When there’s more water on the surface than can be absorbed, water runoff pollution occurs. In developed areas, rainwater washes various pollutants from metals, chemicals and lawns into storm drains. These drains then empty into rivers and streams, where it can cause damage to the aquatic ecosystem, as well as our drinking water.
To reduce garden runoff pollution, you should be selective when purchasing and using soil. It’s one of the easiest, most cost-effective ways to make a positive difference.
Your closest university is likely to provide soil tests and share information on their website, like Rutgers’ Soil Testing Lab or UMass. Turnaround time is typically 5-7 business days from the time samples are received. The benefit of a soil test is that you will find out precisely which nutrients your plants need, making it possible to purchase fertilizers that produce little to no extraneous waste that can’t be absorbed due to incompatibility.
When using fertilizer, use the compost or slow release variety for efficiency. There are several weather factors to consider as well:
University of Michigan’s comprehensive study on soil tests and phosphorus fertilizer applications provides insight as to the phosphorus recommendations based on your lawn type. Using their recommendations alongside your soil test should help you find the right fertilizer.
While controlling water flow is a huge part of reducing water contamination, examining water flow is important too. Even if you get the best, most non-toxic soil, it’s still not great to have it floating around in our water supply. So what are some of the solutions that you can easily implement in your yard?
I know it’s the dream of lawn mower operators everywhere, but you can’t cover your entire yard in concrete. Opting for pavers instead of a solid surface like concrete allows the ground to absorb rainwater instead of rolling into the street. The benefits are two-fold, it reduces the likelihood of contaminated runoff and reduces the chances of a water coming into your home.
A berm is a small hill, covered with grass or plants, which diverts water away from what you want to protect. So if you wanted to direct flooding away from your street or a drain, you could put plants or grass in front of the area. It’s also important to consider where the water will be flowing to when you build your berm. The last thing you want is a flooded basement!
You may have been able to guess this, but a dry well is exactly what it seems. Essentially, it’s an empty well meant for collecting water instead of holding it. If you have a low spot in your yard that forms a puddle or collects water, you have a good candidate for a dry well. The dry well could stop water carrying chemicals from leaving your yard.
This is the most expensive option, but it works. Grading your yard involves bringing in serious earthmoving equipment to shape your yard so water goes away from a specific point. It’s a good option if you also experience basement flooding during heavy rain.
A swale also involves shaping a small strip of your yard into a valley with sloped sides. Then, you place rocks in the bottom of the valley to slow down the movement of water through the swale. Ideally, this would ideally stop any contaminants from reaching the street or nearby drains.
Follow these tips and prevent garden runoff pollution. The Earth will thank you.