Lawn & Garden

Excess fertilizers and pesticides that are applied to lawns and gardens can wash off in a rainstorm and pollute waterways. In addition, yard clippings and leaves can wash into stormdrains and contribute nutrients and organic matter to streams.

Follow these tips to reduce landscape runoff:


Lawn Chemicals

  • Use pesticides and fertilizers sparingly!  Always follow directions and never add more than directions call for.
  • If lawn treatment is necessary, use organic fertilizer whenever possible.  Organic or slow-release nitrogen fertilizer causes less harm to water.  Also make sure to use fertilizer with no or low phosphorus, as phosphorus causes algae growth.
  • If you are having problems with your grass, don't keep adding chemicals.  Have your soil tested at the UMass Extension:

Fertilizers are made of nutrients, such as nitrogen and phosphorus. When it rains, these nutrients are carried by stormwater into the nearest stream, river, or other water body. Too many nutrients in water can cause algae to grow, which can deplete oxygen and hurt aquatic wildlife - and make boating, fishing and swimming unpleasant.

Yard Waste

  • Don’t leave yard waste in the street or sweep it into storm drains or streams.  Either bag it up for town pickup, take it to your local landfill, or re-use it as compost or mulch.
  • Create a compost pile with your yard waste and use the nutrient rich humus in your gardens or potted plants.
  • Use grass clippings or shredded leaves as mulch around shrubs and trees.  Mulch helps to suppress weeds and retain moisture. Mulch also contributes nutrients to the soil by gradually breaking down over time.  
  • Cover piles of dirt or mulch being used in landscaping projects to avoid runoff.


Be Smart about Irrigation

  • Hire a WaterSense Certified Landscape Irrigation Professional to review your system at the beginning of each irrigation season.  This will help reduce your water consumption, save money, and maximize the efficiency of your system.
  • Avoid over-watering to prevent excess runoff.  A lawn needs just 1" of water per week to be green. Be sure to check weather reports.
  • Upgrade to a moisture sensor to ensure irrigating only when needed, and avoid using old-fashioned irrigation timers.
  • Don't irrigate in the middle of the day or when it’s windy, in order to prevent evaporation and runoff.
  • Make sure that sprinkler heads are pointed at the lawn and not the pavement - adjust and fix heads as necessary.

Hardscapes - Walkways, Patios, and Driveways

Traditional asphalt and concrete contribute to stormwater runoff by preventing water from soaking into the ground.  Rain water flows over these impervious surfaces, collects pollutants along the way, and flows into storm drains and streams.

  • Use permeable materials such as pavers, bricks, crushed stone, and mulch when building walkways, patios, and driveways. Permeable materials allow rain and snow melt to soak through them, thereby decreasing stormwater runoff.

Redirect Rainwater

  • Place a rain barrel under your downspout to easily capture rain for use around your property. A one inch rainfall on a 1,000 square foot roof yields approximately 600 gallons of water.
  • Redirect downspouts so that water flows into grass or shrubs instead of onto a driveway or sidewalk.
  • Install a dry well in your yard to capture excess runoff.

Build a Rain Garden

  • Rain gardens and grassy swales are specially designed areas planted with native plants that provide a place for runoff from parking areas, driveways, walkways and roofs to collect and slowly filter into the soil, rather than flow directly into storm drains, ponds or lakes.
  • Vegetated filter strips are areas of native grass or plants created along roadways or streams. They trap the pollutants stormwater picks up as it flows across driveways and streets.

Click here for more information on building a rain garden.