A lawn of native, pollinator-friendly flowers.Find out how you can save time and money while making your lawn healthier and protecting our local waterways. We’ve compiled tips from our Give Water A Hand campaign on lawn planting and fertilizing, to help you keep your yard beautiful and river-friendly.

The Right Seed

• Starting off with the right mix of seed will ensure the most success in establishing and maintaining your lawn, while minimizing time and effort. The best lawn seed for Northwest Ohio will contain turf-type Tall Fescues and Perennial Rye grasses. These grass mixes are drought resistant and are well suited to our soil types. Although it is popular, Kentucky Bluegrass requires lots of water and sun, which means more time and more money for you.

• Make your lawn only as big as you need it. A smaller lawn requires less time to mow and less money to maintain. Plant native trees, shrubs, grasses, and flowers to landscape the rest of your yard. Toledo’s Rain Garden Initiative offers online resources for buying and gardening with Northwest Ohio native plants.

Fertilize Carefully

• Fertilize lawns in the springtime when the ground temperature gets around 55 degrees. Fertilizing right before it rains may seem like a good idea, but the fertilizer will not have time to soak into the soil and will wash off, wasting your money as it flows into local rivers or ditches, often through storm drains. Instead, apply fertilizer a day or two after your lawn is watered, whether that’s from the rain or from a sprinkler.

• Grass clippings and mulched leaves are the ideal food source for your lawn, naturally providing essential nutrients slowly over time. The clippings supply nitrogen that your lawn needs to stay healthy. Grasses need sufficient nitrogen to promote top growth, phosphorus for root development (mostly needed for newly lawns, not established lawns), and potassium for strong stems and disease resistance. Fertilizers have three numbers such as 10-10-10 or 34-3-4. These numbers indicate the percentage of nitrogen (the first number), phosphorus (the middle number), and potassium (the last number.) Plenty of fertilizers for established lawns are phosphorous-free, which is a good choice to protect waterways from excess nutrients.

• Use slow-release fertilizers on sandy soils, to ensure that concentrated amounts of nutrients are not available for leaching out of the soil. Use fast release fertilizers on heavy, clay or compacted soils – the longer a fertilizer granule remains undissolved in these conditions, the greater the chance of being washed into waterways.

• Grass clippings do not cause thatch. Thatch is made up of both dead and living root, stem, and leaf parts that are resistant to decay. Kentucky Bluegrass and Creeping Bentgrass produce the most thatch. Turf-type Tall Fescues and Perennial Rye grasses do not produce thatch. Excessive fertilization and watering may encourage thatch. If you leave your clippings on the lawn, you may not have to spend as much, or anything, on fertilizer!

• Find out exactly what nutrients your lawn needs by having the soil tested. Your local Soil and Water Conservation District (probably Lucas, Wood, or Ottawa) or OSU Extension Office can help.


For more information on how to start and maintain a river-friendly lawn, including advice on watering and mowing, check out our full Give Water a Hand Lawn Care Tip Card.