Spring is the time for planting, weeding, and generally sprucing up our yards. Now, during the Governor’s stay-at-home order, is an especially good time to experience fresh air, sunlight, and physical activity to help rejuvenate our yards and ourselves during these strange and difficult times. While enjoying the healing power of the outdoors, ShoreRivers encourages people to consider how their yards can also promote healthy rivers.

Nitrogen and phosphorus, which make grass grow, are two key ingredients in lawn fertilizer. But when these chemicals enter our rivers—through rainwater runoff and soil leaching—they also cause algae to grow. Excess nutrients in our waterways cause harmful algae blooms that block sunlight from reaching underwater grasses, reduce dissolved oxygen levels in the water, and threaten the health of humans and animals.

The Lawn Fertilizer Awareness Campaign is a Chesapeake Bay-wide effort to spread awareness of how lawn fertilizer negatively impacts the health of our rivers and to encourage individuals and lawn care professionals to reduce fertilizer use and turn instead to organic products for a healthier lawn and Bay.

As part of this campaign, ShoreRivers participates with the University of Maryland and several other organizations in promoting river-friendly practices through social media and website resources. In 2019 this campaign engaged over 80,000 people in the Chesapeake Bay region; and, with many of us working from home at this time, aims to engage even more this year. Daily social media posts will identify ways to improve water quality and habitat benefits of properties, such as planting natives, installing rain gardens, and fertilizer alternatives.

Along with awareness, the campaign encourages action through ShoreRivers’ River-Friendly Yards program. With support from several funders, this program connects local partners with residents throughout the Eastern Shore to implement best practices and establish more river-friendly yards. A river-friendly yard mimics the natural environment to benefit water quality and increase habitat. ShoreRivers encourages residents to adopt river-friendly practices on properties of any size to help achieve healthy waterways across Maryland’s Eastern Shore.

To learn more about the River-Friendly Yards program and the Lawn Fertilizer Awareness Campaign, please visit shorerivers.org/river-friendly-yards or contact Ethan LaLumia at elalumia@shorerivers.org.