Smart Yard, Healthy Gulf


The role of residential fertilizers in water pollution has drawn attention to homeowners' lawn care practices, especially the way people fertilize. A properly managed yard can take up pollution, help with soil quality, reduce air temperatures, and promote a healthy ecosystem. However, fertilizer applied improperly may enter local water bodies and add unhealthy levels of nitrogen and phosphorus to them. This can lead to areas with such low levels of oxygen that living creatures cannot survive in them. These areas are called "dead zones" and they have negative environmental and economic impacts on the Gulf of Mexico.

The goal of the Gulf of Mexico Alliance (GOMA) nutrient-reduction campaign is two-fold:

  1. To inform homeowners about what they can do to keep the Gulf healthy by doing their part in responsible lawn care practices.
  2. For homeowners to improve their lawn care practices.

The U.S. Gulf States offer training through the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Cooperative Extension System. Their agents maintain a volunteer based Master Gardener Program. These volunteers support the Extension System with outreach to the community on a variety of topics that include gardening and lawn care. Listening to those communities GOMA learned that Extension Agents and Master Gardeners are a valuable and trusted resource. Thus a partnership was established to promote a nutrient-reduction campaign.

Local Extension Agents teach that the summer season is the appropriate season for fertilizing lawns in coastal Alabama and Mississippi.