutrients in fertilizer, like phosphorus and nitrogen, cause aquatic plants and algae to grow, decreasing the oxygen in the water. In addition to affecting the health of the Lake, the process of oxygen depletion can affect the beauty of water and our ability to play on the Lake. Pesticides are another consideration. They can keep away unwanted pests, but they also pose a risk to not only human health but those of wildlife and fish too. Improper use of fertilizers and pesticides can cause changes in the ecosystem, pose health risks to humans and wildlife, and contaminate our waterways. Read more information.

The issue is that fertilizers and pesticides can be important to lawn care as well, so we want to use these additives in a way that won’t be harmful to our environment. The first step is figuring out how much fertilizer your lawn actually needs. This can be done through testing the pH of your soil. Soil tests measure the level of fertilizer nutrients, like nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium in your lawn telling you how much fertilizer it needs. These tests are available at the University of Idaho Extension office, Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), or at local hardware stores. Once you know how much fertilizer you need for your lawn, if any, also make sure to avoid excessively watering your lawn to prevent contaminating the surface water through runoff.

When using pesticides, there are similar guidelines to follow to keep our waterways safe. Before using pesticides, it’s important to understand the cause of your garden problem. The majority of plant problems aren’t caused by pests or diseases, but environmental conditions and human impacts. The next step in mindful garden care is deciding the reason behind your use of pesticides. Is it for economical reasons or for aesthetics? Bugs are a part of a garden’s ecosystem and are often beneficial, so removing them may not be necessary or helpful. Finally, if you have a pest problem that does need to be taken care of, look into non-chemical pest control options. There are pest resistant plants available as well as ways to adjust the biological conditions of your garden to prevent pest infestation. One of the ways to change biological conditions is to rotate your plants each season and diversify your flower beds and gardens to outsmart harmful critters and pests.

If you do decide to use chemical pesticides, use the least toxic and most degradable product. Avoid treating your lawn and garden on windy days to minimize drifting or contamination of other properties or surface waters. Before application, it’s always a good idea to thoroughly read the label and understand exactly how much is safe to use and not to exceed that amount. In addition, make sure you only buy what you need for that season to avoid having to dispose of leftover fertilizer. This not only benefits our waterways but your wallet too. When you’re not using the pesticides, store them in a safe and secure location to avoid leaks, spills and contamination.

As residents of Coeur d’Alene and stewards of Our Gem, Coeur d’Alene Lake, we have a responsibility to do our part in protecting our waterways. The way we care for our lawns and gardens has a huge impact on our waterways and environment. As the summer season continues and you spent more time enjoying your beautiful gardens and lawns, we hope you remember our lake and the impact that we have on it. Thank you for doing your part in protecting Our Gem.

University of Idaho

Physical Address:
1031 N. Academic Way,
Suite 242
Coeur d'Alene, ID 83814

Phone: 208-667-2588

Fax: 208-664-1272



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